Category

Talent Columns

RR Banner (1)

Riley’s Ramblings: Are Auburn and Wisconsin Contenders or Pretenders?

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

 

150px-Auburn_Tigers_logo.svgVery few people gave the Auburn Tigers a chance on Saturday against the number one ranked Georgia Bulldogs, and the Tigers not only won- they won in dominant fashion. A 40-17 stomping of the top ranked Bulldogs proved that Auburn is a legitimate contender to knock off Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The clear question after Auburn snapped their four year skid to Georgia was this: If Auburn were to beat Alabama and Georgia again in the SEC Championship game, would the Tigers get into the 2017 College Football Playoff despite being a two loss team? I believe Auburn would get in, possibly along with a one loss Alabama depending on how undefeated Wisconsin’s season plays out. However, Auburn still has a major hurtle in the top ranked Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare. Hopefully Auburn can continue to move the ball well on offence and carry some momentum after the Louisiana Monroe game on Saturday (11:00 kick on ESPN2).

 

150px-Wisconsin_Badgers_logo.svgThe biggest game to watch on tomorrow’s slate will be the Wisconsin-Michigan game. Wisconsin is still a sharp undefeated team, but they continue to get criticism from the media for having such a weak strength of schedule. Miami proved last week after their 41-8 blowout win over Notre Dame that they were a really good team and got rewarded with a number three ranking from the College Football Playoff. If Wisconsin can win convincingly on Saturday, they might be able to shake off some critics. I believe that a one loss SEC or ACC team is more deserving of being in the playoff, but if the Badgers win the BIG10 and go undefeated, it will be impossible to leave them out of the playoff.


 

Hard to believe that college basketball is already back, but it’s finally still here. Auburn fans aren’t nearly as excited about this year’s team as before the scandals came out, and that’s unfortunate that so much interest in the team was lost through that. There’s no doubt that there are a lot of distractions around the basketball program, especially after a report of Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl failing to corporate with school officials in their investigation, but Auburn has looked sharp in their first two games of the season. Bryce Brown looked impressive on Thursday, going five for 14 from the floor with 15 points while true freshman  Chuma Okeke recorded 11 points in his 19 minutes of playing time. The real test for the Tigers will come when conference play begins.


 

AHS vs McTRound two of the AHSAA playoffs are set to take place on Friday night, and there are a few interesting games on tap. In 7A action, Auburn High (two seed in region two) will make the long trip south to Mobile to take on last year’s 7A runner-up McGill-Toolen (one seed in region one). McGill-Toolen is a state powerhouse and have a perfect 11-0 record and are coming off a 35-14 victory over the four seed in region two, Jefferson Davis. Auburn is also coming off a nice performance over the three seed in region one Davidson last Friday night- a team that is thought by many to have the best defense in the state. Auburn won 23-7 on an extremely solid defensive performance of their own and hope that their defense will continue to play well at “The Lip”. The Auburn High Football broadcast team of Scott Bagwell, Blake Ramsey, and Noah Gardner will have coverage of the game from Mobile will beginning at 6:30 tonight on Wings 94.3. The game will also be streaming online at wingsfm.com and the Wings 94.3 app.

 

Another 7A game to keep an eye on is the Hoover- Hewitt-Trussville game in Trussville. The nine time state champion Hoover Buccaneers have always been a state powerhouse, but after finishing the regular season with three losses, including one to Thompson, they aren’t looking quite as strong this year. Hewitt on the other hand is looking very strong and are still sporting an undefeated record after their win over number eight Spain Park in round one. Hewitt finished the regular season ranked third in the ASWA High School Football Poll and try to take down Hoover with their incredible offense which is averaging about 47 points a game this season.

 

220px-Opelika_High_School_LogoIn 6A action, Opelika High (three seed in region three) is coming off a very interesting 15-5 win over Daphne on Friday night and will host Park Crossing (one seed in region two) at Bulldog Stadium.

 

Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7

rhubbard@aunetwork.com

 

Before The Game

BEFORE THE GAME: WEEK 12

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

Brilliance. Sheer brilliance.

I’m not talking about the fact that Peck’s Picks went 5-0 against the spread last week (more on that later). It’s been a long time since Auburn dominated a great team the way they pushed around the previously undefeated Georgia Bulldogs in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

It’s difficult to overstate how desperately Auburn fans wanted to see what they saw on Saturday. Georgia had won 9 of the previous 11 meetings between the two teams, many in blowout fashion. A loss to LSU earlier in the season was placed squarely at head coach Gus Malzahn’s feet after Auburn’s offense inexplicably became staunchly conservative in a failed attempt to protect a 20-0 first-half lead.

