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October 2017

Before The Game

BEFORE THE GAME: WEEK 8

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

As you’re no doubt aware, Auburn took a 20-0 lead in the second quarter against the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge (where they haven’t won since 1999) before LSU rallied to win the game 27-23. Auburn’s fast start was as remarkable as its collapse was astonishing; its offense was a machine operating at full power until the plug was suddenly pulled.

The Tigers gained 290 yards of offense in the first half and 64 in the second. Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson-powered run game, seemingly unstoppable in the first quarter, stalled out after LSU adjusted – leaving the Auburn offense flustered and unable to gain any ground. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, after three conference games in which his accuracy was pinpoint, only completed 3 of his final 18 pass attempts in Tiger Stadium after completing 6 of his first 8. Auburn’s play calling on offense succeeded at keeping LSU off-balance at the beginning of the game, but when Auburn had to gain yardage and keep its defense off the field to protect its lead, it couldn’t.

The loss is devastating for Auburn. The Tigers entered their road trip optimistic that they could go into their November 11 meeting with Georgia 6-0 in conference play and still firmly in the thick of the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Instead, they have to dust themselves off, beat a pair of conference foes on the road, and hope that they’re provided enough help to remain in contention for the SEC West as games against its most hated rivals approach.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn came to college football as a visionary. At its full potential, his hurry-up, run-heavy spread offense was a thing of beauty. If he isn’t retained by Auburn after the season is over, it won’t surprise me at all if he is able to find another job as a head coach (or perhaps even as offensive coordinator at a powerhouse); Saturday just appeared to be the breaking point for many fans willing to give him the benefit of the doubt after disappointing losses in recent years. This season seems critical for Malzahn if he is to continue as Auburn’s coach, and a loss like the one Saturday, in which Auburn’s offense became overly conservative and ineffective at the worst possible time, did considerable damage to his case.

Smarter people than I have wondered if a quarterback who represents a genuine threat as a runner is required for Gus Malzahn to operate his offense at its true potential. Nick Marshall and Cam Newton were particularly special talents who excelled in Malzahn’s offense, efforts to replace them have led to crucial games in which Auburn’s passing game falls apart and plays a role in a narrow loss. Against LSU, attempts to run the ball in the second half were stymied (perhaps because the quarterback himself is no threat to run), and attempts to throw the ball were frequently at a difficult down and distance – leading Stidham to throw several passes that were very nearly intercepted. Stidham had thrown sensational passes in previous weeks, but LSU’s inspired and aggressive defensive effort in the second half prevented him from ever getting comfortable.

Fans who have questioned play calling choices, and specifically the choice to run exclusively on first down and throw several deep passes on third down, were reminded of Auburn’s game against Clemson, in which the team started out moving the ball effectively only to stall out on drive after drive after the opponent changed its approach. Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, who called some ingenious plays to spark Auburn’s 20-0 lead, couldn’t figure out how to successfully attack LSU once it started to bottle up Johnson on first down.

Malzahn, who suddenly needs a win as desperately as any coach in the conference, heads to his home state of Arkansas on Saturday night with the #21 Tigers to take on Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks, who are somehow playing their first conference home game of the season. If Auburn jumps out to the same fast start that it has for four consecutive SEC games, the frustration and disappointment of the Arkansas faithful will be loud and clear. If Arkansas’s offense can sustain drives and attack Auburn’s banged-up defense, and the game remains competitive for much longer than Auburn would like, there’s potential for an upset that would simply be catastrophic to Auburn’s season.

 

WHAT TO WATCH:

– With rain forecasted for Fayetteville on Saturday night, Auburn will likely play its first game of the season in inclement weather. Deep passing attempts have become a hallmark of Auburn’s offense over the last few weeks, but the elements could detract from those efforts. Will stormy, windy conditions play into the hands of the Razorbacks, who will start a backup quarterback and would assuredly prefer a low-scoring game with few pass attempts from either side?

– Auburn’s defense had its worst game of the season on Saturday against LSU, surrendering more big plays than it had all season. The Tigers have played every week since the season started without a bye, so it’s fair to wonder if fatigue is a factor. Auburn will be off the week after the Arkansas game, so Auburn fans must hope that the team isn’t already thinking about what they’ll be doing with their free time over Halloween weekend.

