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Views from the Couch: The AAF Report Week 4

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8 Teams/8 Takeaways

1. Iron Curtain

Seriously, the Iron Curtain is SO GOOD. That goal line stand during which they stopped the Commanders on seven straight plays inside the 5 yard line was one of the greatest things I have ever seen. This defense was completely let down by the offense. The defense shut down the Commanders all game long. San Antonio didn’t convert a 3rd down over 6 yards, racked up 95 yards through the air, and averaged 3.82 yards per play. Beniquez Brown is second in the league with 26 tackles, and Jamar Summers still looks like a dominant shut down corner.

2. NFL Already Looking to AAF

Apparently, the NFL Rules Committee is looking into how a SkyJudge would work in the NFL. The SkyJudge made a major call in the Iron game, assessing a hit on a defenseless player penalty on the Commanders. While the SkyJudge would be cool, I think the NFL should do the live feed of the replay official before they do the SkyJudge. It would really clear things up for fans as to why the refs are making the calls they are making.

3. Bham Lost, and I am Sad

Like many who started watching the AAF at the beginning of the season, I picked a team to give my allegiances. I chose the Birmingham Iron. I live in Auburn, AL. I went to (and still go to) Auburn University, and the Iron have the players with whom I share an alma mater. This is the first week I have had to deal with an Iron loss. When the Iron lost this game, (kind of blew this game in my opinion, but that is here nor there), I was upset. I was surprised that I was upset, but I was upset none the less. That is huge for the AAF. Yes, I realize I am one unimportant fan who would watch either way. It is huge for the AAF that people in general are feeling allegiances for these teams. It is huge that people are upset when their team loses.

4. Revisiting my Running Theory

You may recall that last week I had a theory on how to win football games in The Alliance. If you don’t remember it, you can see it here. One week into my theory, it doesn’t have the same overwhelmingly positive results as last week, but it still holds water for all but one game. I am not ready to call my theory a whopping success yet, but I am ready to revisit it next week. The team with the better rushing numbers are now 7-1 in the last two weeks.

Winners

  • Memphis Express
    • 32 carries for 57 yards and 1 TD
  • Orlando Apollos
    • 33 carries for 123 yards and 1 TD
  • San Antonio Commanders
    • Farrow – 30 carries for 142 yards
    • Team – 41 carries for 161 yards and 1TD
  • Atlanta Legends
    • 39 carries for 177 yards and 1 TD

Losers

  • San Diego Fleet
    • 30 carries for 105 yards
  • Salt Lake Stallions
    • 27 carries for 116 yards and 1 TD
  • Birmingham Iron
    • 20 carries for 85 yards, and Trent Richardson’s 7th TD of the season
  • Arizona Hotshots
    • 24 carries for 138 yards

5. PARITY PARITY PARITY

After Week 4, we are finally seeing how much parity there truly is in the Alliance. The Apollos are still 4-0, and the Iron sit at 3-1. Behind them, the Hotshots, Commanders, and Fleet are all 2-2, and the Stallions, Express, and Legends are all 1-3. The Express and Legends both look SO much better with Mettenberger and Murray at their helms respectively. The next 6 weeks are going to be a ton of fun as a bunch of relatively evenly matched teams race for the playoffs.

6. Coach Power Rankings

  1. Steve Spurrier – Orlando Apollos
    • There were multiple times during the game against the Stallions that I was so impressed with a timely play call or performance by the Apollos team. Spurrier continues to set himself apart from the rest of the pack of coaches.
  2. Tim Lewis – Birmingham Iron
    • I know the Iron lost this week. I know his late game timeout/clock management was not good. The halftime adjustments by his staff are impeccable. The offense came out and moved the ball right away until Perez threw a bad INT in the red zone. The defense continues to be absolutely unreal.
  3. Mike Riley – San Antonio Commanders
    • Credit where credit is due. The Commanders may have been awful in the red zone, but Riley put together a good gameplan and beat an undefeated team on the road this week.
  4. Kevin Coyle – Atlanta Legends
    • This is out of luck
    • Coyle is getting credit for his new offensive coordinator, and the fact that his QB got hurt. He still made some truly awful decisions, and his team commits so many stupid penalties. The defense is good. The offense certainly looked way more dynamic with Murray in command.
  5. Mike Singletary – Memphis Express
    • Defense looks great again, for the 4th week in a row, and Mettenberger has revitalized that offense. Express get their first win of the season.
  6. Dennis Erickson – Salt Lake Stallions
    • Piss poor performance by the Stallions at home this week. They didn’t look ready. Spurrier embarrassed Erickson in Erickson’s home stadium.
  7. Mike Martz – San Diego Fleet
    • Martz is a different coach each week. He looked great in week 3, but he looked awful in weeks 2 and 4. You can’t be higher than 7 when I don’t know which version of you I am getting. I will give him credit for Philip Nelson not looking incompetent anymore.
  8. Rick Neuheisel – Arizona Hotshots
    1. I have been telling you this since Week 1. I have no faith in Neuheisel. Letting a winless Legends team come into your stadium and flat out beat you is embarrassing. Arizona starts very slow again. This is the third week in a row. They started down 12-0 to Memphis, 9-0 to Salt Lake, and 8-0 to Atlanta, and it should’ve been worse against Atlanta last night. Arizona has the worst 3rd down defense in the league. In my mind, the horrible safety taken by Rashad Ross is on poor coaching also. How in the world does that guy think that play is okay to attempt?

