It’s Time: Opening Day In Auburn

It is a mere matter of hours before the Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks kick off their 2014 seasons. Anticipation and anxiety walk hand in hand as we approach what promises to be a most exciting football fall. It’s time!

There is little in sports more exciting than your team’s first football game of the season. School is back in session. The first hints of autumn have barely begun to reveal themselves. A few leaves have fallen. The sun has taken on a slightly perceptible difference. High schools have already taken the field for their openers, and the familiar sounds of marching bands practicing have piqued the memories of Fridays and Saturdays in days past. It’s time!

Saturday, August 30th, orange and blue clad faithful will converge on Lee County, Alabama by the thousands. They will be joined by throngs of supporters from The Natural State… Arkansas. It’s time!

Magnets will have been affixed to every shape, form and fashion of vehicle. Flags will be flying. Tents, ice chests, grills, food and children will also have been loaded into these cars, trucks, SUV’s, buses and RV’s. Their sound systems will emanate with recordings of games past. Fight songs will blare loudly through open windows as the battle cries of both sides permeate the east Alabama landscape. It’s time!

They will come from the cities of Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile. They will also make the trek from communities like Camden, Ft. Deposit, Pell City, Eufaula, Anniston and Autuagaville. They will come to create the sixth largest city in Alabama. They comprise the Auburn family. It’s time!

Tigers Rags, Toomer’s Drugs, Flowersmith’s, Five Guys, Ander’s, J&M, Mellow Mushroom and the local watering holes will all be teaming with patrons. They will be seeking to find that piece of memorabilia that just might prove to be a lucky charm. They will be fitting themselves with this year’s “uniforms”. They will be eating. They will be drinking. They will be seeking to occupy the hours, minutes and seconds that separate them from 3 PM Central Daylight Time. It’s time!

The parking lots and lawns, throughout the campus and beyond, will become villages of navy blue and burnt orange with smoke billowing and the smell of burgers, brats and chicken titillating the appetites of the masses. It’s time!

Laughing and squealing kids will be tossing footballs, chasing each other and pretending that they are the next Nick Marshall, Sammie Coates or Corey Grant. Even adults will don jerseys with the numbers like 34, 24, 2 among them. It’s time!

High definition televisions, equipped with satellites and driven by generators, will broadcast the games that will kickoff before and after the beloved Tigers take the field. Observer’s eyes will be affixed to the flat screens hoping to gleen a glimpse of a future opponent or check the score of a game they might have placed a wager on. It’s time!

A Volkswagon bus, garishly smothered in the home team’s colors, shakers and stickers, will roll down College St. as ‘War Eagle’ booms from it’s mounted siren style speakers. Cheers and shouts will affirm the passers-by familial bond with those in the mobile shrine. It’s time!

Long time friends and acquaintances will renew and relive the times, many or few, that they have shared on The Loveliest Village of The Plains. Past victories will be relished and the pain of defeats that occurred in days gone by will be dulled by liquid “spirits” and the indomitable “Spirit” that is unique to Auburn. It’s time!

The tailgates. The band. The Tiger Walk. The first announcements from the PA system startling the hordes. It’s time to get things in order. It’s time to pack up. It’s time to get your game face on. It’s time for that last snack or drink to brace yourself for the grand event that all have come to share and support. It’s time!

It’s time to make that old familiar hike to that old familiar place. That place where countless thousands have shared unbridled joy and gut wrenching sorrow. Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s time!

It’s time for football!

Auburn Football!

Oh yes! Football! There is that matter of the game that is to be played.

The Auburn Tigers vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks.

SEC football.

West division foes.

The game promises to be physical. For the home team it promises to be fast. Auburn Fast. Fortunately for Auburn, they are deeper and more talented with more experience than Arkansas. That bodes well for the Tigers. It won’t be easy but the home team will prevail.

Auburn 42 Arkansas 20.

It’s Time!

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2014 SEC West Division Champions: The Auburn Tigers

When one begins a discussion of the SEC West it often begins with Alabama. The Crimson Tide has proven their worth over the past seven seasons under head coach Nick Saban. Everyone knows what they have accomplished and those accomplishments have been extremely impressive. They don’t rebuild, they reload. The majority of pundits and prognosticators are, once again, picking Alabama to win the West. That’s fair.

Any debate over who will win the West has to include LSU. The Tigers have won the division three times since Les Miles arrived in the Red Stick back in 2005. They won the BCS National Championship in 2007 in spite of losing two games. LSU has lost a ton of talent to the NFL over the past few years. They lost ELEVEN underclassmen just last year to THE LEAGUE. LSU also just reloads and they have a lot of talent, per usual, but they have to replace their quarterback and fill many other slots as well. This does not appear to be THE year for the Bayou Bengals.

Texas A&M exploded on the SEC scene in 2012 with Johnny Manziel behind center. The Aggies had two very good seasons with Johnny Football as the signal caller but Kevin Sumlin’s team could not capture a division title. They will not in 2014 either.

The two Mississippis, Ole Miss and State, are receiving a lot of platitudes for the coming campaign. They both do appear to have solid teams. But the fact remains that Ole Miss has never won the West and State has only won it once and that was back in 1998. Both teams should make some noise this season and could pull a couple of upsets to make the Wild West just that, but neither will take home the crown. Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen will have to continue to build those programs in order to have a serious chance at a title.

Arkansas. The Razorbacks play what coach Bret Bielema refers to as “Normal American Football”. That phrase is a bit of a head scratcher as many of us are not sure just what the phrase means. Bielema is building a foundation in Fayetteville and the Hawgs will be a better football team in 2014 but they absolutely will not take the West.

