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The Wishbone and the Evolution of a Dream

Can you find No. 2?

With our team resting and recuperating and preparing for that biggest game of any season—the Iron Bowl, of course—the Wishbone takes this opportunity to look back at the eleven games that have preceded it.

We asked ourselves, “What did we think about our team and the season and each particular game during the week before it was played, and then how did we see those same things the week after?”  We wanted to take a look at just how our hopes and dreams and (even the occasional) rational expectations have changed as our Tigers have progressed—quite literally progressed—through the season.

Additionally, we tossed in our week-by-week feelings about the Alabama game, because they are Alabama and we are Auburn and thus, whether we like it or not, we think about them 365 days a year, more or less.

So, without further ado, here are the eleven games of the 2010 Auburn Tigers football season to date, along with the zeitgeist surrounding each of them:

Game 1:  September 4:  Arkansas State, 52-26
Before:  “I just want to beat Georgia this year. And go to a decent bowl game. That would indicate significant progress, I think.”  And also, “Can’t wait to see this new quarterback and running back in action.  From all the YouTube clips and recruiting stories, they both should be really fun to watch.” And finally, “Well, Phil Steele says we could be 11-0 when we go to Tuscaloosa.  Sounds crazy to me, but he’s uncannily accurate most times, so…we’ll see.”
After:  “Offense looks really good.  Newton could be even better than advertised. Everyone’s criticizing the defense, and especially the secondary. We gave up 26 to these guys.  Ouch.  I suppose 9-4 would be the best we can hope for—but that’s improvement.”
Regarding Bama:  “They’re monstrous.  We’re going to get killed, just like we’ve figured all off-season.”

Game 2:  September 9: at Mississippi State, 17-14
Before:  “This will be a tough road game. Mullen has them improving. We need to win this one because there are several others down the way a bit that should be a lot harder.”
After:  “Whew! A narrow escape!  But hey—any road win in the SEC is a good win.”
Regarding Bama:  “They’re monstrous.  We’re going to get killed, just like we’ve figured all off-season.”

Game 3:  September 18: Clemson, 27-24 (OT)
Before:  “This will be a tough one. Again, though, there will be tougher tests ahead, so if we’re going to even match last year’s win total—with this game in the place of West Virginia—we need to find a way.  And, hey, this Clemson team has numerous Bama ties, so there’s at least a bit of motivation to whip ‘em!”
After:  “What a come-from-behind win!  This team is at least resilient. That Clemson quarterback is a tough kid, and Clemson’s going to win some games this year. Good gosh, we really have to do something about the short pass defense!  And even the offensive line isn’t playing the way we hoped.”
Regarding Bama:  “They’re monstrous.  We’re going to get killed, just like we’ve figured all off-season.”

September 25: South Carolina, 35-27
Before:  “This is the best team we’ve played thus far.  Lattimore is looking like a better get for them than Dyer was for us.  Can we stop him and stop Garcia and Spurrier’s passing game?  We’ve been very fortunate so far this year, but I don’t like our chances very much in this one.”
After:  “What a win! Cam really looks like something else!  The offensive line played better, the defense shut down Lattimore entirely, and we held their offense late in the game when we had to—including causing four consecutive turnovers at the end.  And there went Spurrier being Spurrier again, benching his senior QB in the fourth quarter.  Thanks, Steve!”  And, “That was a pivotal win, in terms of how the season ultimately comes out.  We’ll have to blow a game or two against easier competition to have things go terribly wrong now.”
Regarding Bama:  “Maybe there’s a slight chance?  Well, probably not, but more than we might have thought previously.”

October 2:  Louisiana-Monroe, 52-3
Before:  “Tune-up before we get back into conference play.”
After:  “Nice plan of Malzahn’s to have Cam almost entirely throw the ball.  He looks pretty darned good doing that.”
Regarding Bama:  “They just destroyed Florida and now look like they could give the lower half of the NFL a decent game.  Maybe Cam gives us a slightly better chance that we expected, but honestly I don’t see anyone beating them this year.”

October 9:   at Kentucky, 37-34
Before:  “They beat us last year, in Auburn.  They have several extremely talented players on offense.  I’m very nervous.  But aren’t their fans here outside the stadium (and then inside) so nice!”  [This was the one game this year I was able to attend in person.] After:  “We won we won we won!  But good grief, we could not stop their passing game!  Clearly we have severe problems against offenses that feature quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly, particularly on screens.  And our tackling has not been great all season.”
Regarding Bama:  “OH MY GOODNESS.  SOUTH CAROLINA!!”

October 16:  Arkansas, 65-43
Before:  “This will be our toughest test of the year.  They do everything on offense well that we don’t defend well.  Mallet’s playing very well.  Their defense is better than last year—and they beat us last year.  How on Earth will we be able to hang with them?  Let’s face it—this is the one we finally lose.”
After:  “Are you kidding me?  SIXTY-FIVE?!  Now I’m starting to believe that we can play with anyone, because no matter how much the other team scores, we can somehow score more.  Maybe this really is the year that offense wins a championship.”
Regarding Bama:  “Well, well, well.  They’re mortal after all.  Who knew?  Maybe, just maybe, we have a shot in that game.”

