Yes. I am still alive. And the Internet bill is still getting paid despite being a part of the government shutdown. The good news is, I have had a terrific time being a full time sportsman and part time home husband. Yep, as long as I keep the washing machine emptied and the dishes clean, my wife doesn't mind that I have been to Pickwick 3 times, as of tomorrow. Or that I have killed more squirrels in the last two weeks than in my whole life combined. The bad news is...it looks like the standoff is almost over and I will be back to subjecting you all to my blather.
Let's just ease ourselves back into the swing of things with a quick review of the TAMU game. Why is going to be quick? Mostly because this computer is slow and old as dirt and that there is always
something else to clean.
I didn't do a preview of last weeks game for several reasons.
First, who cares. I mean, it was the Catamounts. Secondly, I was busy. Lastly, who can predict what's going to happen in a game like that. I sure didn't care to try.
Let's take a look at what we know. The Tigers have one of the best rushing attacks in the country, and that was before the Catamounts let them pad those stats even further. We saw the first start of Jeremy Johnson who became the SEC Freshman of the Week. The defense was able to sit some guys to heal while getting some guys back on the field.
TAMU, err...Manziel....has been on fire. They post one of the nations all time offenses. And yet, their defense can't seem to stop anyone. They've simply been able to outscore everyone up until this point. Now, I know that same sentence has been said in the past with other teams. Take the 2010 Tigers and their NC counterparts, the Oregon Ducks. Even in those cases, neither team had one of the WORST defenses in the country, as TAMU does. They allowed the Tide, who has struggled on offense, to pile up mad points. Struggling Ole Miss almost pulled off a monumental comeback. And those are the good teams that have scored. Even the cupcakes have been able to put up points.
I fully anticipate Auburn to score, and in bunches. The problem is, the offense has had sputtering quarters. They can put up 21 points in one quarter and fail to record a 1st down in another. A lot of that has been due to the inability to consistently throw the ball. Johnson showed us last week what an accurate passer looks like, and while many people would say that it was against inferior talent, throwing the ball is throwing the ball. Marshall, at times, has been able to complete passes of any length regardless of pressure or the openness of the receiver. On the flip side, this game will be the game where the Tigers show just how far they have grown and how far they can go. I don't think Johnson gives them the best chance to stay in the game, simply because of his age. But, he is probably the best bet to outright win the game. Marshall, and the Tiger running game, have the best chance at keeping the Tigers in the game until the end, though not the best chance to win it. Sound funny? Face the facts here. TAMU is *PROBABLY* going to score on almost every possession. A running game that can continually pick up first downs and eat up the clock will prevent the game from getting "out of hand" as it did last year. On the flip side, it's almost impossibly to win a game running the ball when you are down two scores.
On the flip side, starting Johnson gives you a very real chance to throw the ball, though I feel like it would take him a half to get in the game. By then, the game would probably be out of hand, very similar to what Wallace found last year against TAMU. But, if the game is within 2 scores, the ability to throw the ball accurately gives the chance to come from behind and win.
Regardless of the QB situation, the run game will always be there. But, the application of it will be interesting to watch. This is another Trey Mason game.
The dynamic player will continue to impress everone with his versatility. I expect this game to be a breakout game on the National scene for Mason. I don't mean as a 2nd team All-SEC, but as a top tier running back. This game will start the Mason for Heisman in 2014 talk.
While he is a fantastic player, this game will showcase an up and coming Auburn offensive line, starting at center.
If Dismukes comes back for his senior season, expect BIG things offensively. This line will give Marshall the time to throw the ball, but I don't think he will make the gamebreaking throws needed to win the game. Expect to see a lot of inaccurate throws, as we have come to expect. Two weeks doesn't make that much difference in the development of a player, regardless of the coach speak that we hear.
Now, I am not ready to go out on a limb and say that Johnson will be in by halftime, but I wouldn't be surprised to go into the locker room 28-10 after a couple of 3-and-outs and a pick. But, I also wouldn't be surprised to go into the locker room 17-10 after seeing a run heavy attack that manages the clock and keeps Johnny Football off the field.
As stated, this TAMU defense has had trouble against all forms of other teams offenses, so I expect receivers to get open and the run game to be wide open. Will the ball get there and will it get caught?
As I have hinted, the run game will thrive. How could it not? But, if I were Sumlin, I would make Marshall throw it. I would love to be surprised, but I don't think thats a good thing. I fully expect this to be Marshall's last game as a full starter.
What can be said? Auburn isn't going to stop the Aggie offense. Even containing it doesn't seem possible. The Manziel to Evans connection seems to be impossible to stop and I don't see Auburn stopping it. So, what can you do? With anyone else I would consider having a spy, with crashing defensive ends. But Johnny is too fast to spy with a player 7 yards off the line. Playing for sacks just seems to be a nightmare. Auburn has solid corners. Let him see if he can make plays in tge air. And make sure to double Evans. Malena is a solid back, but I doubt he would be a traditional SEC starter. Forcing Johnny to give the ball to Malena on early downs gives them the best chance to stay in it. Get him in 3rd and long, trying to make throws. The biggest thing Auburn can do is QB contain and take good angles. Honestly, I hold zero stock in that. Auburn wont consistently stop them. All they can hope for are a few 3 and outs and a turnover or two.
Now, the move if Egua to the inside made waves the last two games. The freshman have made real strides on the outside and I would love to see them become game breakers. But, I have too much respect for Johnny. If anything could turn the tide, that will be it.
Auburn matches up well on strength on weakness. But barring a complete offensive break down by TAMU, they can't stop them enough nor score enough to win. Furthermore, they cannot get down more than 2 scores in the first half. Usenets, that means mo , ore than 2 3 and outs in the half. Which means Auburn must run on 1st down and gash the Aggie defense which gives up the nation's worst yards per carry. This is something they can do. The game stays close, but Auburn wont get off the field on defense enough to win.