Watching Auburn stay aggressive and turn a 16-7 halftime lead into a full-blown rout was cathartic for a community that was ready to help Malzahn pack his bags a month earlier – and based on Malzahn’s enthusiastic response to the victory on the sidelines and the spontaneous dance party that erupted on Auburn’s sideline in the fourth quarter (complete with Soulja Boy), fans weren’t the only ones who wanted it.

Auburn’s offense was fueled by Kerryon Johnson, who finished the game with 233 yards from scrimmage, including a 55-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass that effectively ended things. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham was stellar again, making virtually no mistakes and throwing a gorgeous touchdown to Darius Slayton. Auburn’s offensive line, inconsistent throughout the first half of the season, paved the way for an offense that finished the game with 476 yards of total offense while only allowing two sacks.

Defensively, Auburn kept Georgia from ever getting into gear after the Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead by converting on their opening drive. Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm had to worry about defensive linemen swarming him throughout the game and celebrated running back tandem Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for only 48 rushing yards.

It was an immense, narrative-changing victory for Malzahn. Not only had his aggressiveness come into question after the loss to LSU, but it had been too long since Auburn defeated a really good team. Mississippi State is certainly above-average, but Auburn hadn’t beaten a top-tier team since the game against Ole Miss in 2014. The loss to Clemson earlier this year was Auburn’s fifth consecutive loss when playing against a team ranked in the top 5; that streak is over. People wondered if Malzahn’s offense, playing without a quarterback who is a threat to run all over the field, could generate enough firepower to overwhelm a high-quality opponent; those questions have been answered.

By defeating Georgia, Auburn kept its hopes of postseason glory alive. A win against #1 Alabama on November 25 will send Auburn to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2013, where a rematch with Georgia will decide what team will represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff. Auburn is still firmly in the hunt and the Tigers are surging as the season’s conclusion approaches.

Before that fateful game with the Crimson Tide, however, the #6 Tigers host the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in a game that could ruin everything. Malzahn and his coaching staff will have their hands full keeping the team focused on the task at hand after such a monumental, emotional, and pivotal victory on Saturday. Thankfully, even a sloppy and imperfect Auburn team should be able to dispatch ULM with very little difficulty. Here’s hoping the team avoids any significant injuries and continues to build momentum as one of the biggest Iron Bowls of all time looms on the horizon.

WHAT TO WATCH:

–          How much will Kerryon Johnson play? Auburn will be looking to get its starters out of the game as quickly as possible and provide them some extra rest before the matchup against Alabama. However, Johnson is increasingly mentioned as a potential candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and there could be some desire from Auburn to improve his statistics against an inferior opponent.

–          If Johnson isn’t used as frequently as they’ve used him in other games this year, who will be the next back off the bench for the Tigers? Reserve running backs Kam Martin and Devan Barrett both saw time against Georgia and, if Kerryon were to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft after the season, figure to be key pieces of next year’s team. Will Auburn use this week as an opportunity to feature them more?

–          Will the fans show up? Auburn students have next week off, and many will skip town as soon as class is over on Friday (or sooner). The stadium won’t be rocking like it was last week. Hopefully Auburn won’t need to utilize its home-field advantage late in the game.

PECK’S PICKS (Last Week: 5-0[!!!!!], YTD 35-25)

–          UAB +10.5 @ FLORIDA – Florida is in a freefall, and there is far more interest around who the Gators will hire as their new head coach than anything that could happen on the field this Saturday. UAB is playing tough; head coach Bill Clark deserves credit for the tremendous job he’s done with a program that was left for dead by its school’s administration. Florida has more talent, but UAB will have more effort and might even pull off the upset. PECK’S PICK: UAB +10.5

–          MISSOURI -8.5 @ VANDERBILT – Speaking of left for dead, Missouri looked to be in tatters after three consecutive blowout losses at home early in the season, but the Tigers have rallied. Drew Lock is putting up the best numbers of any quarterback in the conference and Missouri has thumped Florida and Tennessee in back-to-back weeks. Look for Mizzou to keep things going. PECK’S PICK: MISSOURI -8.5

–          LSU -15.5 @ TENNESSEE: And speaking of that team Missouri just demolished, there’s just no fight left in the Volunteers. In a desolate stadium, against a relentless LSU offense that will run the ball behind Darius Guice, I don’t expect things to stay competitive for long. PECK’S PICK: LSU -15.5

–          MICHIGAN +7.5 @ WISCONSIN – Wisconsin faces its toughest opponent thus far: a Michigan team that has been on a tear since the October debacle in Happy Valley. Wisconsin should win close, but I expect Michigan to keep things far too close for comfort. PECK’S PICK: MICHIGAN +7.5