October 23:  LSU, 24-17
Before:  “This is the first game all season, against a seriously tough foe, that I’ve actually felt an above-average level of comfort.  Part of it is that we’re doing so much better than I expected; part of it is that we just hung sixty-freakin’-five on Arkansas; and part of it is that this game is sort of the polar opposite of the Arkansas game—we have a weak defense but they have a weak offense, and vice versa.  Maybe I’m being overconfident, but I like our chances.”
After:  “DID YOU SEE THAT RUN BY CAM?!”
Regarding Bama: “If we can beat LSU that way, we certainly can compete with Bama. Starting to believe…!”

October 30: at Mississippi, 51-31
Before:  “It’s a road game in the SEC, and we are as of now the #1 team in the BCS.  Everyone says we are primed for a letdown, and this could be the perfect ‘trap’ game.  And of course Houston Nutt has had a way of messing with us through the years.”
After:  “Cam can even catch touchdowns!  Not #1 anymore?  Actually, maybe that’s a good thing—as long as we don’t drop below second.  Moving on…”
Regarding Bama:  Comfort level actually increasing.  We are the #2 team in the BCS and they have two losses. If that game was in Jordan-Hare, I would feel totally confident.  But now we are the team with a destiny, and they could be the spoiler, the biggest hurdle in our path.  Amazing how the Fates have changed jerseys, huh?”

November 6:  Chattanooga, 62-24
Before:  “CECIL DID WHAT?!?!”
After:  “Okay, that was sort of a nice palate-cleanser.  Now—back to, CECIL DID WHAT?!”
Regarding Bama:  “Another loss?  To Les Miles, noted cud-chewing lunatic?  How the mighty have fallen.  I am starting to feel exceptionally good about the Alabama game… provided nothing else bad comes along, news-wise…”

November 13:  Georgia, 49-31
Before:  “We just need to play some football, and get this week of horrifying news behind us—at least for an afternoon.  Georgia’s beaten us four years in a row.  That’s unacceptable and has to stop now.  Will Cam play?  Can the rest of the team focus on the game, despite all the distractions?  Will Cam play??”
After:  “Not pretty at first, but not the first time we’ve had to do that this year.  VICTORY.  This team does not get flustered even down double-digits.  They know how to respond.  Cam played and DID he ever play.  Fairley… so much to praise, so much to wince about.  Even so, this Georgia complaining—this fixation—on and about him is just pitiful.  They’re mad about losing, about Richt, and about having 49 hung on them and they’re focusing all their frustrations on Fairley.  Whatever.  Nothing stinks like a whiny Dawg.  Still very disappointing to be down two defensive linemen for the entire first half against Alabama.  Do the Georgia fans intend to keep whining all the way into next season?”
Regarding Bama:  “Thirteen days to rest and get ready…”

November 26:  Alabama, ??-??
Before:  “What will Malzahn dream up between now and then?  What can Roof and Chizik come up with to at least limit Julio Jones?  Can they shut down the two backs the way they did last year?  What new bombshells will detonate in the media?  How many days can Finebaum make the Cam story and the Fairley (non-)story drag on?  How will Saban try to manipulate the refs into calling stuff on Fairley if he even breathes hard on McElroy?  How will the team respond, playing in that stadium in that environment?”

The Wishbone Mailbag

Dear Wishbone:
I represent certain business interests in the nation of Nigeria.  For an investment of only $180,000, you will receive many millions of dollars later.  Of course, you can’t let anyone know you have invested this money, as that could blow up the entire deal.  Well, I say it would blow up the deal, but really it would only blow you up.  We’ll still get our millions.  Interested?
–K. R., Starkville, MS

Dear K.R.,
And here we’d thought you left town with Jackie Sherrill.
–The Wishbone

The Wishbone’s SEC Power Rankings, Off-Week Abbreviated Edition

The Elite:  Auburn.
Our various foes and critics think we’re being obstinate in plodding ahead with the season in the face of nearly daily allegations against everyone not named Cam Newton himself or Auburn University. We see it differently—we think all of those details were conveyed to Auburn and to the SEC weeks ago (mostly by Cam’s dad) and all we’re seeing now is a steady drip drip drip of details (some possibly accurate, some probably not) emerging to the public that Auburn already knows about and has already factored into its decisions.  That’s not obstinacy, it’s being ahead of the story.

The Very Good:  LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina.
We’re promoting SC into this category if only because they hammered Florida in the Swamp and qualified for Atlanta.

The Might Be Good:  Miss State, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky.
You can’t take beatings like (three of) these guys did and not drop a bit.

The Not Good:  Tennessee.
Do a number like that on Ole Miss and you at least get to move back up out of the “Wretched” category.

The Wretched:   Ole Miss, Vanderbilt.
You enjoyed a few weeks off the bottom of the barrel, rebels, but come on—you can’t go out and embarrass yourselves the way you did in Knoxville and not drop back down, if only for this week.

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.

About Van Allen Plexico and John Ringer

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