I think they’re gonna need a bigger rabbit’s foot.

Give Bill Connelly a little credit.  As more and more people keep rushing to the exit door labelled “Auburn, playoffs bound“, Bill takes a more measured tack in describing Auburn’s prospects.

Auburn allowed more than 40 points per game in its five losses, and Malzahn elected to replace coordinator Ellis Johnson with Muschamp, the former Florida head coach. Muschamp’s Gator defenses were stout, and now he doesn’t have to worry about that pesky “managing the offense, too” thing.

With the way Malzahn has been recruiting, it’s easy to connect these dots. Malzahn offense (which should be prolific no matter who’s in uniform) plus Muschamp defense (angry and aggressive no matter what) plus star athletes equals success. And that makes sense.

But I do wonder if we’re rushing things. Malzahn and Muschamp should be able to create a high baseline, but with turnover on offense and potential depth issues on defense, are we really sure this team is better than Bama?

There are good reasons to ask that question:  (1) lots of turnover on the offensive side of the ball (depending on whether Williams returns to Gus’ good graces in time, they could be down to four returning starters); (2) depth issues on defense; and (3) speaking of Muschamp defense…

One other interesting variable: Muschamp vs. tempo. As Florida’s head coach, he employed a plodding offense that seemed like it was designed to buy time for the defense. Now he will be working opposite one of the most potent offenses in the country. His defense will be on the field more, which could create the need for more depth … which he might not have until 2016.

And in the end, that’s how you get to talking about karma and mojo in trying to analyze Auburn’s 2015.

It’s not impossible to see a top-five caliber Auburn running the table, easing by LSU and Arkansas on the road and finishing with home wins (probably dramatically) over UGA and Bama.

I’m struggling to picture that. While I’m not a betting man, I would have long ago learned not to bet on Auburn regardless. They turn when you think they’re going to twist, zag when most teams would zig.

But a team with normal karmic ebbs and flows, ranking somewhere in the top 10 or 15, would probably lose at least a couple of games here. In fact, despite a No. 11 projection, the Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (college-only version available for only $6 in PDF form) gives the Tigers only a 15 percent chance of finishing 10-2 or better. And no, mojo is not one of the projection factors.

It’s worked for Malzahn before, so who am I to say it won’t again?  But I think I’ll wait and see first before I rush to the exit.

(By the way, one thing about Bill’s stats that’s starting to drive me crazy is the way Georgia keeps popping up as the team that administered the worst beat down on an opponent’s 2014 schedule.  First Mizzou, now Auburn.  Sheesh, guys… how could you lose to Florida?)

22 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Stats Geek!

22 responses to “I think they’re gonna need a bigger rabbit’s foot.

  1. Jeff Sanchez

    On another note, are they ever going back to the home and away schedule with Auburn? I hate these even years now when we end the season with both AU and Tech on the road. Should always have one of them as the home finale. I assume the Tigers feel the same about UGA and Bama

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  2. !00% agree Jeff, one other thing that POs me about this is that AU got the 2 home games in a row to flip the schedule, why do they seem to always be the lucky ones? I actually used to like them as well as you can like an opposing team but “hose them tigers” changed that for me in a big way. Now I dislike them on equal standing with gtu.

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  3. Macallanlover

    Bill is wise to question how that five loss Auburn team can be a contender this year after losing Marshall as their QB, but then they have benefited from some very weird breaks. Can it continue? I wouldn’t bet on it, they seem to be at the lower end of that division this season. A 5th place finish seems more likely than a first.

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    • Their fortunes definitely regressed back the mean last year, but of the five losses, they had a shot in four of them. I count State in that total because some early turnovers created too big of a hole for them.

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  4. I think people are being a little rosy on Auburn (or anyone else this time of year). They pieces are there and the recruits are there, but they have to perform. This TEAM is unproven as are many of the players.

    We’ve had more than our share of 4-5 star players not pan out.

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  5. I love to crush those M&M between my teeth. It should be fun to see them crushed on plains in November by the Dawgs.

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  6. Brandon

    and South Carolina…. and Georgia Tech??? Last season sure was befuddling. USCe was a fluke with lightning delays, a phantom hold and two missed chip shots from a kicker that was otherwise money all year… not to mention the twisted chain first down that ran the clock out. The other two the common denominator was we got dominated up front and Hutson was never going to win anything for us with his arm.

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  7. DawgFaithful

    How could you get completely run over and doninated by Florida? is better wording.

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  8. I just don’t believe Auburn will be as good on offense without Nick Marshall. That kid was a slippery worm and just damn elusive to bring down. I have a hard time imagining they just plug another QB in that has his same talent set and pick right back up again.

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    • Gus Malzahn turned Chris Todd into the most prolific single season passer in Auburn history. As long as that man is calling the shots, Auburn will have a prolific offense regardless of the QB.

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      • I agree with Malzahn’s offensive game planning acumen and I think that the new QB will put up very good numbers. But there are so many analytics that point to them being a 4 or 5 loss team that is is weird.

        They are only team in the Top 10 replacing their leading passer, their top leading rushers, and their leading receiver. But they are given the benefit of the doubt because of Malzahn and the fact that their current starting QB played some last year.

        Auburn’s defense was horrific last year especially at the end. They bring in a new coordinator, add a DE returning from a torn ACL and a highly recruited/ranked freshman linebacker and suddenly they will be a defensive juggernaut.

        None of this makes sense and it is based on a supposed “magical” season in people’s crystal balls. Well here are some stats that don’t really factor into what will happen for this season but they are historical:

        Pat Dye’s 3rd season: 1984, Preseason Rank #1, lost 4 games, no SEC title
        Terry Bowden 3rd season: 1995 Preseason Rank #6, lost 4 games, no div or SEC title
        Tommy Tuberville 3rd season: 2001 Unranked preseason, lost 5 games, no div or SEC title
        Gene Chizik 3rd season: 2011 Preseason Rank #23, lost 5 games, no div or SEC title

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  9. Senator, I felt thujone’s Shamepaint post from Week 10 last year perfectly encapsulates what happened against Florida.

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  10. Donald

    Regarding this: “By the way, one thing about Bill’s stats that’s starting to drive me crazy is the way Georgia keeps popping up as the team that administered the worst beat down on an opponent’s 2014 schedule. First Mizzou, now Auburn. Sheesh, guys… how could you lose to Florida?”

    Don’t forget about Arkansas, the team Bill’s numbers rank as a top 10 team nationally last year! Doesn’t that impressive information somehow make you feel eeeeeeven more stabby?

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