Sorry for delay this a.m. Computer issues.
Welcome to the 2010 edition of Schedule Stockwatch, WBE’s weekly look at how Auburn’s upcoming opponents have fared, how newly worried or not worried Auburn should be, and how the season might shape up as a whole. We’ll get right to it:
Week 2: Mississippi St. The Bulldogs didn’t do a thing to make those us worried to distraction about Thursday night (i.e., yours truly) feel any better, horse-whipping Memphis to the tune of 49-7. Remember when–even if the defense, running game, and return units were good–you could at least count on MSU quarterbacks to be scatter-armed and hare-brained? Forget it: Chris Relf and Tyler Russell completed 20-of-25 passes for 372 yards (that’s 18.6 an attempt) with 5 touchdowns and Relf’s lone pick. Russell, the strong-armed redshirt freshman, came away with the lion’s share of raves after going 13-of-16 for 256 and four of those TDs.
The defense, meanwhile, held Memphis to 237 total yards (or 332 fewer than MSU’s 569) and a 2-of-15 third-down conversion rate. The Tigers didn’t score until 1:39 remained in the game. The running game wasn’t dominant statistically, but No. 1 back Vick Ballard did go for 60 yards on just 7 carries.
You get the point. The good news is that Memphis is a total train wreck at this point, so it’s not that impressive a performance, and frankly there’s no way Russell and Relf can possibly be that accurate two weeks consecutively. But State wasn’t half this dominant in last year’s opener, and that was against HBCU Jackson St.
Worry Level: Up.
Week 3: Clemson. Looking at the scoreline, Clemson wasn’t so bad against North Texas: they led 21-7 at the half and won going away without too much trouble, 35-10.
But the box score says something a little different. The Mean Green outgained the Tigers 462-423, collected 25 first downs (!) to Clemson’s 15, held CU to 2-of-9 third-down conversions and Kyle Parker to a 9-of-17 performance.
So why the lopsided scoreline? Several huuuuge plays for the Tigers–their first 14 points came on TDs of 60 and 70 yards–and five different UNT drives that ended in Clemson territory without points. On the evidence of Week 1, the departure of C.J. Spiller isn’t going to cut short the Tigers’ capacity for quick-strike scores … but if you can keep Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper from going bananas, Clemson might not have the discipline to sustain long scoring drives.
Worry Level: Steady, maybe down just a tick
Week 4: South Carolina. As many of you no doubt watched yourselves last Thursday, the Gamecocks just about ran Southern Miss clear out of Williams-Brice, leading 41-6 late in the fourth and winning 41-13. Stephen Garcia averaged better than 12 yards an attempt (and added 38 rushing yards and one impressive TD for good measure) and the revamped, Marcus Lattimore-led rushing game went for 6.4 yards a pop of 35 carries.
The ‘Cocks weren’t quite as overpowering as the final score suggests–they allowed USM more than 400 total yards and benefitted, as did Clemson, from a few red zone screwups on the Golden Eagles’ part–but still, the outcome was never in doubt and USM is expected to be a player in C-USA. If Garcia and the run game are both this on-point, Carolina is going to be a major, major hurdle to clear.
Worry Level: Up
Week 5: UL-Monroe. The Warhawks actually took Week 1 off and will play 12 games in 12 weeks, starting this Saturday against Arkansas.
Worry Level: Pretty much N/A to begin with
Week 6: Kentucky. The ‘Cats bagged one of the only worthwhile SEC wins this weekend, beating Louisville in Louisville in Joker Phillips’ (and Charlie Strong’s) debut, 23-16. It was the usual story for Kentucky: big plays in the running game (Derrick Locke scored from 32 yards, Randall Cobb from 51), a win in the turnover battle (0 to 2), bend-but-don’t-break D.
What might have been surprising is the ‘Cats proficiency in the passing game; Mike Hartline went 17-of-26 for 217 yards and no picks, not eye-popping but still good enough for an efficient-enough 8.3 yards-per-attempt. Overall, we’ll have to learn more about how good this Louisville team is before we know how impressed to be, but 466 yards of offense and a modicum of balance sure seem like a good start.
Worry Level: Up, though not too Up
Week 7: Arkansas. The Hogs watched Tennessee Tech lead 3-0 and then predictably scored the last 44 points of the game in a 41-point walk. Mallett and Co. were hot, but they’re always hot against lesser opposition; this game didn’t tell us anything about the Hogs we didn’t know already.
The one thing worth noting … remember how we’ve said a few times this offseason that Arkansas is due for a big negative swing in turnover margin? The Hogs were -3 against TTU.
Worry Level: Steady
Week 8: LSU. The Purple Tigers are precisely who we thought they were: big-play capable but otherwise toothless on offense; erratic and distracted on defense; deeply dependent on special teams; and still somehow able to pull out 2009-style victories where they get outgained by 120 yards by one of the ACC’s worst offenses, lose the turnover battle, give up an onsides kick recovery … and still win by six.
Whatever. Their luck will run out eventually. And by “eventually,” I mean “as soon as they meet a halfway-decent team that can cover a punt return.”
Worry Level: Steady, but remember it was low around here to begin with
Week 9: Ole Miss. No, the Rebels are probably not that bad, yes, they will probably beat someone they shouldn’t sometime before the year is out.
But they also have what are clearly some pretty staggering issues to take care of first. There’s a reason the last two SEC teams to lose to I-AA competition were Sly Croom’s first MSU team and the infamous Arkansas squad that got Jack Crowe fired. If Ole Miss can’t defend Coty Blanchard and Jacksonville Freaking State–even at half-speed–what on earth are they going to do against Cam Newton and Friends?
Worry Level: Down, down, down
Week 10: Chattanooga. The Mocs lost a heartbreaker to current SoCon overlords Appalachian State, blowing a 35-14 fourth quarter lead and falling 42-41. Former Vol quarterback B.J. Coleman led the Mocs to 492 yards of total offense and scored on a three-yard run with 51 seconds left to bring Chattanooga within a point, but his pass on a two-point conversion try for the win fell incomplete.
They may be I-AA, but coming that close to upsetting Appy St. shows that Chattanooga is, at least, probably a pretty good I-AA team.
Worry Level: Up just the tiniest hair from “Flatlined”
Week 11: Georgia. The Dawgs were as dominant against Louisiana as they’ve been against anyone in a while, cruising 55-7 against a team that, at the least, should have given Todd Grantham’s new D some kind of a challenge. Depending on what happens between Florida and USF, it’s perfectly sensible to think the Georgia-Carolina winner is your new SEC East favorite.
Worry Level: Up
Week 12: Alabama. No surprises here against one of the worst teams in D-I.
Worry Level: Steady
THE CONQUERED (AND THE CONQUERORS)
In the future, we’ll take this space to review how Auburn’s previous opponents performed. But there are no previous opponents this week.
THE BIG PICTURE
Strange, I’d say, that in what was universally seen as a terrible week for the SEC, Auburn’s schedule looks far more difficult now than it did when the season kicked off. All three East opponents put together solid-to-excellent performances and Auburn’s most dangerous road opponent in the West amped up the danger by another few, uh, amps.
So maybe the visit to Oxford looks even less stressful than we thought, and the visit from LSU still plenty manageable if we can keep their punt return in check. But with a sweep of Mississippi State-Clemson-South Carolina looking like quite a chore, it’s safe to say that if Auburn does make good on my prediction of 10 wins, they’ll have most definitely earned it.