–          OKLAHOMA -37 @ KANSAS – This is just unfair. If this horrendous Kansas team even stays within four touchdowns of the best offense in college football, they should name the stadium after head coach David Beaty. PECK’S PICK: OKLAHOMA -37

–          MISSISSIPPI STATE -12 @ ARKANSAS – A great time to bet against a team is right after its AD gets fired for being too loyal to the embattled head coach. The Bulldogs look like the fourth best team in the conference (even as they collapsed in the fourth quarter against Alabama). The Razorbacks seem years away from competing in the West. PECK’S PICK: MSU -12

–          UCLA +16 @ USC – As a UCLA alum, it pains me to say that the Bruins won’t be able to get enough stops to keep the game close against a high-powered USC offense that has diced up the other teams in its division. PECK’S PICK: USC -16

–          LOUISIANA MONROE +37 @ AUBURN – Will Auburn be focused on burying their guests from the Sun Belt? ULM can score points, Auburn played an emotional game last week, and nobody can blame Auburn for letting thoughts about next week’s opponent creep into its collective mind. Auburn wins, but ULM covers late. PECK’S PICK: ULM +37

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

SEC Report Players Banner

The SEC Report Players of the Week 11/13/17: Week 11

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

Noah Gardner:

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn, 40-17 W vs. Georgia

16-23 214 YDS 3 TD, 1 RUSH TD

The Auburn offense had been lacking explosive plays in big games this year, and they needed a breakthrough against the number one team in the country. Jarrett Stidham delivered impact play after impact play in this edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. He was decisive, accurate and the unquestioned leader of Auburn’s upset of the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

 

Jeff Holland, BUCK, Auburn, 40-17 W vs. Georgia

5 TKL, 1 SOLO, 1 SKS, 1 TFL, 3 QBH

Entering Saturday, Georgia had only allowed nine sacks. Auburn was able to add four more sacks to that tally as their defensive line pressured Jake Fromm all afternoon. Jeff Holland wreaked havoc in the Georgia backfield as he claimed one sack and three quarterback hurries. With many NFL scouts watching, Holland performed at a high-caliber on a major stage.

 

 

Painter Sharpless:

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, 31-24 W at Mississippi State

5 REC 171 YDS 34.2 AVG

Calvin Ridley came up big again for the Crimson Tide during Alabama’s tightly contested win in Starkville. Ridley and Alabama were taken down to the wire by a Mississippi State team some felt did not have the talent or depth to compete for four quarters. A good sign for Ridley and his teammates is that they worked together to finish and win a high-pressure competitive game. Although the junior wide receiver did not find the end zone against the Bulldogs, his five catches proved to be a decisive factor in the Tide’s rally. It will be critical for Alabama’s offense to ensure Ridley has the ball in his hands often and that he keeps in sync with Jalen Hurts as Alabama faces a potent and extremely confident Auburn defense in two weeks.

 

Jamyest Williams, DB, South Carolina, 28-20 W vs. Florida

5 TKL, 5 SOLO, 1 INT

Jamyest Williams, a freshman defensive back from Dacula, Georgia; helped bolster Will Muschamp’s defense against the Florida Gators. Williams had five solo tackles and a crucial interception that helped seal the Gamecocks win. Freshmen who can contribute, gain experience and become play makers early in their collegiate careers, like Williams, show promise for a solid foundation being laid by Muschamp and his staff in Columbia. South Carolina hosts Wofford before they prepare for a home game against the defending national champions, Clemson.

RR Banner (1)

Riley’s Ramblings: Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

 

dsorTomorrow is going to be a big day on the Plains. The 121st meeting of Auburn and Georgia in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will be getting a lot more attention than usual. It will be the first time since 1980 that Georgia will come into the game as the number one team in the country, and many Auburn fans are optimistic that the Tigers can put an end to Georgia’s perfect season. Auburn appears to be the only two loss team that has a shot at making the 2017 College Football Playoff simply because of who they have left on the schedule- number one Georgia, number two Alabama, and number one Georgia again should they beat Alabama. It would be a stretch for Auburn to win all three games, but the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry should be a very competitive and entertaining game this year. The game will also have major implications on Gus Malzahn’s future at Auburn.

