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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

We’re letting this week’s edition of The Wishbone also serve as the closest thing you’ll get to a WBE-styled recap of the South Carolina game. Like we said… still tasty.

... pretty Cam impressive.

Some quick hits and bullet points culled from during and after Auburn’s win over the Gamecocks:

* Looking at Auburn’s win over South Carolina through the Wishbone’s side-mirror:  It was big, yeah—but, later in the year, it will probably be even bigger than it now appears.  Why?  Several reasons come to mind.

1) Given Florida’s semi-struggles, South Carolina was arguably playing the best football of any team in the SEC East.  And the Tigers ran wild on them.  Literally ran wild, ringing them up for thirty-five points, mostly on the ground.  Georgia, by way of contrast, could only manage six against the Gamecocks.  Six.

2) When the time comes to divvy up the bowl games, and modestly assuming Auburn finishes with a good but not spectacular record (though, hey, you can’t blame hopes for soaring a bit this week!), winning this game could make the difference between a December bowl and New Year’s Day again.  We can hardly count on a repeat of last year’s bizarre statistical anomaly where nearly every team in the SEC not named “Alabama” finished with virtually identical records, sending us to Tampa at 7-5.  So this win, in that regard, could be a real difference-maker.

3)  While Auburn is now 6-10 all-time against Steve Spurrier-coached teams, the Tigers have not lost to the Ol’ Ball Coach in this century. (2000 was technically the last year of the Twentieth Century.)  The bulk of the losses– seven of them—occurred between 1995 and 2000, four suffered by Terry Bowden and three by Tuberville, with two in 2000 alone, including the SEC Championship Game.

4)  South Carolina still has not beaten Auburn since joining the SEC.  Brad Scott coached the Gamecocks in losses to Dameyune Craig-led squads in 1996 and 1997, and Spurrier has now dropped three to the Tigers.  If only we’d gotten a shot at one of Lou Holtz’s squads, too…

5)  South Carolina state champions!  And that’s worth… um… something.  Yeah.

* Other assorted thoughts as your humble Wishbone duo watched the South Carolina Shakedown:

Van: Dyer started the game making me think, “Wow—Lattimore is so much better than Dyer at this point in their careers.”  By the end, I was thinking, “Wow—Dyer is awesome and Lattimore is not impressing me!’   Dyer just gets stronger as the game goes on.  And he plays “bigger” as the game goes on.  He starts the game looking like Markeith “the Lizard” Cooper and ends the game looking like Rudi Johnson.  That’s astonishing.

John: South Carolina was the highest ranked team we will play until we play Alabama.  And we won. Our offense was awesome.  The USC defense is good and we rolled up and down the field for long drives on them.  Dyer was feeling it in the second half and dragging tacklers.  Newton threw to the other receivers—Blake, Lutzenkirchen, Eric Smith, etc. The defense did just enough.  And Spurrier was his own worst enemy.  I was much more scared of Garcia coming back into the game than some freshman.  In our stadium, at night, losing in a tight SEC game, you throw in a freshman QB???? It smacked of desperation—or of the old Spurrier quarterback yo-yo.  Stupid.

Van: Yeah, I’m just gonna stick my backup rookie QB in the game in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.  What’s the worst that could happen?  And wouldn’t it have been funny if Jesse Palmer had been doing the color commentary?

John: Josh Bynes is a man.  I love our freshman defensive linemen, Whitaker and Lemonier.  And the best two players on special teams are freshmen defensive players – Craig Sanders (DE) and Demetruce McNeal (safety).

Van: How do you feel about Mario Fannin at this point?

John: I like him as a player and I am glad that he is on our football team.  But I would prefer that we not hand him the ball in an SEC game again, ever.  If we want to throw him a few passes out of the slot and have him fall down or get out of bounds immediately after catching the ball, I can live with that, but nothing more.

Van: I was so wrung out by the time of the last interception to seal the win, I couldn’t even get all that excited.  I spent the whole game pacing and fretting and jumping up and down, and finally all I could do was sit there and feel numb.  But it was a good kind of numb—the kind of numb that comes from winning a slugfest and seeing the other guy lying there on the mat instead of you.  You’re swaying and you’re bleeding, but at least you’re the one still standing.

