TigerEye Review – Week 5

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

TigerEye Review – Week 5

Improved Performance Edition 
I’ve mentioned before that early games of the season can often times be deceiving in terms of efficiency and performance. Teams like Vanderbilt, Missouri and Mississippi State looked incredibly effective in opening games, leading the rest of the conference with squads firing on all cylinders both offensively and defensively. But those halcyon days of summer have evaporated and those teams are looking nothing like their early season potential would indicate. That MSU offense line struggled with no fewer than seven false starts on Saturday and the early season media darling Nick Fitzgerald was repeatedly frustrated on offensive drives on the road in both Sanford and Jordan Hare stadiums. That Vandy jalopy that ran so well early on is now on up on blocks in a Nashville driveway after two stunning and head shaking losses, with even more difficult games in store ahead. 
Other teams in the conference seem to be on separate competing circuits. First, there are those who seem to be doing everything right these days both offensively and defensively – Alabama, Auburn, Georgia are all seemed poised on the verge of greatness. Florida and Texas A&M have seemingly overcome their early losses and are well on the way to positioning themselves as spoilers of their respective divisions. Then there are those who have shown significant problems but seem to be improving somewhat slowly – Arkansas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina all have shown flashes of potential but still have troubling engine or transmission problems. And then there is the rest of the conference who seem to be just spinning their wheels on the side of the road or who might be off the course entirely – Both Mississippis and Missouri are here, along with the smoking wrecks of the once proud Tennessee and LSU programs.  
On the Tiger side, the formerly given-up-for-dead Auburn passing game in Atlanta against Cousin Clem has been re engineered to near Heisman-like numbers – 80% passing efficiency, a strike-from-wherever-and-whenever offensive capability (57 yards on a 1st down from the 1 foot line) coupled with a defense the likes of which we haven’t seen grace the Plains in over a decade.
The purr and power of this Auburn team’s engine is a sweet, sweet sound these days. 
Good thing too, as the road ahead is a long and hard one. Both Alabama and Georgia have surged ahead of the rest of the conference, both in wins and efficiency. This turn of events is fast making for an interesting end of the season. Of the three teams, Auburn will have the toughest and longest race to the finish line. Anything short of winning both Amen Corner games will likely leave the Tigers spun out of the Southeastern Conference Title game. Even if they get to that title game, it will likely mean a fast paced drag race with either a very tough Bulldog or a rapidly improving Gator team.
And if the Tigers get to that stage? A further rematch with Clemson in the playoffs or a knock-down drag out with a surging Penn State or Ohio State team and THEN a rematch with Cousin Clem – a race that leads through no fewer than five white-knuckle hairpin curve games out of the last six against top ten or even top five ranked teams. 
That is one heck of a track for the team to travel. Successfully negotiate THAT path and the title of ‘National Champion’ will be well and truly earned by these Tigers, and it would be a crime not to crown Chip Lindsey with the Broyles award and Quarterback Jarrett Stidham the Heisman trophy. 
But that challenge is still far in the future. For now, let’s look at the numbers so far.


I don’t know if we can still call this the Gus ‘Bus’. Maybe the Lindsey Lamborghini?

The SEC West



Separation is beginning to occur between the upper two teams of the division and the remainder. Arkansas and Texas A&M are still showing potency on offense, but the two Mississippi programs are reeling from two disastrous weeks of conference play and their numbers are showing abject failure to either move the ball on third down or score when in the red zone. And LSU? Stuck in the basement and with three games against ranked opponents in the next month, two which are on the road. That might leave the Bayou Bengals in danger of missing a bowl appearance for the first time in the 21st century. The last time that happened was 1999 under Gerry DiNardo.* 



Auburn and Alabama are playing at the top of the NCAA on defense. Both Kevin Steele and Jeremy Pruitt are giving a class on what quality game planning, adjustment and execution with talented athletes at all positions can achieve week in and week out. Neither defensive has really played a bad game, Colorado State and Clemson matches notwithstanding. The rest of the West is in trouble, though. Both LSU and MSU have shown troubling stretches in recent games, and just about anyone can score on the remaining three teams in the West.

The SEC East



Georgia and Florida are both pulling ahead in terms of efficiency, with recent numbers showing significant improvement, but the pace of that change is still somewhat slow. Neither team is out of the woods, so to speak, and ‘average’ is the most common term that could be used to describe them. The rest of the East? Downright pitiful. Vandy and Kentucky are showing their lack of depth and quality of athletes, but what are the excuses being offered for Mizzou, South Cakalacky and that Sanitation Worker convention at Knoxville? When you host your two biggest division rivals at home and manage to record just seven first downs, it’s time to re-evaluate everything you once knew about your offense.



Not that these numbers on defense are that impressive considering the significant losses each team outside of Athens has suffered. Georgia’s dominance of the East is all but assured given a decent game against Florida’s suspect defense. Even a loss to Auburn won’t keep them out of Atlanta if they just keep to this level of efficiency. Florida could play spoiler to that plan, but it’s an outside chance at best. The rest of the East simply can’t be expected to compete for anything but second tier bowl games by the look of it. 

The State of the Conference


Only three teams are now showing the potential to reach the playoffs from the Southeastern Conference. Of those three Auburn has the longest and most challenging road, having to play both of the other two during the regular season. While the rest of the conference will still have games they can play to upset that trifecta of excellence, there is definitely an ‘outside looking in’ aspect to the remainder of the conference. If this continues at this rate until November, expect the Amen Corner to be the deciding contests for who goes to an dominates the big dance at the end with the rest of league simply hanging on for the scraps left over.

But however it ends, these last few weeks have been an absolute joy watching a fast, hard hitting Auburn defense and an explosive offense win game after game. It’s been a little like watching Sullivan-Beasley light up the scoreboard again while those staunch Tuberville defenses that made ‘the Auburn game’ a week of trepidation and dread for opposing teams in the early ‘aughts of the last decade. Here’s hoping this ride continues all the way to Atlanta. 

*1999 was also the last time Auburn beat LSU in Tiger Stadium, prompting my favorite joke of that season as Louisiana Tech upset Alabama 29-28 the same weekend (Sept 18, 1999).

Question: “Who feels worse after Saturday’s losses? Alabama coach Mike Dubose or LSU coach Gerry Dinardo?”

Answer: “Mike Dubose. Gerry at least got a sympathy hug from his wife” (Dubose had recently settled a $300,000  out-of-court infidelity case involving his former Athletic Department secretary.)



It’s hard not to like this latest turn of events

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