 

2000px-Georgia_Athletics_logo.svgGeorgia has looked incredible so far this season, but Auburn’s pass rush which has accounted for 26.0 sacks this season and 40 quarterback hurries will be a challenge for freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. Luckily for Georgia, they have two explosive weapons in the backfield- Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Georgia’s defense is no slouch either, as the Bulldogs have given up 14 points or less in five of their last six games and will face a red-hot Auburn offense that’s coming off a 42 point performance against Texas A&M. It will be a close and entertaining game, but Georgia should come out with the W. (2:30 kick on CBS)

 

Miami_Hurricanes_logo.svgAnother big game to keep an eye on Saturday will be Notre Dame and Miami. Even though they play in the ACC, Miami is a severely underrated team. The Hurricanes are currently seventh with an undefeated record. Ranked behind Notre Dame, Clemson, Oklahoma, and TCU- all teams with one loss. If Miami can take care of business on Saturday against an impressive Notre Dame team, they will be ranked in the top four. The key for them to make the playoffs is to win the ACC Championship game which will likely be against Clemson (even if they lose to Notre Dame). This game will be a battle of explosive offenses and will undoubtedly be a high scoring affair. (7:00 kick on ABC)


 

AHSAA_logoFirst week of the playoffs across the state of Alabama this week and there are plenty of great matchups set for Friday night. Auburn High is the two seed in 7A region two and will face the three seed in region one Davidson at Duck-Samford Stadium. This was the same round one matchup as last season, which saw Auburn win 34-10 with the help of four rushing touchdowns including two from Garrett Morris before losing in round two to Central-Phenix City. Davidson is currently 8-4 (7-3 in region play) and Auburn is currently 9-1 (5-1 in region play). The winner of this game will face the winner of the one seed in region one McGill-Toolen and four seed from region two Jefferson Davis. Here’s the full 7A bracket:

2017 7A Playoff Bracket

220px-Opelika_High_School_LogoIn 6A, three seed in region three Opelika will travel to Daphne Friday night to take on two seed in region one Daphne High School. Opelika is 7-3 (5-1 in region play) this season and Daphne is 8-2 (7-1 in region play). The winner of that game will battle the winner of the four seed in region four Bessemer City and one seed in region one Park Crossing.

 

Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7

rhubbard@aunetwork.com

Before the Game Cover

BEFORE THE GAME: WEEK 11

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

On Saturday, #10 Auburn plays its biggest home game in years against #1 Georgia, and it’s impossible to overemphasize the stakes: a win would provide head coach Gus Malzahn with much-desired job security and keep alive Auburn’s chances of winning the SEC and advancing to the College Football Playoff for the first time in team history, while a loss would advance the narrative that Malzahn’s teams have lost the ability to defeat elite opposition.

It’s ridiculous to suggest that losing to the #1 team in the nation is ever “unacceptable,” but there are those in Auburn still angry about losses to Georgia in 2015 and 2016 (when Auburn seemingly had a better team going into the game) ready to wash their hands of Malzahn if he loses to Georgia for a fourth consecutive time. This moment has been building since before the 2017 season began. It’s all or nothing.

Auburn is coming off an inspired performance at Texas A&M. For the first time in conference play all season, Auburn’s offense didn’t begin the game by scoring a lot of points and immediately putting pressure on the opposition; A&M’s defense held its own for most of the first two quarters and nearly held a 13-7 lead going into halftime before Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham (who, as it was mentioned a ridiculous number of times going into the first half, grew up in Texas) fired a gorgeous pass to receiver Darius Slayton to spark an onslaught that led to Auburn taking a 35-13 lead in the third quarter – and eventually winning 42-27.

The Tigers have shown real versatility against SEC competition: they’ve moved the ball on the ground and through the air, they’ve stopped the run, they’ve featured a tenacious pass rush, and they’ve played well in the secondary. People are tired of Malzahn talking almost exclusively about “execution” after losses, but when Auburn’s offense is executing, it’s difficult to explain how a defense can stop it.

Georgia boasts similar strengths: a rushing attack that features a pair of running backs who currently rank third and eighth in the conference in yards, a passing offense that does enough to back defenders up, and a defense that has held its own, week after week. The Bulldogs will look to do to Auburn what they’ve been able to do in every other game they’ve played this season: establish the run, build a lead, and take advantage of mistakes after forcing the opponent into becoming one-dimensional. However, Auburn represents a considerable step up in competition for Georgia, as the Bulldogs haven’t really been challenged since a mid-September victory at Notre Dame. Georgia has laid waste to the downtrodden SEC East and, like Auburn, steamrolled a Mississippi State team that could finish the season 9-3. If the game stays competitive into the final minutes, perhaps Auburn will be able to draw on its experience in close games this season, as the Tigers appear to be the more battle-tested team.

Georgia has won 9 of the 11 in its rivalry against Auburn; a silver lining for Auburn fans is the knowledge that the last two times the Tigers beat Georgia, they went on to win the Iron Bowl and the SEC Championship (and, in 2010, the BCS National Championship). Those lofty goals are still realistic possibilities for the 2017 Auburn Tigers, but they’ll need to beat Georgia in to keep them alive.

WHAT TO WATCH:

– Expect Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson to receive the bulk of the carries (Malzahn tends to lean heavily on his star players, especially in big games), but backup Kam Martin has established himself as the first guy off the bench and possesses a second gear that could provide big plays for the Tigers if they turn to him when Johnson needs a break.

