Let’s get right to it:
Week 4: South Carolina. The ‘Cocks played their first true cupcake of the season, munching on Auburn’s 2009 pals from Furman to the tune of 39-18. Marcus Lattimore kept doing his thing with better than 5 yards a carry, while Alshon Jeffrey added 97 yards on just 5 receptions.
But overall, this was Carolina’s weakest performance on the season to-date, with the Paladins still within 14-6 until two ‘Cock touchdowns either side of the break. Most encouraging for Auburn is that even against Furman, Stephen Garcia couldn’t shake the interception bug: he threw two (along with taking two sacks) in only 20 passing attempts. Rest assured Auburn’s going to do their best to put the ball in his hands.
Worry Level: Maybe down juuuuuust a hair
Week 5: UL-Monroe. We’ll come back to this under the “Conquered” section, but the Warhawks couldn’t dig themselves out of a 21-0 hole on the road at Arkansas St. and lost 34-20. In other words: they lost to the team Auburn beat by 26 by 14.
Worry Level: Flatlined
Week 6: Kentucky. Damn, ‘Cats: a week after mercilessly slaughtering Western Kentucky, this time Kentucky mercilessly slaughtered Akron, turning a 3-3 tie early in the second quarter into a 47-10 massacre by game’s end. Messrs. Cobb and Locke did their thing, but most encouraging had to be the play of Mike Hartline: 21-of-29, 2 TDs, no picks.
WKU and Akron are probably two of the worst teams in D-I this season, but still, a combined victory margin of 72 points in two weeks is more-or-less uncharted territory for Kentucky, and the road win at Louisville even looks better after the ‘Cards put a scare into Oregon St. up in Corvallis. I’m not looking forward to this Lexington trip, I’m not.
Worry Level: Up
Week 7: Arkansas. You know what happened. The most worrying part, though, is that Mallett and the Hog receivers were maybe even better than you thought: Mallett’s line read 21-of-33 for 380 yards (11.5 an attempt!), 3 TDs, and not a pick to be found. He seems to have realized D.J. Williams exists, dammit (Williams caught 6 balls), and the occasionally butterfingered Hogs receivers caught just about everything thrown in their vicinity. Without Dennis Johnson the Hogs didn’t run worth crap, but when you’ve got a passing game like this one, who cares?
That doesn’t mean Auburn’s going to just lay down for these guys, but realistically, we’re going to need the best pass-rushing day of the season from Fairley and Co. and the one off-day you know Mallett’s got hidden away somewhere to keep them in check.
Worry Level: Up
Week 8: LSU. Another week, yet another yardage deficit for the Purple Tigers (albeit only of four yards) coupled with an inexplicably comfortable victory thanks to special teams and opponent’s mistakes. (Mistakes, in this case, meaning an absolutely incredible five interceptions thrown by the MSU quarterbacks on only 18 passes.)
Whatever. So it goes.
Worry Level: Steady. OK, maybe up a little.
Week 9: Ole Miss. Oh heavens, they’ve gone and lost to Vandy. At home. By two touchdowns! As always when a loss to Vandy is involved, turnovers were the principal culprit: the final margin read ‘Dores 0, Rebels 3. (Two picks by Masoli–who compiled a glittering QB rating of 88.5 for this game–did the principal damage.)
But the stunning woes in the front seven exposed in the Jax St. game aren’t solved. They aren’t even close to being solved; despite the fact that Larry Smith is clearly incompetent as a passer, the Rebels let Vandy rack up 227 yards rushing on an average of 5.5 a carry. (The ‘Dores two primary rushers, Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, averaged better than 7.5!) Oy vey.
Worry Level: Plummeting
Week 10: Chattanooga. The Mocs got their first win of the year in style, beating up on winless Eastern Kentucky in a 42-24 victory. B.J. Coleman went an impressive 24-of-32 for 375 yards and 4 TDs.
Week 11: Georgia. The Dawgs clearly aren’t a bad team by any stretch of the imagination–if they punch in two touchdowns on their three red zone possessions vs. Carolina, that’s a different game, and they were only 20 seconds from taking the Hogs to overtime despite being down two scores at the start of the fourth.
But man, it just seems like there’s nothing special about this team, doesn’t it? No big playmakers on either side of the ball (at least until Green gets back), no real innovation in either scheme, no domination along either line of scrimmage. Georgia just seems to be kind of there so far. That could change at any time, I guess, but right now this doesn’t strike me as the sort of team that’s going to have either the fire or the big plays necessary to win on the road. We’ll see.
Worry Level: Down some
Week 12: Alabama. The offense is legitimately terrifying these days, but neither Saban nor the ‘Bama fans (the ones with some measure of sense, anyway) are close to happy with the defense. Is the offense just pounding on patsies? (62 points, yes, but Wake Forest put up 51.) Is the defense just killing time before the real thing starts? Could the Arkansas game get any more interesting? (I say no.)
Worry Level: Up a tick (Dude, seriously, the offense. Sorry.)
THE CONQUERED (AND THE CONQUERORS)
As mentioned above, Arkansas St. got their first win of the season by downing UL-Monroe at home. Auburn might have been the first defense Ryan Aplin carved up this season, but they’re going to be far from the last; he hit 20-of-32 for 243 against the Warhawks. If you could loan him out to Mississippi St., maybe Dan Mullen would have something; as is, based on the stinkbomb Tyler Russell and Chris Relf dropped in Baton Rouge, Mullen might still be a year away from getting the Bulldogs back to bowl eligibility.
THE OVERALL PICTURE
Not too terribly different from last week, but having to face Kentucky on the road no longer looks like even the slightest bit of a break. Increased worry over Arkansas countered by slightly decreased worry over Georgia. But would it kill LSU to finally just play a game where the scoreline matches the yardage differential?