Let’s Tee It Up!

The wait is almost over. FINALLY! In just over 24 hours we will have some FBS football to feast our eyes upon, sports fans! And for those of us who reside below the Mason-Dixon line, we will have SEC and ACC football as the South Carolina Gamecocks, and their Head Ball Coach, will take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in Charlotte, NC. A nice little bonus game will pit the Vanderbilt Commodores against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

And… AND… TCU’s highly ranked Horned Frogs will pay a visit to the not-yet-frozen state of Minnesota to do battle with their Golden Gophers.

More? Yes! The Michigan Wolverines, now under the leadership of favorite son, Jim Harbaugh, will face the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City, UT.

There are several other games on tap Thursday, such as Duke and Tulane, but the games mentioned above are the nationwide biggies slated for Sept. 3.

September 3rd is also significant to me, for another reason, as Braxton and Edwina LeCroy, along with brother Jerry, welcomed Braxton Jr. to the world on that date in 1952. You good folks have come to know me as “Bird.” I’ll get into the origin of that nickname, that stuck HARD, later… maybe.

Bottom line? Some hootin’ and hollerin’ will take place at 116 Sundown Way in Acworth, GA on Thursday. But… BUT! That will be small potatoes compared to the noise generated from the Georgia Dome in Hotlanta on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM ET. For it is at that time that the Auburn Tigers will take on the Louisville Cardinals in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic!

Let’s tee it up!

Sixth-ranked by the Associated Press voters, Auburn has been installed as a 10.5 point favorite in another battle between SEC and ACC teams.

Opening games almost always tend to generate a great deal of excitement in their fan bases and rightly so. All of us have waited, quite impatiently, for this day to arrive. And for me, it is a day to reflect back on openers past.

I have had the privilege of attending 30 opening day tilts which involved my Auburn Tigers. My record stands at 24-6 in these games. Hey! That’s an .800 winning percentage. I’ll take it!

Now I would like to provide a brief take on a few of these ‘first game of the season’ brawls.

Auburn vs. Baylor – 1965

My first one and also the first time I had seen Auburn lose at Cliff Hare Stadium. My record at home, prior to this day, was a sterling 5-0. Neither team scored until quarter number four and the Bears struck first. They went up 14-0 and Auburn scored on the last play of the game on a pass from Alex Bowden to Freddie Hyatt. They tacked on a two point conversion to make the final score 14-8, Baylor.

Auburn vs. Southern Mississippi – 1970

My first as a student, an awkward freshman from Lower Alabama. Pat Sullivan began his best statistical season, on the Plains, and the Tigers handled the Golden Eagles, 33-14. Sullivan found Terry Beasley twice for touchdowns that afternoon. The game may not have been the biggest event of the day for me. I went to the late showing of ‘Woodstock’ that night, and the rest, as they say, is history. I found my calling. 😉

Auburn vs. TCU – 1981

This was Pat Dye’s opener as head coach of the Auburn Tigers. The field is now named after him. Ron “BBQ” O’Neal blasted in for two TD’s as the home team disposed of the Visitors from Ft. Worth, TX by a score of 24-16.

Auburn vs. Wake Forest – 1982

A true freshman running back from McAdory High School in McCalla, AL scored on runs of one and 43 yards to lead Auburn to a 28-10 win over the Demon Deacons. His name was Vincent “Bo” Jackson. You know the rest of the story.

Auburn vs. Miami – 1984

Auburn entered the game ranked number one in both polls on that balmy night in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. Miami was the defending national champion. This was an “extra” game dubbed the Kickoff Classic. Jimmy Johnson was the new head coach of the Hurricanes and his quarterback, Bernie Kozar, helped lead his team to a 20-18 “upset” of the Tigers.

Auburn vs. Virginia – 1997

My son, Luke, and I made the trip to Charlottesville, VA for the christening of the 1997 campaign. It was a great road trip and a big win for the visitors. Dameyune Craig and Karsten Bailey were electric, in this Thursday night clash, as they hooked up four times for 151 yards and the Tigers downed the Cavaliers, 28-17.

Auburn vs. Appalachian State – 1999

Tommy Tuberville’s debut as head coach. Auburn had dropped Florida State from it’s schedule and replaced it with the Mountaineers, and this one turned out to be far too close for comfort. Ben Leard had replaced Gabe Gross at quarterback and it took his 33-yard pass to Ronney Daniels with 38 seconds to play to pull out the victory.

Auburn vs. Louisiana Tech – 2009

Another head coaching debut with Gene Chizik at the helm. Derek Dooley was coach of the Bulldog’s at the time and was seen as one of the young “up and comers” in the coaching ranks. Auburn had one of these young “up and comers” as their offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn. It didn’t take long for his team’s record setting offense to get cranked up. Chris Todd hit Terrell “T Zac” Zachary on a 93-yard pass which helped the Tigers secure the win, 37-14, and this was the longest TD pass in Auburn history at the time.

Auburn vs. Washington State – 2013

Malzahn was now the head coach at Auburn and this was his coming out party. It was a very hard fought game but the Tigers managed to hold off the Cougars, and head coach Mike Leach, 31-24. Much to the surprise of the college football world, Auburn went on to, incredibly, win the SEC Championship and play for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, CA.

That brings us to the 2015 opener for the Auburn Tigers…

Auburn vs. Louisville

Folks, I think this one is going to be a real dogfight. Bobby Petrino will bring his Cardinals to the Georgia Dome solely focused on one thing, beating Auburn. His team is not to be underestimated. They will play with great intensity for 60 minutes. Auburn had better be prepared to do the same or they will find themselves on the losing end of this matchup.

This ball game, as is the case in most any, will be won at the line of scrimmage. I like the way Auburn’s D line matches up with Louisville’s O line. Look for Carl Lawson, Dontavius Russell, Montravius Adams and DaVonte Lambert to win this battle of the trenches.

I really like the potential of Auburn’s linebacking corps, as well. Kris Frost, Justin Garrett, Cassanova McKinzy, Tre Williams and JaViere Mitchell should makeup the backbone of a formidable group.

Louisville hasn’t named a starting QB, yet, but I think whoever it is may be running for his life most of the afternoon.

The Cardinal’s defense was very tough last year. They lost seven starters but have three transfers coming in that are very good and will play a big role in solidifying their D.

But I LOVE Auburn’s O line! This group has a chance to be the best since the 2010 group and they were one of the best in school history. And there is quality depth here also.

The Tiger offense should be very, very explosive with Jeremy Johnson at QB and a plethora of skill position players at his disposal.

The wide receivers are talented and deep. They will feature all-star candidate, Duke Williams, along with Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens and Stanton Truitt. One guy to pay attention to here is number 4, Jason Smith. The former QB could turn out to be a true weapon for the Tigers in a variety of roles.

Running backs? LOADED! Former Alabama Mr. Football and 5 star recruit, Roc Thomas, appears to be just a nose in front of Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson. Look for all three to play Saturday. Another guy to watch, here, is true freshman, and also another Alabama Mr. Football, #21 Kerryon Johnson.

Now, you can expect a Petrino coached team to score some points. He is a great game day coach. He will find a way to get his playmakers the ball and they could put up some big numbers. But Auburn defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, should find a way to limit those numbers somewhat.

The numbers that matter most are to be found on the scoreboard. I expect the first half of this one to see a change of leads and very close at the break. I also think that Auburn is more talented and deeper than Louisville and that will tell the tale in the end.

The bottom line…

Auburn 38, Louisville 24

Let’s tee it up!

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