– Auburn has given up 14 sacks in its two losses, so pass protection will be crucial – particularly on third down. Mistakes from the offensive line, Stidham, or even offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey (who found himself being criticized for play-calling decisions he made in Auburn’s losses to Clemson and LSU) could have huge ramifications if the game is as close as it looks like it could be.

– Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm has enjoyed the luxury of a successful ground game throughout his freshman season; a competitive game on the road in a raucous SEC stadium will be a new experience for him. His response to the pressure he’ll face on Saturday will play an outsized role in deciding the victor.

PECK’S PICKS (last week 3-2, YTD 30-25)

TCU +6.5 @ OKLAHOMA: One of several games this weekend that will eliminate a team from playoff contention, I like the white-hot Oklahoma offense to distance itself from TCU in the second half. PECK’S PICK: OKLAHOMA -6.5

WEST VIRGINIA +2.5 @ KANSAS STATE: The Mountaineers can score with the best teams in the Big 12; Kansas State should slow them down initially, but won’t be able to keep up all game. PECK’S PICK: WEST VIRGINIA +2.5

FLORIDA +6 @ SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina could have a letdown just a week after a hard-fought loss to Georgia, but Florida just looks abysmal and effort should be a question after the way they played against Missouri. PECK’S PICK: SOUTH CAROLINA -6

MICHIGAN STATE +17 @ OHIO STATE: Last week’s shocking blowout loss to Iowa all but ends Ohio State’s chances of making the College Football Playoff, but they remain in contention for the conference championship and Urban Meyer practically never loses conference home games. Look for an inspired effort from the Buckeyes. PECK’S PICK: OHIO STATE -17

GEORGIA -2.5 @ AUBURN: Recent history favors Georgia, but I like the home team to draw on lessons it learned in its two defeats. Auburn wins a close game. PECK’S PICK: AUBURN +2.5

 

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

Blackerby Breakdown Cover

Blackerby Breakdown: Auburn defeats Texas A&M

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

This week’s Blackerby Breakdown features the top three Jarrett Stidham throws in Auburn’s win against Texas A&M.

In Stidham’s return to his home state, he showed a great combination of arm strength and accuracy as the final game before the Tigers host top-ranked Georgia.

Stidham vs TAMUGet excited.

RPO to Hastings

Stidham vs TAMU 8

I posted this play on Twitter earlier this week and several people responded telling me that this was their favorite play of the game. Stidham has the option to hand the football off or to throw it if Hastings finds a spot to sit in space. Not the biggest gain of the day but it showed that the Auburn offense is getting tougher to defend.

 

Ryan Davis touchdown

Stidham vs TAMU 2

Auburn’s offense improved greatly in the red zone this weekend largely to playcalling. This pass is a prime example. THough it is tough to roll to your left well throwing with your right arm, Stidham makes the throw look easy. Davis also finds space for the easy score.

 

Stidham goes deep

Stidham vs TAMU 7

Stidham releases early in the play that he has a man open deep but also recognizes the coverage. With a safety crashing toward the football, the football needed to get there quickly. The touch and accuracy of this pass was NFL-level stuff by the Texas native.

Listen to Zac Blackerby and Noah Gardner every weekday on The Lunch Break on ESPN 106.7.

The SEC Report Players of the Week Cover

The SEC Report Players of the Week 11/6/17: Week 10

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

Noah Gardner:

Jordan Ta’amu, QB, Ole Miss, 37-34 W at Kentucky

31-40 382 YDS 4 TD

Jordan Ta’amu put in a spectacular performance on Saturday to help push Ole Miss to victory against Kentucky. The junior has stepped in for the injured Shea Patterson and their offense hasn’t missed a beat. Ta’amu threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns, but the most important part of his performance isn’t the stat line. With about two minutes remaining, Ta’amu engineered a game winning 71-yard drive that illustrated his poise and ability to lead Ole Miss. With five seconds remaining, Ta’amu connected with D.K. Metcalf for the game winning touchdown pass. With performances like Saturday’s, Ole Miss could finish the season strong if Ta’amu can keep it up.

 

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia, 24-10 W vs. South Carolina

9 TKL, 7 SOLO, 1.5 SKS, 1.5 TFL

Roquan Smith is the leader of this Georgia defense and it showed as he roamed the field with a purpose on Saturday. He had nine total tackles and he added 1.5 sacks to his stat line. Smith’s performance was a big part of the reason that South Carolina was able to muster only 43 rushing yards and a 2.5 yards per carry average. With games against Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech left remaining on the schedule, Smith will be a factor in stopping those run heavy offenses.

