Here are my expectations for the First Half of the Year
Now, keep in mind that it was written before the season ever kicked off. In the meantime, I have written week by week predictions. They have been.....ok.
Go revisit those threads here:
Washington State Preview
Arkansas State Preview
Mississippi State Preview
Ole Miss Preview
So, we have on the docket:
Where do I see us finishing?
No contest here. The only thing I see happening is a focus game for Marshall to improve his connection with his receiver, notably Sammie "Slammy" Coates. I expect these two to hook up at least twice in the first half for TDs. Well, I HOPE they do because I am starting Coates on my fantasy team and I desperately need him to produce.
I see Johnson getting extended time. I also see CAP getting a lot of carries, as Malzahn stated in a press conference that he had to get CAP more involved.
I expect the defense to step up early and completely shut down FAU for the first half before the reserves get put in
It would be very easy to say that this game will be a runaway early. But, the Hogs have always played Auburn extremely hard. In the last 10 years, the Hogs have pulled off some impressive underdog wins. In fact, after witnessing at least 3 of those first hand, I swore off going to these games. Bielema desperately needs a win against an SEC foe. In fact, he desperately needs to be competitive. It would be very easy for Auburn to start looking ahead. While I appreciate the comments about winning it all this year, we have to get through November. The Hogs do have a potent rushing attack, but I believe the Auburn D-Line will be polished and rested and will dominate this game. Offensively, Arkansas hasn't stopped anyone with half an offense. Don't expect that to start in this game. The only thing I am concerned with is Auburn looking ahead and a hostile game in Knoxville and holding back. While I expect them to lead the whole game, they can't allow the Hogs to stay in it. They must put their boots on the Hogs throat early and keep it there.
This game is circled on my calender. Tennessee is a much improved team and they showed it last week by knocking off SCAR. But, I'm not sold. They have talent and they play with great emotion, but the win against SCAR was more of the Cock's doing than anyone else. Despite having won a TON of games in the last 5 years, the Cocks have 1 let down game a year. I don't mean a game they loose...but a game they really don't show up for. I believe their game in Knoxville was just that. Don't get me wrong, if you give the Vols a chance, they can play with anyone. But, let's see how they do tomorrow against the Tide. My suspicion is that we will see the best they have to offer anyone. They play a tough Missouri team the next week. I expect them to actually win that game. They won't have anything left in the tank by the time the Tigers pull into Neyland. I expect Auburn to be well prepared for this game and we will see a lopsided win for the Tigers. I do expect them to get a little sloppy late. Maybe a late fumble that leads to a Vols score.
I expect the defense to harass Worley early and often. He has an extremely low completion percentage and he doesn't do well when the pocket collapses. Additionally, he throws a lot of INTs. That isn't a good combo of stats to have while playing an upstart Auburn defense.
Rajion Neal is quietly having a solid year. He and Marlin Lane are the only ways the Vols stay in this game and at least make it to the 2nd half.
Auburn's offense should have a decent day against the Vols. Aside from Austin Peay, everyone has put up points on them, including a South Alabama and Western Kentucky team. They couldn't stop the then ranked Gators and plummeting Bulldogs, but of which are now depleted with injuries and heavily questioned. I fully expect the Vols defense to be in complete disarray after playing two completely different SEC teams in consecutive weeks in Alabama and Missouri, even though I see them sneaking a win against Missouri. Expect Auburn to be very balanced early and a heavy dose of CAP late.
Honestly, this game is impossible to speculate upon. It all depends on who...if any...the Dogs get back from injury. While Douglas and Green have done a decent job filling in for Marshall and Gurley, it isn't nearly the same potent attack. Douglas does a good job getting yards after contact, simply because he isn't fast enough or have good enough vision to avoid it. Murray has done his best to carry the team. but it's going to be a lot harder against one of the best pass efficiency defenses in the land. If Gurley and Marshall aren't back, I wouldn't be surprised to see Murray get an extended roll in the run game. People forget that he was a dual threat prospect way back when. Auburn has had issues with running QBs all year. Now, it would seem they might have found their way last week against TAMU. But, I don't know how much scheming they will do for him versus Manziel.
Expect the Tiger's offense to keep on rolling. Georgia hasn't stopped anyone yet. I don't expect them to start now. While the game might be close, I expect that to because of Marshall's nerves at playing his old team. An INT and a fumble aside, the Tigers will roll on.
What a difference a year makes. Even 3 months. I admit that I sold my tickets back in August because there was NO WAY I was going to this slaughterfest. This game will determine the SEC West for the first time ever. I fully expect this to be the game for the ages. This Auburn team is eager to prove they belong and this Auburn fan base is absolutely rabid.
Bama is a good team. I think everyone knows that. I really respect them, but they remind me a lot of the 2010 team. Are they talented? Yes. Can they win any game they play? Yes. But, they have holes. And, while the offense has produced points against inferior teams, it hasn't played well in big games. The run game isn't what it has been. Yeldon has done well, statistically, but has done it because of long runs. Otherwise, he has been held in check by many teams. AJ McCarron continues to play management football, but he isn't raining down TDs on people like he was at this point last year when Cooper exploded on the scene. To me, the finger is pointed at the offensive line, which hasn't reloaded. That doesn't mean it won't next year. They just aren't as good or experienced as the other lines.
If I had to compare this game to another game, I don't have to look far. The 2009 Iron Bowl is going to be very similar. I expect Auburn to jump out front late and force the steam truck Bama offense to claw back into the game. The issue is, this defense isn't the 2009 defense. It is a much improved unit with a lot more talent. It isn't the defense you want to dig out of a ole against. They do have the issue of giving up chunks of yardage, but Bama won't do it. They will rely on the running game and try for play action vertical passes against a secondary that will make them pay. Marshall will be even more improved, even sharp. He will limit his mistakes. I don't see him throwing many passes against a decent Bama secondary. He will avoid the middle of the field entirely, throwing to the perimeter and sidelines. Expect Davis to be a game breaker on the sidelines. Multi-back sets and zone reads will be the order of the day. Bama will stop them on many drives, but won't stop them completely. The shocker on the Plains will, unfortunately, keep the SEC out of the National Championship entirely. Auburn and Bama both head to BCS games.