Friday, September 6, 2013

The Auburn Realist: The Arkansas State Preview

So, we just got done wrapping up the Review of the Washington State Game. That was based on my blog post which was, obviously, the Preview of the Washington State Game. Go see how I did.

So, did I learn anything about our team this week that muddies up the crystal ball? Yes. I think we saw a LOT of things. How will it effect us going in to week 2? Let's talk it out. I am giving this post a lot of thought because I truly believe that this could be an upset special.

I think we all know the history here. This team is on it's 4th coach in 4 years, though coming off back to back Sunbelt Championships. They've won 10 games in each of the last 2 years, which is nothing to sneer at, regardless of the league. What did they lose this year from last year? Well, the easy answer is Ryan Aplin, arguably the best QB they have ever had. Obviously, the biggest loss, in my eyes, is Gus Malzahn. The Hugh Freeze to Gus Malzhan transition was a fairly easy one, in my opinion. While the actualy plays and verbage is undoubtedly different, the skill sets needed are very similar, as is the pace. Going from Malzahn to Harsin is a much wider leap.. He definitely has the pedigree however. He was a 2009 Broyles finalist and has coached with Peterson at Boise State and Mack Brown at Texas. But, in my opinion, he never proved himself at either place.


Last week, ASU rolled up 4 100 yard rushers, which was scary close to an NCAA record. The QB, Kennedy, had a 206 rating throwing the rock. They rolled on Arkansas-Pine Bluff big, to the tune of 62-11. But, it was Pine Bluff. While neither are the states premier schools by any stretch, ASU has deep talent that people probably don't consider. Freeze and Malzahn are excellent recruiters...some of the best in the country. And the roster shows it. The center piece is easily David Oku, whom I drafted early in fantasy football. He had pedestrian numbers last week and I think we know why. He is ASU's ONLY chance at an upset tomorrow. He was given 16 carries, averaged nearly 8 yards per, and was say on the bench after a 2 TD performance.

It is easy to think that their QB,  Kennedy, is an unknown quantity, having sat behind Aplin. He only attempted 1 pass in 2012 but was used extensively in 2011 at Utah State. He threw for almost 1,000 yards, 11 TDs to 4 picks at Utah State. Not bad for a kid coming off the bench behind Chuckie Keeton, one of the most Dynamic players in the country. Let's not forget that Utah State plays some stiff competition, so much of those stats weren't "garbage time" stats. They lost 5 games that year. 2 in overtime and 1 to the reigning National Champs...our Auburn Tigers.


And, they have JD McKissicc. While he didn't break out last week, don't expect that to continue. This kid is a play maker out of the slot. See his record performance last year. 1,000 yards. 5 TDs. And, he has something to prove to Auburn, who didn't recruit him at all.

Offensively, the team is built to give Auburn a lot of trouble. The question is, can they go into halftime with  lead? Can Auburn make adjustments?

Ok. That's enough back story. What can we expect?

Defense:
Defensively, I really don't know what to think. As stated by Johnson and Garner, most of the D-Line's woes were because of quick release passes. We won't see as many, but I can guarantee that ASU saw that the Auburn corners had trouble on inside release patterns. And who would they be throwing to? McKissic. And, the REAL problem is...with Holland in the middle, an inside release catch with a quick first step guy like McKissic is dangerous since Holland cannot tackle. Auburn has to force Kennedy to throw deep by taking away the inside releases and the quick bubble screens. Two reasons: it gives the D-line the chance to make an impact and it gives the D-backs the chance to make big plays.

With the combination of Oku running right at him and quick slants coming from both directions, I don't see Holland playing past the 3rd possession.

Speaking of Oku: If they can get him going, this could be a long game for Auburn. The defensive tackles MUST establish themselves behind the line of scrimmage. With Whitaker still hurt, I just don't know if they can. I am going out on a limb and saying that Oku breaks 100 yards. The soft spot of Auburn is the tackles and middle linebacker. That's the wrong place to be soft against a Top 10 RB.

I expect Auburn to give up some passing yards again, mostly to the inside lanes. I think the secondary rules the day again with 2 more picks. I fully expect Therezie to start. I will be sorely disappointed if he doesn't. And I expect him to have another breakout game. The prospect of meeting Oku in the open field much have him drooling. That will be the game breaking moment. Therezie on Oku on the sideline. Who will win? A TD will hang in the balance.

Offense:

I just don't know what to expect here. I was really taken aback last week, for the most part. Grant overperformed and the rest was just boring. Sure, Marshall made some nice plays with his legs. To me, the real question is whether or not the WRs will show us ANYTHING. I am just not impressed with the production of such "talented" receivers. The hands were loose. The routes were sloppy. The effort was low. ASU isn't built on defense like they are on offense. If things click this week, the sky is the limit, statistically. We also expect Tony Stevens to make his debut at receiver.It's the perfect storm for the young man. If he produces, he could find himself sitting real pretty. I still think they are overhyped and they underwork, and while they may come down with a deep pass this week...it's only because they will know it's coming and make effort.

The run game will be solid. I expect CAP to get those 20 carries. Simply because I feel that the staff has loyalty to Mason and wants to "keep him healthy" for the SEC showdown next weekend. In the meantime, CAP roles up the yardage. I know I know...I said the same thing last week. Call me stubborn. 100 yards for CAP and a TD.

I guess I should think that Grant has another big game. Based on how it shook out in 2009, the next 2 games will be big for him. 5 touches, 125 yards and a TD sounds about right.

I am on the fence on what to expect out of Marshall. I think the ground game will be good enough to keep him from having to run. He might have a designed play or two, but I don't think he will run for over 100 yards or anything. But, if I am wrong about anything,.....this will probably be it. I think he does connect on one deep route and throws for 150 yards. He runs for 2 scores.


Conclusion:
I know no one wants to hear it...but this game is going to be tight. I fully expect a tied game at halftime. Maybe I am just frustrated over last weeks game, but this Auburn team is very beatable, by anyone. While I DO want to give WSU a lot of credit, the fact remains that talent wise, they should never had led at any point after the first possession. They have ZERO breakout players. ASU, on the other hand, has a handful of players that could play anywhere. What's more, they have proven themselves against competition where as Auburn's talent has yet to do so.

I thought that Mississippi State was the make or break game of the year. Honestly, this is the game. Maybe I am too hard on Auburn. I am THIS CLOSE to calling an upset. I just can't do it.
38-31 Auburn.