 

 

Painter Sharpless:

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn, 42-27 W at Texas A&M

20-27 268 YDS 3 TD, 7 CAR 27 YDS 3.9 AVG

Jarrett Stidham helped the Tigers take over in College Station. The sophomore made his return home to Texas and did not disappoint. The Auburn signal caller completed 20 of 27 passes for 268 yards while adding three touchdowns through the air. Stidham’s longest pass of the day went for 53 yards as he guided the Auburn offense past an aggressive Texas A&M defense. While Auburn’s offense was far from perfect, with Stidham at the helm, the Tigers carried momentum from two late first half scores into the second half and never looked back.

 

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama, 24-10 W vs. LSU

10 TKL, 4 SOLO, 1 SKS, 1 TFL

Alabama did not cruise past LSU, but its defense never allowed Danny Etling or the Bayou Bengal offense to find a rhythm. Rashaan Evans’ efforts again contributed to the Crimson Tide’s stifling defense. Alabama’s talented linebacker finished the game with 10 tackles. Four of the tackles were solo and he added a sack. Now, the home stretch of the season looms. While multiple Alabama starters are injured, it is paramount for Evans to continue with strong performances as the Crimson Tide take aim at returning to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

Rileys Ramblings

Riley’s Ramblings: A World Series Won on Farm Grown Talent

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

MLB LogoMajor League Baseball:

The 2017 World Series was a treat for all baseball fans to enjoy. The Dodgers and Astros were two very well matched and competitive teams that produced an incredible seven game series. Game five was by far the game of the year with both offenses coming to life and putting up 25 combined runs, then game six was the opposite with just four combined runs, but it was also a very entertaining game. At the end of the day, the most powerful offense in baseball overcame Clayton Kershaw and the highest payroll in baseball.

George Springer won a very well deserved World Series MVP too. Springer hit five home runs in the World Series (including a 438 footer in game seven) and tallied seven RBI. Springer is just the third player in Major League history to hit five homers in a World Series.

Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow has proved that drafting well produces major league players and championship caliber teams much quicker than most people thought. In Luhnow’s first year Houston drafted World Series MVP George Springer out of UConn. In 2012 they drafted Carlos Correa who is arguably the best shortstop in the American League and Lance McCullers Jr. who is a solid starter. In 2013 they drafted Mark Appel who was later traded for closer Ken Giles, and in 2015 Houston drafted Alex Bregman out of LSU who batted .284 with 19 homers this season. Another signing that worked out pretty well for the Astros was Jose Altuve in 2007 (before the hiring of Jeff Luhnow). Altuve was originally told in an Astros instructional league in his home country of Venezuela that he was too small to play baseball, but a year later he came back to the tryout and was signed at the age of 17- he’s now most likely the 2017 American League MVP.

The Astros won this World Series almost completely on farm grown talent.


ncaa-football-logoCollege Football:

The College Football Playoff’s first rankings that came out on Tuesday night caught a lot of college football fans by surprise. Having Georgia ranked ahead of Alabama seems wild at first, but if you think about it Georgia has a much stronger schedule. Georgia has the most impressive win so far in the entire SEC, the 20-19 victory over Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a top five team and Alabama, while very strong as usual, hasn’t proved to the committee yet that they deserve that number one spot. I agree with the committee’s decision and think that the likely Georgia-Bama SEC Championship game very interesting (sorry to any optimistic LSU and Auburn fans).

Top 6

200px-LSU_Athletics_logo.svgWhile we’re on the topic of Alabama, the question of the week- Does LSU stand a chance? A couple of weeks ago I would say no, but since they’re coming off of big wins over Florida and Auburn (sorry for the reminder), maybe so. Alabama is a clear favorite and deservedly so, but don’t count out the Tigers completely. LSU has shown that they aren’t the same team that took the field against Troy and this is a rivalry game and crazy stuff does happen every once in a while in rivalry games… I don’t think LSU is going to win, but I do think they’ll keep it much closer than people think. (7:00 kick on CBS)

150px-Auburn_Tigers_logo.svgAuburn looks like they should have no problem taking down Texas A&M on Saturday at Kyle Field, especially after their loss to Mississippi State last Saturday. Auburn beat Mississippi State 49-10 earlier in the year, but we all know there’s no such thing as the transitive property of College Football. The way that A&M can win the game is if Christian Kirk goes off, which he is known to do. Kirk is one of the most explosive players in College Football, and it will be interesting to see how the Auburn secondary plays against him. Overall, the odds are in Auburn’s favor, mainly because of how well their offense looked last week and how unbeatable their pass rush has played. Also, if you’re a hard believer in the trend of the away team always winning this series since Texas A&M’s move to the SEC, then that also plays into Auburn’s odds. (11:00 kick on ESPN 106.7).