John: South Carolina can win the East if Spurrier doesn’t torpedo them with this quarterback thing. Bring on LA-Monroe and give every Auburn fan’s heart and fingernails a week off.

Van: There was a moment in the broadcast of the game Saturday night when the offense was clicking along toward an imminent touchdown and running something like a play every twenty seconds—and the camera zoomed in on Gamecocks Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson in the press box, and his eyes were about as big around as dinner plates.  You have to love it when a plan comes together.

And speaking of the offense clicking along—don’t you think Pat Dye was smiling as he watched that offense grind out the yards, run play after run play, scarcely ever putting the ball in the air, just imposing our will on the SC defense? The Tigers may not have been lined up in the eponymous wishbone, but they almost seemed to be running some kind of “triple option” attack as Cam pitched it, handed it off, or kept it himself.  He looked like Randy Campbell out there (with a few more inches of height and an extra hundred pounds of muscle)!

And while we’re on the subjects of South Carolina and Steve Spurrier, am I the only person who has ever noticed that Auburn’s 2005 win over South Carolina was by the exact same score, 48-7, as the beatdown Spurrier inflicted on Pat Dye’s 1990 squad in his first season at Florida?  That fact continues to make me happy—I was in attendance at both games and was extremely aware of it.  I’ve always wondered if Tommy Tuberville realized it—or if Pat Dye ever noticed it.

And one more item before we leave the Palmetto State in the rear view at last:  It’s neat that South Carolina’s band plays both their famous “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the theme from the original (David Lynch) “Dune” movie during games.  It’s like a medley of the hits from the most pretentious and tedious Sci Fi movies ever made.  (Gamecocks gather around the “Monolith” that is Spurrier’s ego, maybe?  Someone throws a chicken drumstick bone in the air in slow motion, whereupon it turns into the Goodyear Blimp?  He who controls the game clock controls the universe?) Then again, we probably shouldn’t make too much fun.  After all, the Auburn band famously plays the “Imperial March” from the Star Wars movies– otherwise known as the theme song of the guys that got beaten by Ewoks.

And lastly, this week’s Wishbone SEC Power Rankings:

The Elite: Alabama.  We’re torn between wanting them to lose immediately vs. wanting them to be undefeated so we can possibly by some miracle ruin their season.

The Very Good: Auburn, LSU, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina.  A fine jumble of very good teams here at the second tier, with the Pork Products and Hot Wings dropping to the bottom two spots following losses.  The thinking here, though, is that neither of them will lose many more the rest of the way.  As for Florida—who knows?  I guess we’ll find out more soon enough.

The “Might Be Good”: Kentucky.  Ditto the Florida point above.  See you soon in Lexington!

The Not Good: Tennessee, Miss. State, Georgia, Vanderbilt.  And let’s be honest: If Georgia played Vandy tomorrow, how quick would you really be to take the Dawgs?

The Wretched: Ole Miss.  But, hey—a win is a win, right?

The Wishbone will be reuniting in Lexington for the Kentucky game.  Perhaps the aura of our combined presence in the stadium will be just enough to pull the Tigers through.  And maybe we’ll get a photo together for the first time since the early Clinton administration…

Van Allen Plexico managed to attend Auburn (and score student football tickets) for some portion of every year between 1986 and 1996. He realizes that’s probably not something one should brag about, but hey. He teaches college near St Louis (because ten years as a student was somehow just not enough time to spend at school) and writes and edits for a variety of publishers. Find links to his various projects at www.plexico.net.

John Ringer graduated from Auburn in 1991 (which may be the greatest time ever to be an Auburn student – SEC titles in 1987, 88 and 89 and the 1989 Iron Bowl). His family has had season tickets every year since well before he was born and he grew up wandering around Jordan-Hare on game days. He currently lives in Richmond, Virginia where he spends way too much time reading about college football on the internet and teaching his children to love Auburn football.

Previous Wishbone columns can be found here.

Vasha Hunt photo via.

About Van Allen Plexico and John Ringer

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