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November 2017

BEFORE THE GAME: WEEK 13

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Calling it “the biggest game of the season” still feels like an understatement.

For only the second time in modern SEC history, the SEC West comes down to Saturday’s battle between #1 Alabama and #6 Auburn. The winner will play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and the winner of that game is assured a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Undefeated Alabama will face its toughest challenge of the year: a surging, battle-tested Auburn team playing at home. Alabama is favored (they’re always favored), but this isn’t a run-of-the-mill conference game where the Crimson Tide should be expected to lay waste to their opposition and showcase reserves throughout the second half.

Auburn features an offense that makes as many big plays as anyone in college football and a defense without any glaring weaknesses. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham spent the year eliminating any doubt in his ability to get the ball to his receivers. Stidham’s numbers are stellar; he’s completed nearly 70% of his passes and is averaging more than 9 yards per attempt. Running back Kerryon Johnson has 1172 rushing yards on the season; it’s the ninth consecutive season that an Auburn player gained more than 1000 yards on the ground. Auburn’s offensive line, the subject of a great deal of scrutiny following Auburn’s two losses on the season, has evolved into one of the team’s greatest strengths.

Even though spirits are high in Auburn and excitement is at a fever pitch, fans understand the height of the task at hand. Auburn will have to play its best game of the season on both sides of the ball if it hopes to knock off the nation’s top team. Auburn’s offense will need to stay balanced and keep Alabama’s defense guessing, while its defense will need to keep dangerous Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts from creating big plays with his feet and finding star receiver Calvin Ridley.

Auburn has the ability to put pressure on its opponent by turning a close game into a game on the verge of getting out of hand (just like it did against Georgia), and Alabama doesn’t have a lot of experience playing from behind this season – or even playing against a team capable of keeping pace. Alabama hasn’t had to play very many close games on the road this season, either; the team was clearly out of its element in Starkville before it steadied itself and rallied in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State.

When Alabama has the ball, the pressure will be on Auburn’s defensive line to rattle Jalen Hurts and force him to take his eyes away from his wideouts. Defensive end Jeff Holland – who merits serious consideration for SEC Defensive Player of the Year – will lead the charge for Auburn, but Marlon Davidson, Nick Coe, and Derrick Brown will all have to contribute if Auburn wants to win third down.

With so much more on the line than bragging rights this year and both teams playing at such an exceptionally high level, the 2017 Iron Bowl feels like a classic in the making.

WHAT TO WATCH

–          Auburn’s secondary will have its hands full with Ridley; can it hold up if the game stays close late? Auburn has turned most of its SEC games into blowouts by the fourth quarter, so its defense will be in largely unfamiliar territory if the game comes down to one final drive.

–          Alabama has a talented group of running backs, including Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. Auburn’s defense did an excellent job stifling Georgia’s impressive pair of running backs. If Auburn gets similar results against Alabama’s running game, the pressure on Jalen Hurts to perform will only increase.

–          Auburn features the nation’s best kicker, Daniel Carlson, and the last time Auburn won this rivalry game, it came down to a field goal that simply didn’t have enough leg. Will the game come down to a Carlson field goal? How should I know?

PECK’S PICKS (last week: 4-4, YTD 39-29)

–          MISSOURI -8 @ ARKANSAS – Missouri has been on an absolute tear for the last few weeks, slicing through Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt with little difficulty. Arkansas will be hard-pressed to slow down their offense. PECK’S PICK: MISSOURI -8

–          OHIO STATE -13 @ MICHIGAN – Ohio State still has a real shot at the Playoff, but they can’t afford to slip up and lose to a Michigan team desperate for a win against a rival. Michigan is beaten up and tired after battling Wisconsin last week, and they simply don’t have the talent to stay competitive with the Buckeyes. PECK’S PICK: OHIO STATE -13

–          LOUISVILLE -10 @ KENTUCKY – Bobby Petrino’s offense has been great this year, but disappointing losses to Boston College and Wake Forest can be blamed on a defense that still hasn’t come around. Kentucky can score points and should be able to keep things close. PECK’S PICK: KENTUCKY +10

–          ARIZONA -2 @ ARIZONA STATE – Khalil Tate is still on a very short list of the best players in college football, and the Sun Devils will not be able to keep him from another impressive performance. PECK’S PICK: ARIZONA -2