AHSAA_logo

AHSAA:

thompson transparentThompson beat the mighty Hoover Buccanners last Friday night 32-25 and were awarded with the number two ranking by the Alabama Sports Writers Association on Wednesday’s High School Football Poll. Hoover dropped to five (and clinched the two seed in 7A Region two), McGill-Toolen rose to four, Central-Phenix City stayed at one, and Auburn stayed put at number six. Auburn clinched the two seed in 7A region two after last Thursday’s victory over Jefferson Davis and now knows they will host Davidson (three seed in 7A region one) in round one of the 7A playoffs next Friday night. First, the Tigers will battle Demopolis, a very solid 6A team, Friday night at Duck-Samford Stadium. The game is the second of a home-and-home series; Auburn was victorious in Demopolis last season with the help of two Brooks Fuller touchdown passes 31-10. Coverage of that game will be on Wings 94.3 beginning at 6:30 with the Auburn High Football broadcast team of Scott Bagwell, Blake Ramsey, and Noah Gardner.

The most interesting game of the week in Alabama will be (4) McGill-Toolen taking on (7) Fairhope. McGill-Toolen is known to be a Mobile powerhouse, but Tim Carter has completely turned Fairhope around from their 2-8 (2-6 in region) season last year. Fairhope is currently 9-1 (8-0 in region) this year. This game will also decide who takes the one seed in 7A region one, as both teams are undefeated in region play this season.


200px-NASCAR_logo_2017.svgNASCAR:

Kyle Busch dominated again at Martinsville, which automatically enters him into the final round of the Monster Energy Cup playoffs. Martin Truex Jr. still seems to be the favorite, and is still the points leader, but any driver in the round of eight that wins, automatically punches their ticket to Homestead. Every race from now until the final race in Homestead will be very intense and fun to watch. (Texas Motor Speedway green flag drops at 1:00 on NBCSN)

Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7

rhubbard@aunetwork.com

Before The Game

BEFORE THE GAME: WEEK 10

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

 

Down the stretch they come.

#14 Auburn, fresh off a desperately needed bye week, returns to action this week as it takes the long trip to Texas A&M. The Tigers can still win the SEC West – and more – but a misstep in College Station will end those dreams (and, potentially, Gus Malzahn’s tenure as head coach).

The Tigers received unwelcome news earlier this week when it was announced that Kamryn Pettway, who was finally starting to regain the form that made him one of the best running backs in the SEC in 2016, would miss significant time with a broken shoulder blade. It’s a disappointing development: the possibility of teaming Pettway with a healthy Kerryon Johnson is tantalizing, but Pettway’s shoulder injury ends the possibility of seeing the tandem in action together anytime soon.

With Pettway sidelined, Auburn’s offense will have to depend on Johnson to continue to receive an outsized number of carries; reserve running backs like sophomore Kam Martin, freshman Malik Miller, and freshman Devan Barrett should contribute when Johnson needs a break. The undersized Martin might be Auburn’s fastest offensive player, and his absence from the offense in recent weeks has been puzzling. Miller, a powerful runner listed at 235 pounds, seems to be an obvious choice to fill Pettway’s shoes as a bruiser. Barrett is like a cross between the other two (bigger and slower than Martin, smaller and faster than Miller), but he features a forceful burst and smoothness that indicates he’ll be a major factor in the offense down the line. Earlier this week, Malzahn suggested that all three will play a role in the game at Texas A&M.

The Aggies were flattened by Mississippi State last week, falling into a 21-0 hole early in the third quarter before eventually losing 35-14. MSU rushed for 228 yards and stifled A&M’s offense; A&M rushed for just 96 yards and only completed 16 of its 41 pass attempts. Auburn appears to be better than Mississippi State on both sides of the ball (just disregard that whole LSU thing), so it will take an inspired effort from Texas A&M to avoid another lopsided defeat. A&M’s struggles throwing the ball are particularly puzzling because a strong passing game is usually a trademark of a team led by A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. The return of quarterback Nick Starkel, who was injured in Texas A&M’s opener against UCLA, could provide a spark for an offense that trended downwards throughout October. If Sumlin find a way to cure A&M’s offensive woes during the season’s final act, there will almost assuredly be a new coach in College Station next year.

When Auburn has the ball, it should have the advantage against an A&M defense that surrenders 27 points a game on average. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham is having an impressive season, Johnson leads the nation in touchdowns, and Auburn has found a way to build a large early lead in every single conference game it has played so far and held that lead in almost every game (again, I implore you, ignore what happened in Baton Rouge).

