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The AU Wishbone: The Aggies are coming! The Aggies Are coming!

Texas A&M fan reaction shot to the 2014 season.
Texas A&M fan reaction shot to the 2014 season.

The Ole Miss Game – Feel Good about it.

Despite the terrible injury to Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell, Auburn fans need to feel good about the final result of the game in Oxford.   Auburn went on the road and beat an excellent football team.  Against a defense that had given up seven offensive touchdowns in seven games, Auburn scored five.  Against a defense that had held nine consecutive teams under 20 points Auburn scored 35.

The Auburn defense played its worst game of the season but found ways to come through in key situations, creating two turnovers in the red zone in the 4th quarter.   Don’t let the injury or the poor play of the defense ruin what should be a great win for Auburn.   Send prayers and / or a get well post card to Mr. Treadwell.


The College Football Playoff Thoughts for the Week (A Brief Rant by Van):

In all honesty, they messed up the college football playoff from the start.

When the powers that be decided to finally move toward something vaguely resembling a “playoff” system,” they looked at it from the inside out, rather than from the outside in.

What do we mean by that?  Simply this:  They said to themselves, “The problem with having only a two-team playoff (i.e. the BCS) is when a third team is undefeated, such as Auburn in 2004, or when two teams from the same conference are the top two teams and everyone else is excluded.”  So they did the most obvious thing—they added one more round of games, creating two semifinals and thus something that could be dubbed “College Football Playoffs.”

But here’s the problem.  What they came up with—what we have now—is not REALLY a playoff, any more than the old BCS was actually a “series.” (You knew that was what the “S” in BCS stood for, right? “Series?” We’ve been asking for years how exactly you have a “series” with just one game.)

So, to the powers that be, this solved everything. It kept all the bowls pretty much intact and also allowed for teams from more than one conference to get in, and also allowed for a third (or even a fourth) undefeated team to not be potentially left out.

BUT. To restate, that is looking at it from the inside out. “How do we fix this problem of needing to get three teams in, or teams from more than just the SEC?” And that’s where it all went wrong.

Once the term “Playoffs” started being used, it took the media and the fans about one-tenth of one second to make the mental leap to, “Hey, this is an actual PLAYOFF, which means LOTS of teams have a chance to get in—or should, anyway.”  ESPN even frames their productions around “Who’s in? Are you in?” Etc.

And so what was meant to be mainly just a play-in round to the equivalent of the BCS final game has become in most people’s mind an actual, honest to goodness playoff system.

Of course, what we actually have is nothing of the sort.

To begin with, there are FIVE “power conferences,” each of whom fully expects to place its champion (at least) in the “Playoffs.”  Then there are conferences like the SEC that fully expect their second-best teams to also have legitimate shots at being “in.”

Alas, there are only FOUR SPOTS in this alleged “Playoff.”  There’s no room for ALL the conference champions, much less a bunch of “wild cards.”

So the “Playoffs” have immediately run into a crisis which we feel is going to blow the whole thing up (at least in public perception and reaction) very quickly—if not this year.  There is NO ROOM for a fifth conference winner, AND if you give a non-conference-winner a wild card spot, suddenly there’s no room for TWO of the five conference champions.

This is a problem and/or a looming crisis that they brought on themselves. For as soon as they called this thing a “playoff” rather than a “play-in to the final game,” they fundamentally changed the public perception of what it was and is. Immediately everyone came to perceive it as an “open playoff system,” and every decent team in the land felt they had a shot to get in.

But that’s not going to happen. At least one, and likely two “Power Five” conference champions, are going to be left out.  And a lot of people are going to be upset.

Adding another round and making it an eight-team tournament would certainly go a long way toward rectifying the situation—five conference champs plus three wild cards. But that solution brings with it entirely new problems.  It means several teams will be playing SIXTEEN-game seasons. It means fans will have as many as FOUR post-season games to travel to, buy tickets to, and so on. It means the season will likely be stretched so far into January that it will resemble the NFL’s ridiculous postseason that now ends practically in February.

There are no good answers. To be clear, though—the current system is not a cure-all. It’s a ticking time bomb. And it’s going to blow sooner or later. Very possibly in just a month or two.


Lingering Questions:

Jermaine Whitehead: Just what in the world must he have said to a coach or coaches to get himself in this much trouble? After being entirely absent from the team for multiple games, he’s now been reinstated—to special teams only. One of the few quotes anyone’s managed to pry out of Gus in relation to Whitehead lately was, “He’s focusing on being the best special teams player he can be.” Okay, sure—we get that he’s still in the doghouse and making proper amends. But my goodness, what must he have said to earn himself this sort of extended punishment? The Bear would’ve made him run an extra lap after practice; Mark Richt would’ve likely held him out for a entire play or two. For Gus to toss him into football purgatory for this long, we can only assume he demeaned the menu selections at Waffle House.