7. QB Rankings

  1. Garrett Gilbert – Orlando Apollos
    • 22/32 for 244 yards and 1 TD this week. He has still not thrown an INT. He has by far been the best QB in the league.
  2. Zach Mettenberger – Memphis Express
    • Going 18/25 for  174 yards and 1 TD this week, Mettenberger has flat out changed the Express season. He led them to their first win of the season. He led them to a roaring comeback the week before that. Mettenberger gives Memphis something that they just didn’t have the first two and a half weeks.
  3. Aaron Murray – Atlanta Legends
    • Aaron Murray completely changed this Legends offense. He went 20/33 for 254 yards and added 7 carries for 54 yards on the ground. His legs were a huge factor in this game. His 54 yards led the team in rushing, and he was able to use his legs to escape pressure time and time again.
  4. Philip Nelson – San Diego Fleet
    • I am getting dangerously close to having to apologize to Philip Nelson. I was firmly in the “he doesn’t belong on a football field” camp after his first start. The last two games, he has been so much better. He got injured during this game after starting 9/12 for 110 yards and 1 TD. I may not be a fan, but, obviously, you never want to see anyone get hurt.
  5. Josh Woodrum – Salt Lake Stallions
    • Woodrum had an efficient but pedestrian 16/22 for 161 yards. He was fine in what was a horrid performance from his team.
  6. Luis Perez – Birmingham Iron
    • An incredibly disappointing 19/39 for 202 yards and 2 INT for Perez this week. Up until this game, he has a great job of not turning the ball over. This week, he threw a bad red zone INT that gave the Commanders all the momentum to start the second half. He has still not thrown a TD pass this season. He is starting to look closer to Hackenberg and Simms than Mettenberger and Murray.
  7. John Wolford – Arizona Hotshots
    • At halftime of the game against the Legends, Wolford was 8/16 for 74 yards. That is not good. Wolford ended up 17/31 for 185 yards and 1 TD. Some math tells us that he was much better in the second half. This has been a theme for the Hotshots and Wolford this season. It has bit them in the butt the last two weeks.
  8. Logan Woodside – San Antonio Commanders
    • He just isn’t very good. There was supposed to be an open QB competition in San Antonio, but we didn’t see Marquise Williams at all against the Iron. Woodside had a not very good 11/25 for 106 yards. If I’m not mistaken, the Commanders have first dibs on Johnny Manziel. Just saying. Something to think about if you’re Daryl Johnston.
  9. Alex Ross – San Diego Fleet
    • The fourth string QB for the Fleet went 8/18 for 80 yards. 1 TD, and 1 INT after he replaced an injured Philip Nelson. It is hard to expect more from a team’s 4th string QB.

8. Power Rankings

There isn’t much shakeup in my power rankings this week. The Stallions were the week’s most disappointing team by far, so they plummeted in my rankings. With 3 teams at 2-2 and 3 teams at 1-3, it is tough to distinguish teams 2 through 7. Orlando remains the only unbeaten team, and the best looking team in the league. Each team’s place in my Week 3 Power Rankings are in parenthesis.

  1. (1) Orlando Apollos (4-0)
  2. (2) Birmingham Iron (3-1)
    • I know they lost, but they have the best defense in the league, make arguably the best halftime adjustments in the league, and usually their quarterback is very solid.
  3. (4) San Diego Fleet (2-2)
  4. (6) Memphis Express (1-3)
    • They just beat the Fleet, how could you have them below them in your rankings? Well, because the we saw the Fleet dominate the Commanders in week 3, and their starting QB got injured during this game. I bumped them up to #4 ahead of two 2-2 teams because Mettenberger has made that offense look so much better.
  5. (5) Arizona Hotshots (2-2)
    • Inexcusable loss at home to a winless Atlanta team. Neuheisel is not a good coach. THEY HAD A WIDE RECEIVER RUN BACKWARDS INTO THE END ZONE AND GET TACKLED FOR A SAFETY.
  6. (7) San Antonio Commanders (2-2)
    • Solid win over the Iron, but if you can stop their running game, the offense sucks. The Iron had three offensive linemen injured. I’m not over the beatdown the Fleet put on them.
  7. (8) Atlanta Legends (1-3)
    • If Aaron Murray, the #LegendSavior, continues to start, this team might move rather quickly up these power rankings.
  8. (3) Salt Lake Stallions (1-3)
    • What a piss poor performance by this team at home. Honestly, when their entire team walked out in long sleeves, you knew that this soft ass team didn’t stand a chance. The team from Florida didn’t wear sleeves, but the team that plays in Salt Lake needed sleeves. At home. Embarrassing. Pathetic.

 

About the Author: I am Michael Pappas, aka THE @CouchPaptato, and these are Views from the Couch. Not necessarily my couch. Usually my couch…because I don’t often leave my apartment. I have a really great couch. Any couch is great though, I don’t discriminate. My home couch is in Dallas, TX, but for the last 5 years my butt has happily been couching in Auburn, AL. Hit me up on twitter or at couchpaptato@gmail.com and let me know what the view is like from your couch. Or how stupid the view is from my couch. You can also listen to me host The CouchPaptato Podcast every day on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher, or SoundCloud

Views from the Couch: The AAF Report Week 3

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Week three in the AAF has come and gone, and we learned a lot about both the teams and the league in its third week. This is going to be a weekly collection of views from the couch about the AAF games the weekend prior. Eight teams means at least eight views from the couch. Every week will include a quarterback rankings and a power rankings, this week even includes coach rankings. Often, those three lists will look remarkably similar. Let’s get into it. Here are the Views from the Couch from the AAF Week 3:

8 Teams/8 Takeaways

1. Iron Curtain

By far the best looking defense in the league. The Birmingham Iron defense held the Atlanta Legends to 3-12 on 3rd down and 1-3 on 4th. They held Matt Simms to 57% completions (he did have 303 yards though), snagged 3 INTs, forced 2 fumbles (recovered one), and only gave up 43 yards rushing. Jamar Summers looks like the obvious frontrunner for defensive player of the year (DPOY). His receivers have been targeted 8 times. In those 8 targets, he has allowed only 2 receptions for -1 yards, caught 2 INTs, and has one pass breakup. HE HAS AS MANY INTS AS HE HAS ALLOWED RECEPTIONS. He has also forced two fumbles. I know, I know, Stallions fans are going to lobby for Karter Schult, and he has been great. Summers has been better through 3 weeks.