–          ALABAMA -4.5 @ AUBURN – This is the main event of the evening, and the biggest college football game of the season so far. Alabama has done everything they need to do this year, but Auburn is scrappy and playing at home. Auburn wins. PECK’S PICK: AUBURN +4.5

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

Riley’s Ramblings: Rivalry Week in College Football

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Iron_Bowl_LogoIt’s finally rivalry week in college football! There are some great games on tap for Saturday, and arguably the biggest one is right here in town. This year’s Auburn-Alabama game is very similar to the one played in 2013. A number one Alabama against an Auburn team that’s fresh off a huge win over Georgia for a chance to represent the SEC West in the SEC Championship game. This year’s Iron Bowl is by far the biggest one since 2013, and Auburn fans are hopeful for another upset.

 

Alabama_Crimson_Tide_Logo.svgIn most people’s minds, Auburn is the two loss team that has the best chance of making the 2017 College Football Playoff based on their strength of schedule. Auburn proved to the Crimson Tide a couple weeks ago that they are no pushover after their 40-17 beat down on number one Georgia. The Tigers defense was completely locked in, especially the defensive line that limited Nick Chubb and Sony Michell to just 48 combined yards and no touchdowns. The biggest key for Auburn to pull off the upset is finding a way to contain Calvin Ridley. Ridley is averaging an incredible 78 yards per game (4.7 receptions per game) and has baffled opposing secondaries all season with his athleticism, route running efficiency, speed, and ability to tack on yards after the catch. If Auburn’s secondary can find a way to contain Ridley, Hurts and the Alabama offence will struggle moving the ball against Auburn’s lock down defensive line led by Jeff Holland who is currently second in the SEC in both sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (11.5).

On the other side of the ball, Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offence will face the toughest defense they’ve faced all year. Even though they have played extremely well the past couple of games, Stidham and the Auburn receivers will need to step up against the Crimson Tide secondary led by 2016 all-American Minkah Fitzpatrick. Alabama is currently listed as a 4.5 point favorite in what is sure to be a classic on the plains. (2:30 kick on CBS)

 

175px-Michigan_Wolverines_logo.svgEven though a spot in the 2017 BIG10 Championship game is not on the line, the Ohio State- Michigan game will still be a classic. Ohio State has already notched a spot in the BIG10 Championship game against undefeated Wisconsin. A game that if Ohio State won, could result in a trip to the 2017 College Football Playoff despite being a two loss team. However, if Michigan were to win on Saturday it would destroy any chance the buckeyes have at the 2017 College Football Playoff. Besides that, this game is still a classic rivalry that usually results in great football games (11:00 kick on FOX).


 

Red-Devil-LogoTonight is the semifinal round in the AHSAA state football playoffs. The Auburn High Tigers will not participate after being knocked out of the playoffs last Friday night by McGill-Toolen. Central-Phenix City defeated Robert E. Lee High School and will travel to Mobile to battle McGill-Toolen for an invitation to the state championship game in Tuscaloosa. This game is defiantly one to keep an eye on. McGill-Toolen is a state power house that has made it to the state championship for the past three years and won it all in 2015. The Yellow Jackets are powered by running back Bryan Hill and an extremely talented defensive line. Central on the other hand finished the regular season ranked number one in the state and are powered by wide receiver Jusyn Ross, who is being recruited greatly by power five teams like Clemson, Auburn, and Alabama. Ross made ESPN’s SportsCenter “Top 10 Plays” last Friday night for this sensational touchdown catch against Robert E. Lee High School:

What. A. Catch. #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/kXz2AbMr9i

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 18, 2017

 

On the other end of the 7A bracket, Thompson hosts Hoover for a second time this season. Thompson won the regular season matchup 32-25 at Hoover. Undefeated Thompson has been playing much better football recently, but Hoover would like to make it back to the 7A state championship and make it back-to-back 7A state titles.

 

220px-Opelika_High_School_LogoOpelika pulled off an upset over Park Crossing last week by a 27-21 final score. In order for the Bulldogs to make it back to the 7A state championship game to revenge last year’s loss to Ramsey, they have to win on the road again Friday night against Hillcrest in Tuscaloosa.


 

Suntrust_Park_3B_gate,_May_2017The Atlanta Braves finally received word on Tuesday afternoon about the penalties they will receive for breaking international signing rules set by major league baseball.  The Braves’ penalties include the loss of 12 international prospects (which they must release to free agency), restrictions on the international market over the next three years, and the loss of their third-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Former Braves general manager John Coppolella, who resigned in early October amid international signing allegations, was banned for life from baseball. Coppolella’s special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who also resigned in early October, received a one year ban from baseball.