– The aforementioned backup quarterback for Arkansas is the gargantuan Cole Kelley, who appears to be in the neighborhood of eight feet tall and 450 pounds. Kelley is responsible for much of the excitement about Arkansas’s future, and the buzz around the freshman will only increase if he’s able to secure a home win against a heavily favored opponent on Saturday night.

 

PECK’S PICKS: Last week: 3-2, YTD: 22-17

– SMU -7.5 @ Cincinnati – SMU head coach Chad Morris is increasingly mentioned as a candidate for a job in the Power Five, and the Mustangs will have plenty of opportunities to raise his profile even further as they square off against UCF, Navy, and Memphis in November. I expect them to throw the ball up and down the field against a struggling Cincinnati team on Saturday. PECK’S PICK: SMU -7.5

– USC +3.5 @ Notre Dame –  The Irish are running the ball extremely well and face off against a USC team that has played quite a few close games and surrendered more points than head coach Clay Helton would like. This is a de facto elimination game in the College Football Playoff race, and I expect the Trojans to get a big game out of quarterback Sam Darnold to stay alive in the hunt. PECK’S PICK: USC +3.5

– Boston College +6.5 @ Virginia: Virginia is getting better every week and will be a team to watch in the ACC next season, particularly if a program is able to lure away Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente. Boston College pulled off a remarkable upset at Louisville but Virginia’s passing game will present a different set of problems for the Eagles. PECK’S PICK: VIRGINIA -6.5

– Maryland +24 @ Wisconsin: Wisconsin is powering towards an undefeated season and a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, while Maryland looks deflated and will have little interest in continuously tackling Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. PECK’S PICK: WISCONSIN -24

– Syracuse +17 @ Miami – Syracuse qualifies as another team playing better football every week, while Miami has been good and lucky. PECK’S PICK: SYRACUSE +17

– Auburn -15.5 @ Arkansas – BYU, Mississippi State, Syracuse, Troy, and Florida all lost the game after the LSU game. It might be a strange coincidence, but perhaps there’s something to the idea that LSU plays an extremely physical game that drains opponents and prevents them from having their best stuff a week later. Auburn certainly qualifies as beaten-up and drained, and Arkansas could be there to take advantage. PECK’S PICK: ARKANSAS +15.5

 

Enjoy the games!

Dan Peck
Co-Host, THE DRIVE (4-6PM, ESPN 106.7 FM, ESPNAU.com)
Host, AFTER THE GAME (Immediately following Auburn University football games, Wings 94.3 FM, WingsFM.com)
http://www.twitter.com/DanielAllenPeck
DPeck@aunetwork.com

The SEC Report Players of the Week Cover

The SEC Report Players of the Week 10/16/17: Week 7

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

 

Noah Gardner:

Shea Patterson, QB, Ole Miss, 57-35 W vs. Vanderbilt

22-35 351 YDS 4 TD, 7 CAR 8 YDS 1 TD

Ole Miss got their first conference victory of the season behind the arm of Shea Patterson. The Rebels’ offense relies heavily on Patterson’s ability to be efficient in the passing game. 351 yards and four touchdowns is about as efficient as it gets, and he added a rushing touchdown. Patterson’s performance spearheaded the rout of Vanderbilt on Saturday.

 

Devin White, LB, LSU, 27-23 W vs. Auburn

15 TKL, 6 SOLO, 1 SKS, 2 TFL

Despite giving up 20 points early, LSU’s defense rebounded and held Auburn to zero points in the second half. Devin White was a force all afternoon in defending the Auburn rushing attack. It was obvious LSU made adjustments, and White executed them well. With 15 tackles and two of them being for a loss, White was the key to LSU’s defensive improvement.

 

 

JJ Jackson:

Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State, 35-10 W vs. BYU

19-30 241 YDS 2 TD 2 INT, 15 CAR 103 YDS 6.9 AVG 2 TD

Nick Fitzgerald benefitted from Mississippi State’s week off as he threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. He showed how dynamic he can be in the Mississippi State offense. Fitzgerald was impressive in the Bulldogs 35-10 win over BYU.