With the Georgia and Alabama games on the horizon, it’s crucial for the Tigers to flex their muscles against an overmatched opponent. A lopsided victory for Auburn will give the Tigers more reason for confidence as they face off against the class of the SEC in their final two conference games; a close victory will give Auburn valuable experience in tight, late-game situations (Georgia and Alabama haven’t played many close games in 2017). A loss would be catastrophic.

WHAT TO WATCH:

– A&M’s defense will attempt to stifle Auburn’s ability to create big plays; this is easier said than done. A defense that tries to prevent Stidham from going deep will open itself up to short passes that can turn into large gains (and prevent its secondary from being able to provide sufficient help against the run), while a defense focused on stopping Auburn’s potent rushing attack could give Stidham an opportunity for a career night. It could be a pick your poison scenario, particularly if Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey finds a way to exploit weaknesses in an overly aggressive opponent.

– Auburn’s offensive line should welcome back center Casey Dunn after he sat out against Arkansas. Many factors contributed to Auburn’s collapse against LSU (I promise I’ll stop bringing it up eventually), but Auburn’s offense seemingly never recovered from losing Dunn to a knee injury in the second quarter. With Dunn at center and Austin Golson shifted to tackle, Auburn will have its best offensive linemen available at their best positions, making the task even more daunting for Texas A&M.

– What kind of crowd will be in attendance? Last Saturday, A&M was throttled at home, at night, coming off a bye week. Now, a seemingly superior opponent comes to town and the game kicks off at 11 AM. Will A&M fans be their traditional rowdy selves? If Auburn takes an early lead on Saturday, expect the negativity and frustration that has simmered throughout that fanbase during Sumlin’s tenure to boil over in a very public way.

PECK’S PICKS (last week: 3-2, YTD 27-23)

SOUTH CAROLINA +24 @ GEORGIA: The Bulldogs have a chance to all but lock up the SEC East, but the visiting Gamecocks will put up a fight and the chance is there for Georgia to underachieve in the week between its games against Florida and Auburn. I’m not sure if Carolina can score the upset but I don’t expect them to get destroyed. PECK’S PICK: SOUTH CAROLINA +24

OKLAHOMA +2 @ OKLAHOMA STATE: Essentially an elimination game for two teams still very alive in the College Football Playoff, this is a game that figures to be extremely high-scoring. Baker Mayfield wins a quarterback duel with Mason Rudolph and the Sooners make just enough plays on defense to win. PECK’S PICK: OKLAHOMA +2

ARIZONA +7 @ USC: Khalil Tate, the hottest player in college football, is running Rich Rodriguez’s system as well as anyone ever has (yes, including Pat White and Denard Robinson). USC’s run defense looked so porous against Notre Dame; it’s difficult to imagine that they’ve made substantial improvements just two weeks later. PECK’S PICK: ARIZONA +7

UCF -14.5 @ SMU: We were telling you about Scott Frost before it was cool. PECK’S PICK: UCF -14.5

VIRGINIA TECH -1 @ MIAMI: Miami just seems so fraudulent. They’re winning games, but it seems like they’re due. Virginia Tech is an explosive offense with a great coach. PECK’S PICK: MIAMI +1

AUBURN -15 @ TEXAS A&M: Auburn’s offense put it together against Arkansas last week, and now faces an A&M team with wobbly legs, primed to be knocked out. Look for Auburn to take a big lead early and distance itself from an A&M team that will not be able to mount a rally behind an anemic passing attack. PECK’S PICK: AUBURN -15

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

 

New Blackerby Breakdown

Blackerby Breakdown: Stidham’s Best Throws of 2017

By | Talent Columns | No Comments

 

This week’s Blackerby Breakdown features the top three Jarrett Stidham throws of his first season on The Plains.

Get excited!

Stidham Sombrero

Stidham to Will Hastings against LSU.

Though Auburn’s loss to LSU leaves a bad taste in the mouth of every Auburn fan, two great throws were made by Stidham despite falling short on the scoreboard.

Stidham vs LSU 1

We saw Stidham and Hastings connect on the exact same route earlier in the season against Mississippi State. The Tigers were clicking in the first half against LSU and this was one of the plays that helped Auburn get up big before the second half collapse.

Stidham to Hastings against Georgia Southern

Though the game was all but over, Stidham was trying to overcome his slow start in the season opener.

Stidham vs mercer gif7

The corner route is tough for NFL pocket passers. Stidham nails it here. Hastings has been on the same page as his quarterback ever since he arrived at Auburn.

Stidham Incomplete

Yes. Stidham’s best throw of the season was on an incompletion intended for Sal Cannella.

Stidham vs LSU 7

Stidham stands strong in the pocket and delivers a beautiful throw that should have been a completion to his big-bodied wide receiver.

You can listen to Zac Blackerby every weekday from 11-1 on ESPN 106.7’s The Lunchbreak.