 

175px-Atlanta_Braves.svgWhile John Coppolella has seemingly ruined his career, the Braves organization and farm system will still survive despite the harsh penalties. The 12 international prospects that were lost to free agency were huge, especially Kevin Maitan (ranked 38th best prospect by MLB Pipeline), but the Braves still have an incredible farm system that is ranked top three in Major League Baseball. On top of that, they signed Alex Anthopoulos as their new general manager who is more experienced and will probably be a better fit with John Hart and the rest of the Braves’ front office than Coppolella was. Also, the Braves number one prospect and recently named Arizona Fall League MVP Ronald Acuna was not affected by this scandal.

 

Golic & Wingo Debuts this Monday on ESPN 106.7

By | ESPN 106.7 News | No Comments

Golic and Wingo - v7

 

The wait is over – the much-anticipated debut of ESPN 106.7’s new morning drive show Golic and Wingo, hosted by Mike Golic and Trey Wingo, will air live Monday, Nov. 27. The program, which will team sports broadcasting legend Golic together with longtime NFL host Wingo, will broadcast weekdays from 5 – 9 a.m. on ESPN 106.7 . Mike Golic Jr., who hosts his own national ESPN Radio show (First and Last) and has been a frequent contributor on other ESPN Radio programs, will join the show for one hour daily.

Golic and Wingo will also be available via ESPNAU.com and the ESPN 106.7 app.

A member of the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Golic currently serves as one-half of ESPN Radio’s morning duo, Mike & Mike (with co-host Mike Greenberg), which has aired since January 2000. The long-running program set the bar for sports talk radio. Golic hosted the first iteration of ESPN’s morning drive show – The Bruno-Golic Morning Show – with original ESPN Radio voice Tony Bruno.

He joined ESPN in 1995 as an NFL studio analyst after a nine-year career in the NFL as a defensive tackle. Golic is a 1985 graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he served as captain of the football team during his senior season and also wrestled for the Irish.

GOLIC_WINGO_logo_RED - SmallWingo has been one of the primary figures in ESPN’s year-round coverage of the National Football League. He joined ESPN in November 1997 as an anchor for ESPNEWS and has served as host of NFL Live since its inception in 2003. He is the host of ESPN’s multi-day NFL Draft coverage. He added NFL Sundays in 2015 as host of NFL Insiders: Sunday Edition and he assumed the host role of ESPN’s long-running highlight show NFL PrimeTime in 2007. Wingo hosted The NFL on ESPN Radio, a day-long update, interview and analysis program on NFL Sundays (2001-03). Wingo graduated from Baylor University in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Golic, Jr. has hosted shows on ESPN Radio since 2015.  Like his father, he is a graduate of Notre Dame and played college football for the Irish.

 

 

 

Blackerby Breakdown: Auburn defeats ULM

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This week’s Blackerby Breakdown features the top three Jarrett Stidham throws in Auburn’s win against ULM.

The Stidham led Auburn Tigers got off to a slow start against ULM this past weekend. The Tigers eventually took care of business in a 42-14 victory over the Warhawks.

Stidham uses a check down

A big complaint from callers on The Lunch Break and The Drive this season was the route designs in the passing game where the Auburn offense would send all of the wide receivers deep and not have a check down outlet.

Stidham vs ULM 1

On this throw, Stidham looks deep and realizes that his options are covered down the field and makes the mature play by dumping the pass off for short and sure yardage. This is also the play design that Auburn fans have been asking for.

 

Another easy completion for Stidham

Stidham has received criticism for being antsy in the pocket at times. This is another play where his first read is taken away by the defense. Once again, he chose not to throw the pass but begins to get uncomfortable in the pocket.

Stidham vs ULM 4

He finds his running back after moving around the pocket and makes the right choice to move his offense.

Stidham to Slayton

Another week, another deep pass from Stidham. This time he found Darius Slayton for a score. Stidham’s ability to pick up large chunks through the air has been a valuable part of the offense this season.

Stidham vs ULM 3

This pass was good for a 50-yard score. Auburn fans will be looking for this against Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

 

Listen to Zac Blackerby and Noah Gardner every weekday 11am-1pm on The Lunch Break on ESPN 106.7.