 

Marquis Haynes, DE, Ole Miss, 57-35 W vs. Vanderbilt

8 TKL, 5 SOLO, 3 SKS, 3.5 TFL

Marquis Haynes helped a struggling Ole Miss defense make the plays necessary to win against Vanderbilt. The senior totaled eight tackles and three sacks of Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Haynes helped Ole Miss pick up their first SEC win of the year.

 

 

Painter Sharpless:

D.J. Chark, WR, LSU, 27-23 W vs. Auburn

5 REC 150 YDS, 2 PR 83 YDS 41.5 AVG 1 TD

DJ Chark had five receptions for 150 yards. He also added a crucial punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Auburn. His 150 receiving yards would have been enough for most, but his special teams effort ultimately gave the Bayou Bengals the spark needed to topple Auburn.

 

D.J. Wonnum, DL, South Carolina, 15-9 W at Tennessee

6 TKL, 6 SOLO, 2 SKS, 2 TFL

DJ Wonnum had six tackles and added two sacks. He helped the Gamecocks defeat Tennessee in a defensive battle that gave South Carolina its second straight win.

 

Win a Trip to the Auburn-Arkansas Game from ESPN 106.7!

By | Auburn University News, ESPN 106.7 News | No Comments

 

la cantina transparentYou could win a trip to the Arkansas-Auburn Football game this weekend from ESPN 106.7 and La Cantina in Opelika! 

Just text ARKANSAS to 88474

 

Package includes:

 

  • Two game tickets

  • Round-Trip Charter Air from Birmingham to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Bentonville, AR on Allegiant Airlines

  • auburnStandard Snack and Soft Drink Service During Flight

  • Round-Trip Motorcoach Transportation from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Bentonville to Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville

  • Post Game Meal

  • Personalized Name Badge

  • On-Site Tour Directors Provided by Total Sports Travel

ENDS WEDNESDAY 10/18/17

 

 

Before The Game

BEFORE THE GAME: WEEK 7

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

The last time Auburn won in Baton Rouge, it was 1999. Eighteen years is an eternity in the SEC West. College football dynasties have risen and fallen since Auburn’s last victory in Tiger Stadium.

Auburn and LSU have played eight times in Baton Rouge since 1999. Some of the games were close (2005, 2007) and some of them weren’t (virtually all the others), but LSU won every single time.

This year, #10 Auburn heads to LSU on a hot streak after three consecutive one-sided conference victories, including a blowout win against a Mississippi State team that beat LSU by thirty. The evidence we’ve been given this season suggests that Auburn should beat LSU comfortably, but my brain keeps reminding me that this is Baton Rouge and Auburn simply doesn’t win comfortably in Baton Rouge. I’m like an old farmer that refuses to believe the radar-assisted weather forecast because it doesn’t feel like it’s going to rain. I refuse to believe Auburn can go into Baton Rouge, play like the vastly superior team, and push LSU around until I see it happen with my own two eyes.

Auburn’s 44-23 victory against Ole Miss on Saturday was a lot like its previous two conference victories: the offense, spurred by quarterback Jarrett Stidham and running back Kerryon Johnson, quickly put Auburn’s opponent in a big hole, while the defense played very well and prevented the opposition from keeping up with the barrage of points. Auburn took a double-digit lead with four minutes to go in the first quarter and never relinquished it. Ole Miss scored 20 of its 23 points in the second half, as Auburn gave playing time to its reserves. Putting aside some offensive sluggishness from Auburn once the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt, the Tigers played nearly flawless football.

If LSU’s early-season struggles can’t merely be blamed on underachieving, the Auburn Tigers should have enough talent to beat them the way they’ve beaten the first three conference teams they were matched up against. Auburn’s balanced offense continues to protect Jarrett Stidham, generate big plays, and keep defenses guessing.

If LSU can generate a consistent pass rush, Auburn should have more difficulty moving the ball than in recent weeks. Auburn’s offensive line has been one of its strengths in the weeks since it allowed 11 sacks against Clemson, opening up space for the running backs and consistently giving Stidham enough time. Defense has been a tentpole for LSU throughout its home winning streak against Auburn, but this year’s group doesn’t play like an LSU defense all the time.

It boils down to this: if Auburn shows up and plays to its full potential, LSU will have a very difficult time keeping its home win streak in this series alive. There are too many weapons on the Auburn offense and LSU isn’t equipped to play from behind or trade scores against a team with a more proficient quarterback. If Auburn sputters offensively and allows LSU to keep the game competitive and gain confidence, this could become yet another disappointing trip to Baton Rouge.

