10? That’s how far along we are? Unbefreakinglievable. Your very limited schedule stockwatch–and the third-to-last one of 2009–is as follows:
Week 11: Georgia. Your guess as to what to make of the Dawgs’ 38-0 walkover past I-AA Tennessee Tech is as good as the Dawg fans’ guesses as to what to make of Auburn’s rout of Furman.
Statistically, the much-maligned Dawg D had its best day of the season, Joe Cox was razor-sharp (if not Chris Todd-sharp, mind), and the running game averaged 7.8 yards a carry as Washaun Ealey continued to cement himself as the Dawg tailback of record. The Dawgs ended up outgaining the hapless Eagles by better than 400 yards. (Just because I know you’re wondering: Auburn outgained Furman by 389.)
But what all that means … well, I think it means pretty much nothing. There’s not even anything to glean from the performances of the Dawgs’ recent opponents: with Tennessee and Florida playing teams that presented not much more of a challenge than Tennessee Tech would have, there’s no help there. The Dawgs’ win in Fayetteville (where the Hogs have since dispatched Auburn and Carolina with ease) looks better, but with nearly two full months between then and now, how much does that really mean?
Worry Level: Steady. (At “Toss-up,” for the WBE record.)
Week 12: Alabama. Bleah: the Tide offense woke up again, racking up 452 total yards, 4.6 a carry, and an especially-impressive (for the struggling Greg McElroy) 8.1 yards-per-passing attempt. All of that came against one of the stouter defenses the Tide will face this year, too. Since pretty much the only path to victory for Auburn involves a hapless day from the Tide offense against a defense that to-date has been much more pliable than LSU’s, this is a bad sign.
There might be one glimmer of a good sign here, though: the Tide allowed LSU to rush for 3.28 yards a carry, their second-most generous outing of the season and one that would have been even worse without a) a handful of sacks of Jarrett Lee b) Charles Scott breaking his collarbone. Scott managed just 20 yards on 10 carries against Auburn, if you’ll recall, but had 83 on 13 vs. the Tide. Could there be the tiniest chink in the Tide defense’s impregnable armor?
It probably doesn’t matter: the Tide just soundly beat the same LSU team that walloped Auburn by 21. That’s not promising. And though part of me wants to say “At least with the West wrapped up, now they’ll be so focused on the Gators they might not worry about lil’ ol’ us,” after I said the same thing last year I’m not about to expect that to make any difference, either.
Worry Level: Not back to the Maximum Worry status pre-Tennessee escape, but definitely Up. Sorry.
The Conquered and the Conquerees
Homecoming week in the SEC meant that developments of interest were few and far between. Ole Miss sleepwalked past Northern Arizona, 38-14; Tennessee pounded Memphis 56-28 as Jon Crompton continued to transform himself into the world’s most unlikely NFL draft pick; Kentucky downed Eastern Kentucky 37-12. Auburn’s wins over the Rebels and Vols look the tiniest bit better due to sheer win accumulation and the loss to the ‘Cats looks the tiniest bit more understandable … but there’s nothing really to see here.
The Auburn loss to Arkansas did become a bit less of a black mark, though, as South Carolina made the same trip to Fayetteville for the same early kickoff and suffered the same lopsided loss, 33-16. With a home game still remaining against Miss. St., Hogs should have no problem hitting 3 SEC wins or 7-5 overall. Speaking of the Bulldogs, they had the week off, as did Ball St.
The other conqueree, LSU, we’ve covered; maybe the margin-of-defeat in Auburn’s trip to Baton Rouge appears a little less explicable, but there’s still hardly any shame in losing on the road to the clearcut third-best team in the SEC.
Flashing back to the nonconference slate, West Virginia continues to be a quality Auburn scalp as they survived 17-9 at home against Louisville to improve to 7-2. But don’t expect that to last: the ‘Eers offense is suddenly having some major problems, gaining just 273 total yards against a questionable Cardinal defense. I’d hoped WVU might interject themselves into the Big East title conversation, but wins in either of these next two weeks–at Cincinnati Friday or home to Pitt–look unlikely.
And lastly, it’s official: La. Tech will not be bowling for a second straight year after falling at home to Boise 45-35. The Bulldogs put up a decent fight at home and had the ball down just 30-28 midway through the fourth quarter; facing 4th-and-half-a-yard deep in his own territory and with his defense having never really stopped to Broncos all night, Derek Dooley elected to kick the ball back to BSU anyway. They took over on their own 45 and immediately drove down for a touchdown. On La. Tech’s next possession they were forced to go for it on 4th-and-10 on their side of the field, and failed. Moral of the story: coaches are too damn conservative for their own good.
The overall picture
With wins over three likely bowl teams already and two of their three losses on the road to two more bowl teams, Auburn is a deserving top-25 team and will get as good a shot as they could ask for at an eight-win season Saturday.
Photo via you already know where.