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Misdirection uses Plainslinks

I hope you're not getting tired of this image. 'Cause I'm not.

Dr. Gustav goes viral. There’s a good chance you may have seen this already. If not, prepare for nine-plus minutes of pure tactical football pornography:

So thrilling is that video–even for people who aren’t Auburn fans–that it’s popped up at Smart Football and again at the Sporting Blog, where Brian Cook calls Auburn “one of 2010’s most interesting teams” and labels Dr. Gustav’s creation the “single wing 2.0.” Chris from Smart Football then sort of pooh-poohed the whole single wing-thing, but from an Auburn fan’s persepctive, the point remains the same: 5 out of 5 experts agree that Auburn’s offense is totally sweet.

Now watch the video again.

[Ed. noteand order the shirt.]

Newsbeat. Two relatively minor bits to pass on:

1. Two Tigers have made the preseason watch lists for two postseason honors: Craig Stevens for the Nagurski Trophy (given to the best defensive player in the nation) and Lee Ziemba for the Lombardi (best lineman on either side of the ball, but you knew that). Nice to see the recognition, even if I feel lonelier and lonelier by the day for believing Josh Bynes is every bit Stevens’ equal, if not his superior.

2. Can’t give you names since they’re behind the paywall and the news hasn’t made the mainstream press yet, but three of Auburn’s hoops signees are on campus and qualified while a fourth is expected this week. That leaves three more question marks out there, and frankly I’m hoping one of those questions winds up being answered with a “No.” That’s a lousy, rotten position to be in, but at least it would reassure us Barbee knew what he was doing when he oversigned by a player.

Expectationswatch. Doug Gillett’s compiled the results of 10 different preseason top 25’s into one giant Frankenpoll at EDSBS, and the results are interesting, if not surprising. Your SEC representatives:

1. Alabama
5. Florida
16. Arkansas
22. LSU
23. Georgia
25. Auburn

I’ve harangued you enough about Arkansas, but for the same reasons I laid out earlier today, the idea that LSU is the fourth-best team in the SEC is, well, let’s be kind and just call it illogical. The debts from the Mississippi State game … and the Georgia game … and the Arkansas game … those are going to have to be repaid.

Also worth noting how wide the perceived gap is between the SEC’s current Big Two and its Other Ten. (That Arkansas has risen as high as they have is probably less actual enthusiasm for the Hogs and more “Hey, we need to rank someone else from the SEC in the top 20 … I guess these guys?”) Not that, of course, the gap ought to be perceived otherwise when the Other Ten have one victory over the Big Two the past two seasons. Sigh.

For something completely different, you can check out the Football Outsiders top 25, or at least Nos. 11-25. They have a fancy formula that weighs recruiting rankings and past performance pretty heavily, so there’s some seriously wacky results: Ole Miss No. 25, Nebraska No. 21, Tennessee No. 20 (!), Boise St. No. 14. (Auburn’s unranked.) I think a few of those results (like Ole Miss’s and Tennessee’s) can be pretty easily dismissed, but it’s a little worrying to see Clemson all the way up at No. 12.

Hey, speaking of the Tide … their secondary has long since been identified as their potential Achilles heel this fall, and it’s looking more Achilles-esque by the day, thanks to news of another shoulder surgery for projected starter Dre Kirkpatrick:

[I]t does not take much of a cynic to become very concerned over this situation. While Saban never confirmed that it was an operation on his left shoulder — which would be his second in the span of about fourteen months — no one doubts that is what it was, and two operations in that short of a span ought to be a concern. Hopefully it is something minor, but it should be well understood that the shoulder is a very complex anatomical structure that can result in a myriad of health issues, and that if this really were something minor, two surgeries would have likely never been required in the first place. Minor injuries generally require rest and glorified medical band-aids; the mere fact that two surgeries have been required here indicates that this is probably not minor. That Kirkpatrick could be dealing with some serious structural issues within his shoulder is, sigh, a very distinct possibility.

Further evidence: Kirkpatrick apparently had the surgery at the end of April and Saban has stated Kirkpatrick hasn’t even started running yet. It could all amount to nothing, but it does seem more and more likely that the Tide’s true freshmen are going to have to prove themselves the studs the gurus have said they are right away.

Etc. MGoBlog talks to Michigan CB Valdez Showers, who has an Auburn offer and recently picked one up from Florida; doesn’t say anything regarding Auburn, but does say distance won’t be a factor … Nothing to do with anything, but this discussion of “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” at the NYTimes is really interesting stuff if you’re a giant nerd … Quality background on Graeme McDowell, the UAB alum who won the U.S. Open, as I think even the armadillos and mayflies have heard back home.

Ooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhh U-S-AAAAAAAAAAAAA … U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-AAAAAAAAA! [clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap]. I’ve saved it for the bottom of the post since I know a lot of you don’t care, but for those who do, tomorrow’s the big game. BIG. GAME. Recommended previews include one by my buddy Brian at MGo, one at Stars and Gripes, this excellent (and accessible) tactical overview at SI.com, and Grant Wahl’s more general overview. A couple of thoughts:

— Regarding the two big lineup questions–1. Who starts beside Bradley? 2. Buddle up top or Holden/Feilhaber in the midfield with Dempsey up top?–I’d answer them with “Edu” and “Holden.” I just don’t think Clark is in sharp enough form, and if Edu wasn’t entirely impressive in his half against Slovenia, the team did seem calmer with him on the field. As for Holden, I think it’s time to try a 4-5-1 or, if you want to be more aggressive in the nomenclature, a 4-2-3-1, with Edu/Bradley as the defensive midfield, Altidore alone up top, and Dempsey-Donovan-Holden across the offensive midfield. (Algeria ate England’s 4-4-2 alive; we need to try something else.) I’ve always liked Donovan more in the middle of the field over the wing, and he and Dempsey can switch back and forth as need be anyway.

Another option would be the 4-3-3 the U.S kind of played in the second half against Slovenia. There, it was Dempsey-Donovan-Altidore across the front and Feilhaber-Edu-Bradley across the midfield. The problem is that the two “wide” midfielders would also have to spend a lot of time in the center to help in possession, and while Bradley’s perfect in that role, there’s no one else who seems like an immediate fit–Feilhaber was blah against Slovenia, Holden’s too much of a pure winger, Beasley’s touch and form are still a total mystery. I’d rather just have Holden as the out-and-out winger with both Bradley and Edu holding the center.

— If the U.S. find themselves up a goal late with the England-Slovenia game locked in a low-scoring draw–a situation that might send the U.S. on even if they concede an equalizer–they should push forward and try to win the group. To take first in the event of an ENG-SLV draw, the U.S. would need a two-goal win; in the event of an ENG win, they would need to simply match ENG’s margin of victory (barring ENG scoring three or more goals). (A SLV win gives them the group.) It doesn’t seem like it would be that tall a mountain to climb, and the rewards could be lavish: the most likely knockout round progression for the Group C runner-up is Germany followed by Argentina; the most likely progression for the winner would be Serbia or Ghana followed by Uruguay. Yeah. (Once again: may Koman Coulibaly be gored by wild Malian boars.) After Germany’s loss to Serbia it looked like this wouldn’t matter much (since the Germans looked a toss-up to finish anywhere from first to third), but Ghana’s mediocre 1-1 draw with the Aussies means that Germany 1. will win the group with a win 2. look damn good to get it.

The U.S. are generally good about countering without exposing too much at the back, so if the U.S. can score the opening goal and really force the Algerians to chase–this is the single biggest key to the game–they’ll have chances to push the lead to 2. They’ve got to take them.

–I can’t even think about this game without feeling like I have to vomit.

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