 

WHAT TO WATCH:

– LSU linebacker Arden Key entered the season with a lot of hype, but his on-field production thus far hasn’t justified the buzz. However, he played his best game of the season against Florida, and he’ll be a crucial part of LSU’s efforts to disrupt Stidham and keep Auburn’s passing offense from having the kind of success it has enjoyed in its previous three games.

– In true Gus Malzahn fashion, Auburn has utilized receiver Eli Stove in the running game recently, and he’s provided big plays in return. With Kerryon Johnson enjoying a great deal of success between the tackles, Auburn should continue to slow defenses down by forcing them to worry about sweeps and toss plays that can use a defense’s aggressiveness against them.

– Auburn’s defensive line will need to continually pressure LSU quarterback Danny Etling. Opposing quarterbacks have had very little time against Auburn’s defense and Auburn has taken advantage of subsequent mistakes. LSU won’t be able to pull off the upset if Etling makes similar errors.

 

PECK’S PICKS (Last week 2-3, YTD: 19-15)

– MICHIGAN -7.5 @ INDIANA: The Wolverines fizzled in a downpour against Michigan State last week; their national championship hopes hinge on their ability to run the table. Indiana won’t be able to keep pace. PECK’S PICK: MICHIGAN -7.5

– TEXAS A&M +3 @ FLORIDA: A&M held its own against Alabama. Florida rarely loses back-to-back home games, but the Gators have serious problems on offense and its defense will be on the field a lot against the Aggies. PECK’S PICK: TEXAS A&M +3

– VIRGINIA -4 @ UNC: UNC is bad, while Bronco Mendenhall has UVA improving game-to-game. Look for UVA to avenge last year’s blowout loss in the South’s Oldest Rivalry and cause headaches for ACC opposition moving forward. PECK’S PICK: VIRGINIA -4

– VANDERBILT +3.5 @ OLE MISS: A pair of struggling SEC teams meet up, but Ole Miss has offensive weapons that Vanderbilt will struggle to bottle up. Ole Miss’s defense will welcome an opportunity to face Vanderbilt after back-to-back games against Alabama and Auburn. PECK’S PICK: OLE MISS -3.5

– AUBURN -7 @ LSU: This would be an easy pick if I weren’t so traumatized by prior trips to Baton Rouge. LSU’s defense will be stretched thin trying to stop Auburn’s multipronged attack, while the Auburn defense should do a capable job keeping LSU in check. PECK’S PICK: AUBURN -7

 

Enjoy the games!

Dan Peck
Co-Host, THE DRIVE (4-6PM, ESPN 106.7 FM, ESPNAU.com)
Host, AFTER THE GAME (Immediately following Auburn University football games, Wings 94.3 FM, WingsFM.com)
http://www.twitter.com/DanielAllenPeck
DPeck@aunetwork.com

ahs lee

Auburn High Battles Lee in a Region Showdown Friday Night

By | Auburn High News | No Comments

 

AHS LOGO

Following their bye week, the Auburn High Tigers (5-1 overall, 2-1 in region play) hope to take down region foe Robert E. Lee (Montgomery) Friday night at Duck-Samford Stadium. Last year at the Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, Auburn beat Lee 40-32 with the help of two Garrett Morris touchdowns and also mounted 526 yards of total offense in the game.

 

lee transparentThe Generals had a tough season last season, finishing the year 2-8 (2-5 in region play) and missing the 2016 7A playoffs. This year has been a different story for the Generals though, they are currently 5-1 overall (3-0 in region play) with impressive wins over Carver, Jeff Davis, and Prattville. Lee does a challenging finish to their scedule, as they will play the number one team in the state Central-Phenix City and Enterprise before the 7A playoffs.

 

AHS on WingsAuburn stayed put at number six in class 7A in this week’s Alabama Sports Writers Association High School Football Poll, but hopes to make a case to be in the top five this Friday night. Airtime will be 6:30 CT on Wings 94.3 with the Auburn High broadcast team of Scott Bagwell, Blake Ramsey, and Noah Gardner. The game will also be streaming online at wingsfm.com and on the Wings 94.3 app.