2. Replaced QBs

Week three in the AAF saw two key quarterbacks get replaced. Unfortunately, the first was due to injury, but the second was because he sucks. Hotshots quarterback John Wolford got hurt throwing an INT in the 3rd quarter of their game against the Stallions, and he was replaced by Trevor Knight. This doesn’t look to be cause for concern because Rick Neuheisel, the Hotshots head coach, said that he is comfortable playing both. I wasn’t sold on Wolford. He was playing better this game than he did up to the same point in Week 2. I know Trevor Knight didn’t play well in relief (I think he started 0-6), but he settled in after that. He is only going to get more comfortable.

The other quarterback change was one that we should’ve seen earlier. Memphis Express starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg was finally benched, and Zach Mettenberger dropped dimes. Mettenberger led a ferocious comeback that was almost enough to catch the Apollos. Fun fact: He had more passing yards in the second half of this game than Hackenberg has had in any full game this year. Hackenberg is awful. Mettenberger looked great in the second half of this game. It was about time.

3. Spurrier Cruise

This weekend the Apollos announced that from July 12-15, HBC Steve Spurrier and his whole staff will be attending a cruise of the Bahamas that you can also go on! Just visit www.spurriercruise.com. Events include: Q&A Sessions, welcome receptions with the coaches, private excursions, dining with fellow fans and coaches (I’m not sure why this is included in the event list like you might not get fed on the cruise?), beach Olympics (do you get coached by Spurrier himself?), photo and autograph sessions (can you not walk up to the HBC and ask for a photo at the pool?), and “plenty of time to schmooze with the coaches” (THANK GAWD). This can all be yours. The low end of prices for lodging on this excursion is for an Inside Stateroom. What is an inside stateroom? I’m glad you asked. An Inside Stateroom is a 150 sq ft room with two lower beds convertible to one queen sized bed, a flat panel TV, private bath with a shower, and a safe. If you partner up, it’ll run you $1004. If you’re boating solo (get it, like flying solo but this is a cruise), it’s $1559. The most expensive room is a Junior Sweet with Balcony which has everything that an inside stateroom has, but it is twice the size (297 sq ft) and has a 94 sq ft balcony, a large sitting area, private balcony, and floor to ceiling windows. It is $1631 for two people, and $2734 if you go alone. I tried to find out what the meal packages add to the cost, or if it is all inclusive, but I didn’t want to fill out 3 pages of internet paperwork and get myself all excited like I could actually go on the cruise. If you want someone to go with you, and you want to fund their trip, hmu, I am available.

4. Running the Ball Leads to Winning

There was a theme this weekend: the teams that won had very successful running games, especially running backs. Here are the numbers (rushes/yards/TDs) for the teams that won:

  • Salt Lake Stallions
    • Joel Bouagnon 12/45/1
    • Branden Oliver 15/40/1
  • Orlando Apollos
    • D’Ernest Johnson 13/79/1
    • De’Veon Smith 8/52
    • Garrett Gilbert 7/43/1
  • Birmingham Iron
    • Trent Richardson 17/46/3
  • San Diego Fleet
    • Ja’Quan Gardner 12/122/1 (83yd)
    • Terrell Watson 13/73

For contrast, here are the numbers (rushes/yards/TDs) for the teams that lost this past weekend. They correspond to the winning teams from the first list, i.e. the first team in this list lost to the first team in the previous list:

  • Arizona Hotshots
    • Jhurell Pressley 10/34
    • Justin Stockton 5/13
  • Memphis Express
    • Sherman Badie 8/59
    • Zac Stacy 14/29
  • Atlanta Legends
    • Matt Simms 2/27
    • 14 carries total
  • San Antonio Commanders
    • Trey Williams 7/75
    • Marquise Williams 5/33
    • Kenneth Farrow 9/27

Some things you may have noticed from the two lists: no losing team scored a rushing touchdown, three out of the four winning teams scored multiple rushing touchdowns (Fleet), the Iron Hammer (Trent Richardson) scored 3 touchdown and none were longer than 6 yards, the winning teams don’t always run the ball efficiently (see: Iron Hammer, Stallions), but every team that won did so behind their running attack.

5. The WRs cannot catch

I don’t have the numbers, but it is absolutely ridiculous how much the receivers drop the ball. Literally. The Iron receivers especially. Justin Ferguson had a great take on this last Thursday on our radio show The AAF Report. You can listen to that here.

6. Coaching Rankings

  1. Steve Spurrier – Apollos
    • The Apollos are on a roll. Spurrier is fun, and his guys are balling right now.
  2. Tim Lewis – Iron
    • THAT DEFENSE (also great adjustments made in the second half to get Perez time to throw and get the offense clicking a bit)
  3. Dennis Erickson – Stallions
    • The defense held them in the 1.5 games that Woodrum was hurt, plus what they did against the hotshots with Woodrum back gets Erickson my #3 spot.
  4. Rick Neuheisel – Hotshots
    • He is only #4 because he had the balls to go with Wolford over Knight after a lot of people thought Knight was one of the better QBs in the league. We will see how he responds if Wolford is out for a long period of time.
  5. Mike Martz – Fleet
    • I’ll admit, I thought Martz looked old in the first two weeks. His offense looked dated. He made adjustment to his awful QB, and he turned this into a run first offense. It doesn’t hurt that his team is 2-1.
  6. Mike Riley – Commanders
    • He was outcoached in 4th quarter against Apollos, and he was outcoached by Martz on Sunday night.
  7. Mike Singletary – Express
    • The only reason he isn’t #8 is because he FINALLY made the decision to bench the travesty that is Christian Hackenberg.
  8. Kevin Coyle – Legends
    • The Legends committed 9 penalties for 102 yards and had 4 turnovers against the Iron. They look undisciplined. He also needs to play the #LegendSavior Aaron Murray.