That brings us to Auburn. The Tigers will win the SEC West in 2014.

My reasons for picking Auburn to go to Atlanta in December are plenteous and not altogether without bias. But hey, all of us have our prejudices and presumptions, and we often wear our allegiances on our sleeves. Good… let us begin.

Without boring you with black and white statistics that you can find anywhere, I’m going to give you my three primary reasons why I think Auburn will come out on top in the West.

MOTIVATION

This most unlikely aggregation came within 13 seconds of winning the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena last winter. How many people thought that would happen? I think the answer is somewhere near zero. Not even the most blindly optimistic of us even considered that a possibility.

Coming up just shy of a crystal football did not deflate these Tigers. All it did was instill a deep hunger to return to the title game. This is one motivated football team and they are on a mission… believe me. The 2014 edition of the Tigers is a more experienced, and a more talented football team than it was in 2013. They have more quality depth.

In essence Auburn will have a better team than it had last season and that spells trouble for the rest of the SEC, and for the entire college football landscape.

MARSHALL

Now this is where it truly begins to get scary. As good as Nick Marshall was last season, he will be much improved for the 2014 campaign.

Marshall is a freakish athlete with a raging inferno of a desire to win. He is brilliant and deft in commandeering this offense, and he is a magician in executing the zone read. Now that he has had a full season, off season, a spring, and a summer to further grasp the offense, and polish his passing skills, there is no reason to think he will not be the best quarterback in the SEC.

Finally, Nick Marshall could emerge as a bona fide Heisman candidate and could very well be Auburn’s fourth player to bring home that hardware.

MALZAHN

The final, and possibly the most integral, piece to Auburn’s return to the Georgia Dome in early December is its head coach… Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn is, arguably, the best game day tactician in college football today. But as good as he is on football Saturdays, his attention to detail in practices, his relentless work ethic, and his will to win, combine to make him a guy that is extremely hard to beat.

When you take all of the above factors and combine them with a coaching staff that is exceptional, you have a formula that will lead the 2014 Auburn Tigers to Atlanta and, yes, beyond.

Georgia vs. Miami: Who Got The Best Deal?

If you follow college football at all, by now you know that the University of Georgia has hired Alabama defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart to be their head football coach. You also know that the University of Miami has hired, recently deposed, GEORGIA head coach, Mark Richt as their CEO.

Welcome to this edition of “As the Coaching Carousel Turns: Dawgs and Canes”, or “Sanford or South Beach?”, or “Hedges or Hialeah?”.

At any rate, we could all join ole George Jones in singing his classic, “The Race Is On”.

The race IS on for NCAA football coaches all across this great land. It’s kind of like a Whack-A-Mole game. And for those of us who eat, breathe, and sleep college football, particularly FBS football, we’re dang near giddy.

Now back to the business at hand. I’ll pose a question to you. Who do you think got the best deal, the Dawgs or the U?

Hmmmmmm… right? Or no?

For me, the immediate answer to that was, The U!

That was my initial, gut response. And my first response, if asked, as to why I thought that Miami was getting the best deal is this… Mark Richt is a PROVEN winner as a HEAD coach in the SEC.

His record is 145-51 for a .7397 winning percentage. That’ll round right up to 74%. I was a bad ass in arithmetic. Now I’m not too shabby with calculators.

That’s for starters. More at 10 PM!

Richt is also, by all accounts, a great guy. And a good Christian. That DO help, maybe, but give me a Wiccan who wins football games and I’ll be just fine.

Ahem, Richt has won two SEC Championships and five SEC East titles. He was named SEC Coach of the Year twice and was a finalist for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year in 2002.

Richt is one of only five men in NCAA Division 1A history to record 132 or more wins in his first 14 seasons as head coach. Other guys on that short list? “Big Game” Bob Stoops, Tom Osborne, and Gary Patterson.

The only coaches to win two SEC titles in their first five years? Frank Thomas at Alabama, 1933-’34. Bernie Moore at LSU, 1935-’36, Vince Dooley at Georgia, 1966-‘68 and Mark Richt 2002-’05.

Now that’s just a smattering of info from his days at UGA.

You can go to the University of Georgia Official Athletic Site, as well, and read much, MUCH more. Thank you GEORGIADOGS.COM.

See! I did all the heavy lifting!

Now, how about Bainbridge, GA native son and first team all-SEC defensive back, Kirby Smart? A Georgia grad.

Do you think that defense at the University of Alabama is pretty darn good? Well, Smart has been defensive coordinator there for for the past seven years. He has been on the staff there for nine years.

Smart was named the 2012 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year and he took home the 2009 Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.

His defense, in 2011, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), scoring defense (8.2 ppg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg), passing defense (111.5 ypg) and passing efficiency defense (83.69 rating).

That’s JUST the 2011 season!

Nick Marshall completed 27 of 43 passes for 456 yards and 3 touchdowns as Auburn amassed 630 total yards and 44 points against Smart’s defense in the 2014 Iron Bowl.

Oops!

NOOOOOO! I kid! Just funnin’ with ya’!

Smart has also been an integral part of 3 SEC Championships and 3 BCS National Championships, to date.

Suffice it to say, Kirby can coach him some D!

And that info above? You can traipse over to the University of Alabama Official Athletic Site, at ROLLTIDE.COM (OUCH), and complete your, already begun by me, search for info on the new Head Coach in Athens, GA.

AND… I don’t care if Kirby Smart is an atheist or a Buddhist. He is a defensive mastermind.

So there you have it!

Once again, I’m going with Miami as getting the best deal. Could I be wrong? Time will tell.

What say ye????