Carl Lawson: He tore his ACL during the final week of spring practice (ugh!!), but then all the talk over the summer was about how phenomenal his recovery had been. There was speculation in August that he could return in time for the Ole Miss game. Clearly that didn’t happen, and now Gus is saying absolutely nothing about when we might see him, other than he will have to be “100% healthy” first. We totally agree with Gus that his future is very bright and nothing should be done prematurely to jeopardize that. But if the coaches don’t want reporters questioning them about when Lawson will return now that it’s November, they shouldn’t have thrown that idea out there back in August.

Corey Grant: As far as anyone seems to know, Grant is still Auburn’s “1A or 1B” starting running back. But if you believe that, you believe Auburn is giving its co-starter at running back about two carries a game. As the approach of the offense has morphed in the last few weeks, Grant’s role has largely been taken over by Ricardo Louis (thus trading pure speed coming around on the sweep for more power along with the speed). The blocking of the receivers on the edge has improved a good bit lately, so perhaps it’s time to give Grant another shot at busting a big play or two the way he used to. In any case, he’s far too good a player—and a senior, at that—to leave him riding the pine the rest of his final year on the Plains.

What do we expect from the Texas A&M game?

1)     Texas A&M is not a very good football team right now.   They were never very good on defense and the offense has regressed dramatically from the start of the season.   Now they have a true freshman quarterback coming into Auburn this Saturday in his first road start.   Do you remember when LSU started a true freshman at Auburn?  How did that go?

2)     The last time the Aggies visited Auburn it wasn’t pretty.     If you think that last year’s win in College Station was enough payback then you need to go back and watch the 2012 game highlights again.   Auburn still owes the Aggies a nice “welcome to the SEC West” game in Jordan-Hare.

3)      The one thing you don’t want to be when you play Auburn is bad at stopping the run.   Texas A&M is very poor at stopping the run.  Against SEC teams they are allowing over 5 yards per rush.  Against this Auburn offense that is starting to move into “2013 chainsaw” mode?  Look out.

4)     What worries us?  The Aggies large and talented receivers against a suddenly struggling Auburn secondary.   Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Malcome Kennedy are all large and talented receivers who will give Auburn problems on Saturday.  Auburn’s best hope is to get some pressure on the young quarterback and hope that the Auburn secondary can hold us against what should be a simplified game plan from A&M.




The Wishbone Power Rankings

The Elite:

MSU (The cowbell clangers haven’t looked quite as elite the last two games.  They get the dreaded bye week this weekend.)

Auburn   (Best defense in the country? Yeah.  About that……)

The Very Good:

Alabama  (Going on the road to beat a good team? No problem right?  Oh, bama has lost their last two road games against ranked teams?)

Ole Miss (At least they can still win the state championship?)


The Good:

LSU (Les Miles silently sits lotus style at midfield of Tiger Stadium, chewing grass and visualizing a crazy victory.)

Georgia  (Don’t worry UGA fans – not being able to stop the run won’t be a problem unless you are playing Auburn in a few weeks….)

Missouri   (We need them to lose so we can stop hearing how Indiana is better than an SEC Division Leader.)

Arkansas (Bert you couldn’t do this one thing for us and finish well in Starkville?)

Kentucky  (Dangerous in the same way a small yappy dog is dangerous.)

Florida   (Hitting UGA with rocks repeatedly worked.)


The Not-So-Good:

Tennessee  (Flashes of competence.)

South Carolina (Finding new ways to lose painfully for over 100 years.)

Texas A&M (Kenny Nil?  Kenny Pill?  Kenny Swill?)


The Wretched:

Vanderbilt  (Yeah we really kicked Old Dominion’s a&&!.)


You can read previous Wishbone columns (and listen to Van and John’s great podcast) here.

Keep Reading:

* 1892 Auburn team had to overcome Georgia cowbells in very first football game
* The original capacity of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium was twice as much as everyone says
* More evidence Zelda Fitzgerald was a hardcore Auburn fan
* ‘Jeopardy’ contestant whose ‘Cheers’-referencing final response went viral wishes she’d written ‘War Eagle’
* Recent Auburn grad featured in ABC News segment on professional Viners
* SNL alumn Victoria Jackson’s year at Auburn

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