7. QB Rankings

  1. Garrett Gilbert – Apollos
    • 14/28 (50%) 207 yds 1 TD
    • Not a stellar performance, but enough to keep him atop this list.
  2. Zach Mettenberger – Express
    • 9/12 (75%) 120 yds 2 TD
    • Yes, I did it. I know he’s only played one half. I know that he only threw 12 passes. Well, he completed nine of them, and two went for touchdowns. He was dropping dimes out there. He looks like the second best QB in the league.
  3. Josh Woodrum – Stallions
    • 22/31 (71%) 178 yds 1 TD
    • Something you’ll notice about my rankings: I like when QBs don’t make mistakes. Woodrum was great in his first game back from injury. He led the Stallions and looked to be in total control of the offense.
  4. Luis Perez – Iron
    • 17/31 (55%) 160 1 INT
    • He would be higher on this list if his wide receivers could catch. That would make his completion percentage higher, and it would change the fact that he still hasn’t thrown a TD
  5. John Wolford – Hotshots
    • 14/22 (64%) 127 yds 1 INT 1 TD
    • I wasn’t sold on his last week, but he was playing much better this week before the injury and INT. You never want to see anyone get hurt, so, while I might not be a believer, I hope he is back soon. Better QB play = better games.
  6. Philip Nelson – Fleet
    • 17/25 (68%) 193 yds 2 TD 1 INT
    • Not a bad showing from Nelson this week. He looked inept last week. I’m not sure if it was a horrid Commanders defense or more time as the starter, but he looked solid this week. It was very odd. I might have to apologize if he keeps this up.
  7. Matt Simms – Legends
    • 28-49 (57%) 303 yds 3 INTs 1 TD
    • He is still just fine. Just fine doesn’t win football games. If you proof of that check Atl’s 0-3 record.
  8. Trevor Knight – Hotshots
    • 8/17 (47%) 95 yds
    • I believe he started 0-6 and then went 8/11 for 95 yds. A week as the starter in practice and not playing special teams should serve him well.
  9. Logan Woodside – Commanders
    • 12/23 (52%) 151 yds 1 TD 2 INT
    • Not a good game for Woodside. He flirted with disaster over and over against the Apollos, but this week we found out what happens when he plays a defense that can catch.
  10. Marquise Williams – Commanders
    • 4/4 (100%) 21 yds
    • He isn’t a threat to throw the ball. They put him in to run. It isn’t a secret. If Woodside is actually injured, the Commanders are in trouble.
  11. Christian Hackenberg – Express
    • 8/14 57% 2 INT
    • Holy Hell. He is so bad.

8. Power Rankings

  1. Orlando Apollos 3-0
    • This is too easy. They win again, perhaps closer than they would’ve liked.
  2. Birmingham Iron 3-0
    • The Iron Curtain and The Iron Hammer led the team to victory again. We saw signs of life from the offense in the second half when they did smart things to get Perez time and space to throw.
  3. Salt Lake Stallions 1-2
    • Karter Schult and Josh Woodrum have this team looking more like what people thought they’d see before the season.
  4. San Diego Fleet 2-1
    • After the beatdown they put on the Commanders yesterday, I don’t see how this team, led by Ja’Quan Gardner and Philip Nelson(wtf?) aren’t in the top half of teams.
  5. Arizona Hotshots 2-1
    • Starting QB changes are tough. I still have no faith in Rick Neuheisel.
  6. Memphis Express 0-3
    • Mettenberger gives me hope.
  7. San Antonio Commanders 1-2
    • The worse performance of the year goes to San Antonio yesterday. They looked horrible. SO BAD.
  8. Atlanta Legends 0-3
    • SMH.

 

About the Author: I am Michael Pappas, aka THE @CouchPaptato, and these are Views from the Couch. Not necessarily my couch. Usually my couch…because I don’t often leave my apartment. I have a really great couch. Any couch is great though, I don’t discriminate. My home couch is in Dallas, TX, but for the last 5 years my butt has happily been couching in Auburn, AL. Hit me up on twitter or at couchpaptato@gmail.com and let me know what the view is like from your couch. Or how stupid the view is from my couch.

Views from the Couch: The AAF Report Week 2

By | Views from the Couch | No Comments

Week 2 in the AAF has come and gone, and we learned a lot about both the teams and the league in its second week. This is going to be a weekly collection of views from the couch about the AAF games the weekend prior. Eight teams means at least eight views from the couch. Every week will include a quarterback rankings and a power rankings. Often, those two lists will look remarkably similar. Let’s get into it. Here are the Views from the Couch from the AAF Week 2:

1. The SkyCam Sucks

It’s horrible. They need to scrap it. Now. It’s a horrible camera angle, and every play they show from that angle is a play that makes me want to never watch the league again. If they had a camera view from behind the QB, it would be cool to see the defense the way the quarterbacks do. Instead, we get a camera angle from 8 feet above and 12 yards behind the QB. You can’t see anything. Just give us the normal camera angle.

2. Watching the Replay Official make decisions is fascinating

Replay officials, they’re just like us! This week it was a key fumble that the Iron returned for a touchdown. We got to watch as the replay official said, “his knee is down, and the ball certainly looks like it’s in his hand” over and over. He then proceeded to let the ruling on field stand because there was no camera angle in which he could actually see the ball. I’ll be damned if every football fan hasn’t gone through that exact same process during every questionable fumble they’ve ever seen. I love being able to watch and hear the replay ref make the call.

3. No peeks behind the Iron Curtain

The Birmingham Iron defense in incredible. Oddly enough, the run defense is average (127 ypg), but the pass defense is absolutely insane allowing only 112 ypg through the first two games. Some quick math here (I am an engineer after all) tells us that the Iron Curtain is allowing only 239 yards per game. That is tops in the league.

4. Are running backs back?

Multiple teams were carried by their running game in week 2. Ja’Quan Gardner put the Fleet on his back and willed them to victory, despite his terrible quarterback, behind 15 carries for 104 yards and 2 fourth quarter touchdowns. He ran for 20 more yards than the Fleet’s opponent, the Atlanta Legends. Led by Kenneth Farrow II’s 13 carries for 74 yards and 1 TD, the San Antonio Commanders put up 175 yards rushing against the Apollos before they inexcusably abandoned the run in the 4th quarter. In the night game on Saturday, when both quarterbacks were struggling, the Express ran for 175 yards, and the Hotshots ran for 209. Zac Stacy became the first running back in AAF history to eclipse 100 yards when he ran for 101 on 19 carries for the Express.

5. Coaching Matters, A LOT

In the two closest games of the weekend, the Hotshots overcame a 12 point 4th quarter deficit to beat the Express, and the Apollos scored the last 17 points of the game to beat the Commanders by 8. The similarity between these two games? Both losing teams got vastly outcoached by superior coaches in the fourth quarter. I am on record not believing in Rick Neuheisel. I still don’t. But I would take a 12 year old who plays Madden with his friends sometimes over Mike Singletary. The guy couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag. We saw it with the 49ers. We saw it in Week one. We saw it again in the 4th quarter of Week 2. In the other game, Spurrier proved he is the best and most exciting coach in the league. He seems content to just outscore other teams. I love it. On the other sideline, the Commanders ran the ball with ease, and their QB probably should’ve thrown somewhere between 3 and 7 INTs. So, naturally, with the lead in the 4th quarter, they decided to put the game on the shoulders of Logan Woodside. He promptly threw a pick 6. The rest, as they say, was history.

6. MJD is coming into his own in the booth

During Week one, the broadcast teams were new also. You could tell they were feeling each other out, and they were vastly improved in Week two. If I am not mistaken, MJD and Marvin Lewis called two different games this weekend, one on each day. I am also not positive about this, but I’m pretty sure they had a different white play by play guy in either game. I know it was those two and Andrew Scilliano for the snoozefest that was the Legends vs the Fleet. They weren’t perfect; however, every time Scilliano spoke I felt like I was watching Sunday Ticket Red Zone on DirecTV, and MJD and Lewis kept the game watchable. MJD seemed a little timid in the booth in the first week, letting Lewis take the proverbial reigns. That didn’t happen in Week two. The two of them worked well together, including much back and forth complete with MJD obsessing over a running back who looked like a much worse version of him out there.

7. Quarterback Rankings

  1. Garrett Gilbert

    Gilbert had over 300 yards passing. The first time in Alliance history that anyone had done that. He looks to be in total control of Spurrier’s offense. He appears to be the best QB in the league by far.

  2. Luiz Perez

    Perez continues to be efficient for the Iron. He was 24/38 for 184 yards. No touchdowns, but more importantly no turnovers. He also escaped pressure a bunch of times and used his legs to his advantage. He is in this awful spot where his o-line can’t run block (Trent Richardson had 46 yards after contact but only 41 yards rushing), but his receivers have a horrible case of the dropsies. Hopefully Quinton Patton and company can figure out how to catch.

  3. John Wolford

    I am so not sold on Wolford it’s crazy. When Arizona got the ball back with 4:47 left in the third quarter, they were losing 12-6. Wolford was 8/15 with 57 yards and 2 INTs. That is a horrible stat line. He ends up 14/22 for 194 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. That is bolstered by a 64 yards catch and run in the 4th quarter. Wolford is also short, and he continues to get passes batted down at the line.

  4. Logan Woodside

    I will never understand why the commanders of the Commanders put the ball in his hands after the Apollos showed zero indication they could stop the run at all. Woodside rewarded the faith in him with a pick-6. That is going to overshadow how well he played in the first half/3 quarters. I don’t care what his numbers are because I will only remember this game for the 3 sentences before this one.

  5. Matt Simms

    He is fine. Just fine. He ended up 17/25 for 160 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. That is just fine. Just fine doesn’t win football games. See ATL’s 0-2 start for proof of that. Aaron Murray is the #LegendSavior. It’s only a matter of time before we see the much younger quarterback starting in the developmental league.

  6. Austin Allen

    It was obvious the coaching staff didn’t have much faith in Austin Allen. At times it didn’t look like Allen had faith in Austin Allen. It certainly didn’t help that he was trying to take down the Iron Curtain, which appears to be a very tall task. Under 50% completions and only 114 yards passing for Allen lands him at #6 on this list. On the bright side, he didn’t turn the ball over, and he only took 2 sacks.

  7. Christian Hackenberg

    I don’t really know what more anyone can say about how bad Hackenberg is. He ends up 14/25 for 102 yards. Singletary is going to have to find an answer without the initials CH.

  8. Philip Nelson

    That is all. Also, check how horrible the damn SkyCam is.

8. Power Rankings

  1. Orlando Apollos

    The Steve Spurrier/Garrett Gilbert/Charles Johnson combination looks terrifying. Johnson almost had 200 yards receiving. The Apollos had 10 carries for 12 yards before their final drive of the game. They scored 31 points with 12 yards rushing (6 of their 37 total points came from a pick-6). This offense is the least balanced but most explosive in the league. They have a legit passer in Gilbert, a legit number 1 receiver in Johnson, and THE HBC calling the plays. Defenses be ware. 

  2. Birmingham Iron

    The Iron Curtain is legit. The offense will come around.

  3. Arizona Hotshots

    The Hotshots got manhandled by the Memphis Express defense for 3 quarters. If Memphis had a QB, they would’ve won this game. I have no faith in Neuheisel or Wolford.

  4. San Antonio Commanders

    The Commanders coaching staff lands them at #4 on this list. They got completely out-coached in the 4th quarter by Spurrier. If they continued the momentum from the first 3 quarters, the Commanders are the #1 team on this list. The run defense looked fantastic until the final drive of the game for the Apollos. Everyone in the world knew they were going to run the ball, and the Apollos gained 54 yards on only 8 carriers.

  5. Salt Lake Stallions

    This whole season is going to be “what could have been” for the Stallions. The defense played really well against the Iron, but the offense couldn’t get anything going through the air. They will continue to rely on their running game. Hopefully, Woodrum gets healthy or Allen gets better.

  6. Memphis Express

    The defense was great again. They held the explosive Hotshots offense in check as long as they could. The Hotshots had 0 points at halftime, 6 points after 3 quarter, and only 20 points on the game. That’s a great performance. Unfortunately, Zac Stacy couldn’t overcome Christian Hackenberg, and the Express lost again.

  7. San Diego Fleet

    The ONLY reason that the Fleet are ranked above the Legends in this list is that they beat them yesterday. Philip Nelson is so, so, so bad. So bad. Gardner put this team on his 5 foot 7 inch back, MJD about creamed his pants watching the guy run, and they got lucky that Atlanta is more poorly coached than the Fleet somehow. The Fleet had to call timeout on their second play from scrimmage to avoid a delay of game. At home. Martz has clearly lost his touch. It looked like the offense was running plays that were designed to be run out of the shotgun, but Nelson was under center. The center went to Georgia Tech (who runs the triple option which is exclusively snapped under center) and didn’t play last week. Is it possible that Martz doesn’t trust the center to snap a shotgun snap consistently?

  8. Atlanta Legends

    It was by sheer coaching malpractice that Atlanta lost last night. Nelson was the worst player on any field this weekend. Atlanta should have sold out against the run, but, instead, they got dominated by a guy who might not be tall enough to ride rollercoasters. Just give the Atlanta fans what they want: former UGA QB Aaron Murray, aka the #LegendSavior.

 

About the Author: I am Michael Pappas, aka THE @CouchPaptato, and these are Views from the Couch. Not necessarily my couch. Usually my couch…because I don’t often leave my apartment. I have a really great couch. Any couch is great though, I don’t discriminate. My home couch is in Dallas, TX, but for the last 5 years my butt has happily been couching in Auburn, AL. Hit me up on twitter or at couchpaptato@gmail.com and let me know what the view is like from your couch. Or how stupid the view is from my couch.

My View from The Couch: AAF Power Rankings Week 1

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The AAF ceremoniously kicked off its inaugural season this past weekend. There were ups and downs, but, all in all, the weekend went well for the AAF. Like any sports league, some of the games were better than others. In Week 1, coaching and QB play dominated. The games were a fun experience with the coaches and players wearing microphones. The most interesting part of the game is the perceived partnership with the NFL and which rules may one day be adopted. The Sky Judge was definitely the most intriguing and focused on change that the Alliance included. If there was a onside-kick-conversion-thing attempted this weekend, then I completely missed it. After the successtul opening weekend each team has only one game, so this is the perfect time for me to rank them. Here’s my view from the couch:

1. Birmingham Iron

They didn’t have the biggest win of opening weekend, but they did have the most impressive win. The Iron tallied the league’s first shutout and posted almost 26 points of their own in the process. Quarterback Luis Perez threw for 252 yards and played much better than expected for a former Texas A&M-Commerce quarterback who bowled in high school. Former Alabama star Trent Richardson added 58 yards and 2 TDs. WR Quinton Patton had a big game with 107 yards on 9 targets. The offense looked poised and moved the ball well. The reason the Iron are number one in these power rankings is because of the defense. The defense dominated. Jonathan Massaquoi was nearly unblockable, tallying 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss. The defense forced 3 turnovers. Head Coach Tim Lewis had the new Iron Curtain ready to play, and next week we’ll find out if they can lock down a team that isn’t quarterbacked by Christian Hackenberg.

2. Orlando Apollos

The highest scoring team of the weekend, Steve Spurrier had the Apollos offense firing on all cylinders. The Apollos won 40-6. Garrett Gilbert was the best quarterback of opening weekend. The only reason that they are being ranked #2 is that they gave up 6 points, and the Iron got a shut out. This team is going to be a force to be reckoned with if the Spurrier-Gilbert combination keeps rolling. I don’t think its unfair to say that Spurrier was probably the highest thought of coach in the league coming in, and he proved it this weekend.

3. Arizona Hotshots

Anyone who watched the Rick Neuheisel years at UCLA could not have felt great for the Hotshots coming into this AAF season, but the team with the best looking logo and the weirdest looking uniforms put on a great performance yesterday. Neuheisel surprisingly went with John Wolford over Trevor Knight as his starting quarterback, and Wolford rewarded him with 275 yards and 4 TDs. The offensive explosion resulted in a 38-22 victory over the Stallions. The defense was not as good as the offense and allowed Salt Lake to stay in the game throughout despite the Salt Lake starting quarterback pulling a hamstring in the 2nd quarter. It was the most fun game of the weekend, and the Hotshots played well enough to get the W and rank 3rd on this list.

4. San Antonio Commanders

The Commanders were okay in their 15-6 win, which was enough to get them 4th place in these rankings. The offense was not very good, but the defense picked off Mike Bercovici twice and Philip Nelson once. Unfortunately, the Commanders starting quarterback threw 2 picks of his own. The Commanders are only the #4 team because they won their game. The offense made too many mistakes. The defense bailed out Logan Woodside. The only team from Texas isn’t going to be able to rely on the defenders forever. We all know what happened the last time a squad tried to defend San Antonio. (that was a joke about the Alamo).

5. Salt Lake Stallions

I wanted to put Salt Lake at #4 on this list, but their starting quarterback, Josh Woodrum, got hurt in the second quarter of this game and did not return. We barely know is Woodrum is good, and we certainly don’t know whether or not Matt Linehan is good. I am just guessing that if Woodrum was the starter he was better than Linehan. Add to that the fact that this team lost, and they just couldn’t be ranked ahead of the Commanders. The defense gave up 38 points to a team quarterbacked by a guy who appears to be 5 foot 6 and got every other pass batted down at the line. The Stallions muffed a punt and two of their touchdown drives were aided by multiple illegal defense penalties.

6. San Diego Fleet

The good: the defense gave up 15 points and caught 2 interceptions. The bad: the offense scored 6 points and threw 3 interceptions. The ugly: they used 2 different quarterbacks, and they both sucked. The defense lands the Fleet the #6 spot only because the two teams below them didn’t have a defense or an offense.

7. Atlanta Legends

The offense only scored 6 points and that wasn’t the worst part of the performance from the Legends. The defense took the cake on this one, giving up 40 points. 30-year-old Matt Sims threw two interceptions and got replaced by Aaron Murray, who promptly threw an interception of his own. Mike Vick, the ex-OC, left the team the week before the game, so it isn’t all that surprising that the offense wasn’t great, but the defense should’ve been much better than it was.

8. Memphis Express

Wait, you mean to tell me a team coached by Mike Singletary and quarterbacked by Christian Hackenberg isn’t good? I am shocked. The coaching job that Singletary had before the Express? Trinity Christian Academy. TCA is a small private high school outside of Dallas, TX. We heard all week “Hackenberg fixed his mechanics and is going to be a great QB!” He did not. He was not. He ended up getting pulled from the game in favor of Brandon Silvers which was a weird decision in itself because Zach Mettenberger is also on the team.

For Chiziks, Family and Football Run Deep

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An exciting time has arrived for numerous high school athletes throughout the country. The second season of an early signing period opened Wednesday, December 19th. For Auburn High standout Cally Chizik football has been a significant factor and teacher throughout his life.

Most notably, Cally’s father Gene Chizik who was a hot commodity as defensive coordinator at Auburn before moving on to become co-coordinator of the Texas Longhorns’ defense during their 2005 national title run is no stranger to success. The elder Chizik was hired again by Auburn, the second time though as head coach, and in 2010 under his guidance with an experienced roster alongside the dominance of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley led Auburn back to the promise land — a national title.

It was the program’s first national championship in more than fifty years.

Cally Chizik, who had numerous roles on Auburn High’s squad, was primarily a shut-down corner, but also a wide receiver and the team’s punt returner. He will take his talents to the next level as a member of the Furman Paladins.

While the younger Chizik lacks prototypical height some schools crave, he is not short on football acumen and radiates passion. It’s that reason some believe he would do well to follow in his father’s footsteps as a coach when his playing days end.

For now, it’s a new beginning. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last you hear from Chizik. After all, it runs in the family.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: John Wild AO Tourism

Riley’s Ramblings: Improvements Auburn Baseball Needs To Make Before Taking The Field Against Missouri

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Auburn baseball dropped two out of three to a good Kentucky team last weekend which made their record 21-5. Even though it was an exhibition matchup, Auburn’s win in the Capital City Classic in Montgomery should provide some momentum for the Tigers going into another SEC matchup this weekend against Missouri. Casey Mize pitched well enough to win on Friday as he pitched seven innings with five hits, two earned runs, and twelve strikeouts, but a ninth inning comeback by the Wildcats off of Calvin Coker resulted in a loss. Davis Daniel pitched well in a 4-3 Auburn victory on Saturday, but Tanner Burns lasted just two innings with a tough Kentucky offence in a blowout loss.

 

Despite losing the series, Auburn can still learn from mistakes. Auburn’s bullpen and clutch hitting needs to sharpen up a lot if Auburn wants to be successful in conference play. Over the weekend, the Tigers left a total of 21 runners on base. Auburn finds a lot of situations in which their RBI guys are at the plate with runners on, and can’t cash in.

 

Even with the series loss, Auburn is still respected by both Baseball America (9th) and D1 Baseball (13th) in their polls this week. Auburn is back at home this weekend against an unranked Missouri squad. Missouri is still a solid SEC opponent with a 19-6 record and won last weekend’s series over Mississippi State at home. However, they are not nearly as talented as Texas A&M and Kentucky are, so as long as the Tigers come through with key hits with runners in scoring position, Auburn could look to sweep at home on Easter weekend which would be a huge momentum boost for them before a tough road series against Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Blackerby Breakdown: Nate Craig-Myers will see a lager role in 2018

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Over the last third of the season a year ago, many Auburn fans were screaming to see more of wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers in Auburn’s passing game. With some damage being done to the Tigers’ receiving depth over the course of spring practice, Craig-Myers may see an even larger role in Gus Malzahn’s offense this season.

In Auburn’s game against Mercer last year, Craig-Myers was used at a pretty high clip as he was a fixture in Auburn’s offense on that Saturday. He was able to make a difference in a couple of different ways but in this edition of the Blackerby Breakdown, let’s look at what he can do to improve his game for next season.

Fight for the football

No offense to Mercer’s defensive backs but Craig-Myers should have been able to come away with this football. The Mercer defender rips the ball away from the receiver and goes into the stat sheet as an interception against Jarrett Stidham.

Win 50/50 balls

Larger-framed receivers are expected to be able to win contested matchups. In 2018, Craig-Myers was not able to consistently win in these situations. He has a chance to be looked at more in 2018 in the redzone and help out Stidham. In the play above, he should have been able to convert this situation into a reception and in 2018 he will have a chance to do just that.

Step up


This last point is not a gif (obviously) but on Tuesday’s edition of The Auburn Podcast, host Zac Blackerby talks about how Craig-Myers is a guy who must step up in Auburn’s offense in 2018.

 

 

PECK’S PICKS: END OF THE ROAD FOR AU HOOPS

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The first weekend of the NCAA tournament was a bloodbath. My bracket looks like Iwo Jima. I’m not even upset though, because the basketball was so consistently thrilling. From upsets like UMBC over Virginia and Buffalo over Arizona to amazing finishes like Loyola-Chicago/Tennessee and Michigan/Houston, the first four days of March Madness reminded everyone why it is one of the most entertaining sporting events on the calendar.

Unfortunately, Auburn’s run came to an end earlier than fans would have liked, as Clemson beat Auburn (I’m sure getting tired of saying that) in commanding fashion, 84-53. The game featured Auburn’s worst performance of the season, as the good Tigers went nearly two hours without making a shot. That might not be true but I’m not looking it up. I’m treating the stats on that Auburn/Clemson debacle like they’re the Ark of the Covenant.

As disappointing as the end of the season turned out to be, it’s impossible to deny that this was a historic season for head coach Bruce Pearl and his team. Auburn was one of the country’s most moribund major conference basketball programs when Pearl arrived. Former AU athletic director Jay Jacobs famously suggested that Auburn should bulldoze its arena and grow some crops if Pearl couldn’t build a winner. Even before two of its best players were suspended for the entire season after an assistant coach told the FBI that he helped procure illegal benefits for them (ALLEGEDLY), Auburn was expected to finish near the bottom of the SEC – as usual. Instead, they finished with a 26-8 overall record and won the regular season SEC championship.

The season was extraordinary, despite Auburn fading down the stretch and losing five of its final eight. The most obvious reason for the season’s derailment was the gruesome injury to center Anfernee McLemore, an imposing presence around the rim who was most likely on his way to winning the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Auburn’s frontcourt was already thin, and losing McLemore was simply too much for Auburn to overcome.

With the entire roster of contributors from 2017-2018 expected to return next season, there will be more anticipation for the 2018-2019 season than any year in recent memory. After the Clemson game, Pearl hypothesized that Auburn’s three-man backcourt started feeling pressure and stopped sharing the ball effectively after McLemore’s injury. If Pearl can get everyone on the same page again, Auburn competing for an SEC championship won’t surprise anyone next season.

QUICK PICKS

– The injury to Auburn WR Eli Stove – also known as “Niceville High School’s Eli Stove” – will open even more playing time for the less-prominent backs and receivers on the roster. Stove was Auburn’s go-to guy for the jet sweeps and other receiver-centric run plays that Gus Malzahn loves to deploy, and finding a suitable replacement will become one of the priorities of the spring. WR Marquis McClain (a Northwest Florida guy, just like Stove) and RB Devin Barrett could be two of the most likely candidates.

– I had Arizona winning it all, but Buffalo played so well in its upset victory over the Wildcats that I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for the Bulls to pull it off and continue pouring it on.

– I know it’s boring to pick the reigning World Series champs to repeat, but the Houston Astros only got better in the offseason. Every impact bat on the Astros is still young, while adding Gerrit Cole to an already formidable rotation will make it even more difficult for the rest of baseball to catch up.

Until next time!

Riley’s Ramblings: Pitching Key in Auburn’s First SEC Road Series of the Season

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Another successful series went into the books for Auburn Baseball over the weekend against Texas A&M, as the Tigers took two out of three in their SEC series opener. The series win propelled Auburn to a number six ranking in the latest Baseball America Top 25 Poll on Tuesday after being in the thirteenth spot last week and is ranked ninth in D1Baseball’s poll from Tuesday.

 

Despite a tough 6-4 loss at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, the Tigers still hold an impressive 19-3 record (2-1 in conference) going into their first road conference series of the season at Kentucky. Kentucky is currently 15-6 on the season and just got swept by Arkansas in the first series in conference play. Despite getting swept, Baseball America has the talented Wildcats ranked eighth and D1Baseball has them ranked sixth in the country.

 

This weekend’s series will be a true road test for the Tigers in early conference play. No series is an easy one in the SEC, which is undoubtably the toughest conference in college baseball, especially on the road. Kentucky has been led offensively so far this season by their red hot infielder, Luke Heyer. Heyer is batting .365 with 27 RBI and leads the team with ten home runs. The Wildcats are defiantly a team led by their offense, as they have outscored their opponents 190 to 114 so far this season. The heart of Kentucky’s lineup led by Heyer, T.J. Collitt, and Tristian Pompey can be extremely lethal when they get hot. Kentucky has already hung up double digits in ten of the first sixteen games played this season.

 

That means that Auburn’s pitching staff and deep bullpen will be key to win the series. Casey Mize will put his perfect 5-0 record on the line on Friday afternoon. It did not seem possible for Mize to pitch better this season than last season, but so far he has looked virtually unhittable for the Tigers with a 1.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts. If Mize can turn in a good start in Lexington on Friday, it will give Auburn a huge push to win the series on the road.

 

Davis Daniel and Tanner Burns are both looking for bounce back starts after disappointing starts in the Texas A&M series. Neither of them pitched poorly enough to not give their team a chance to win, but a deep quality start from Daniel and Burns would give the Tigers a great chance to come home with a second conference win on the season.

 

Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7

rhubbard@aunetwork.com

Riley’s Ramblings: Auburn Basketball Needs To Learn From Mistakes and Auburn Baseball’s Series Against Texas A&M Shows They Are a Contender

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A win is a win, and although it wasn’t pretty in round one, the four-seed Auburn Tigers are getting ready for a Sunday night match up against Clemson in the round of sixty-four. Auburn needs to focus on fixing their mistakes from their game on Friday afternoon which included a lot of bad shooting from the Tigers. Auburn shot just 35.6% from the field and a feeble 20.8% from behind the three point line. Most people can agree that Auburn is lucky that their ability to get turnovers (21) and a bit of poor shooting from Charleston kept them from getting upset in San Diego.

 

Just because they struggled on Friday does not mean that they are likely to lose to the number five seed Clemson on Sunday night. Auburn needs to quickly learn from their mistakes because another shooting performance like Friday night would likely end the tournament run. Clemson took down twelve-seed New Mexico State on Friday by a 79-68 final to punch their ticket to the round of thirty-two. Auburn will be tasked with slowing down the hot shooting Tigers which shot an incredible 55.9% from the field (42.9% from the three-point line).

 

Currently, Clemson is a 1.5 point underdog, but Auburn will need to get hot shooting the ball because when they get momentum on offense (which was rare on Friday) they are hard to beat. (6:10 tip on TBS)

 

With March Madness going on, SEC conference opening weekend was almost forgotten. After another excellent start from Casey Mize (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER) on Friday and a blowout eighth inning highlighted by a Steven Williams grand slam on Saturday, Auburn has already won the series against Texas A&M. Texas A&M is not a slouch either- The Aggies are ranked ninth in the country by D1 Baseball and tenth by Baseball America. Auburn will send Tanner Burns to the mound on Sunday to try and finish off the series sweep, which would be huge for Auburn going forward (1:00 first pitch on SEC Network+).

 

Auburn’s record is now pushed up to an impressive 19-1 (2-0 in SEC) with five series win including Texas A&M. The SEC is undoubtedly the toughest conference in the country with eight of the fourteen teems in the Baseball America Top 25. Behind one of the best aces in the county in Casey Mize and a solid offense, the Tigers look like they can be one of the best teams in the conference. Casey Mize has made every series opener for Auburn feel like a guaranteed win and deserves a lot of credit. Mize is currently 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 51 strikeouts in five starts. He is shown incredible swing and miss stuff and threw the first no-hitter from an Auburn pitcher since 2003. This team is a lot of fun to watch and based on the first two games of the Texas A&M series, is going to be a tough out for other teams around the league.