First thoughts on Auburn

This article on Texas A&M pondering changes on its coaching staff after the season ends caught my eye in sort of a misery loves company way, but I found the analysis of what happened in the Aggies’ game against Auburn more interesting.

Texas A&M is not a bad football team. However, when you get this deep into the season desperate teams can work hard to ascertain your weaknesses, analyze them, and figure out a way to exploit them.

Saturday afternoon, you saw a Arkansas team fighting to make a bowl game pull out a stunning overtime victory on the road over an Ole Miss team that had more incentive to win and should have been better across the board. It just speaks to how motivated coaching staffs can be when jobs are on the line because a team is perceived to have underperformed and how players feed off of that energy from the top down.

Saturday night you saw the same thing happen with A&M and Auburn. Auburn had to have that win in College Station or else they were not going to make a bowl game which is quite a fall for a program that was rated in the top five before the season and had made the publicized staff hire in the country in defensive coordinator Will Muschamp…

“When jobs are on the line…”.  Hmmm.  That do sound familiar.

The article breaks down TAMU’s shortcomings, which were temporarily masked by the South Carolina win (that, too, sounds familiar).  On offense,

… Thus, for all of the talent in A&M’s offense, where do the explosive plays come from? Early on, they came from Kirk’s legs. Against South Carolina, Murray either generated them or was such a threat that he opened up the field for others. Outside of Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil, who both go up and get the ball, A&M really doesn’t have anyone to generate explosive plays, especially unscripted ones. A&M had one long play over 20 yards versus Ole Miss and just two against Auburn.

It also doesn’t help that when A&M has made changes this season that they lose patience if those things start to slow down and revert back to things that don’t work, particularly those rollouts and bootlegs where they pull a lineman or H back. Those players lack the mobility and coordination to make those blocks on the perimeter which means that quarterbacks come under duress and turn the ball over.

A&M gets little push in the running game or misses blocks on a consistent basis. Running back Tra Carson is playing the best ball of his career. He’s running hard and his pass protection is very good. He’s even doing the best he can going outside even though he’s between the tackles runner. Even so, A&M had a second and one near the end of the first half the other night, ran three straight plays, and didn’t gain a yard. They missed multiple blocks in the process on the three plays and even couldn’t make the first down when they had Auburn outnumbered in the box and used a H back and running back to block for the quarterback.

I hear him on the lack of explosive plays and the blocking problems.  As I’ve already mentioned this morning, I don’t know if last week is a sign that Georgia is getting a handle on the latter, but there’s a chance that running for 300 yards against a Kentucky defense that isn’t very different statistically from what the Dawgs face this Saturday is a good sign.

As for the defense,

Defensively, A&M has had issues against the run all season but for some reason they really weren’t noticed until the South Carolina game at home. The Aggies have been giving up almost 250 yards a game since the Arizona State game and it was always blamed on something that they hadn’t seen before or the linebackers (which have been a convenient scapegoat all season).

Unfortunately, when you give 311 yards rushing, it finally seemed to hit home with people that the lack of defense has been a team effort. A&M used six people in the box less than ever the other night versus Auburn but it didn’t matter. Their containment, run fits, and punch have been lacking all season as a group, not just at the second level of the defense. In addition, A&M’s opponents are all using different means to run the ball (Alabama’s power rushing, South Carolina’s quarterback run game, and Auburn’s wing T principles out of the spread) and continue to pile up their best or second best efforts of the season running the ball. That doesn’t happen if you are doing what you need to do.

As a result, A&M’s safeties have been called upon to make tackle after tackle and it culminated in a 39-tackle effort at the Ole Miss game between Armani Watts, Justin Evans and nickel Donovan Wilson. Not only do they rank as the leading, second leading, and fourth ranked tacklers on the team but Watts is the only defensive back in the top 15 tacklers in the SEC.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been Georgia’s problem for the most part this season.  On average in conference play, Georgia’s defense is far stouter against the run than is A&M (3.87 vs. 5.54).  As inconsistent as Georgia’s tackling has been this season, it’s nothing compared to how poor TAMU looked in that department against Auburn.

I mentioned in my SEC Power Poll that there’s a real question about how much of Auburn’s win last weekend could be attributed to its own improvement and how much was a mirage built on the Aggies’ sagging fortunes.  This is what I’m talking about.

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58 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Georgia Football, SEC Football

58 responses to “First thoughts on Auburn

  1. PatinDC

    Makes me wish we were playing TAM this week.

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  2. A&M is teetering on the brink right now. They have a QB issue with Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen hating each other. I assume Allen is gone as he wasn’t even the second guy off of the bench yesterday. They play zero run defense and have done so for years. Sumlin is making $5 million a year to win absolutely nothing. I wonder if the shine off of him is gone re: NFL overtures. If not, he may want to look to get out.

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    • PW, good analysis. I wonder why more people don’t give Sumlin grief for underachieving. He has recruited like a fiend in the hotbed of all recruiting hotbeds and has made TAMU a place to go. You don’t see the WWL talking heads beating up on him.

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      • Over the last 4 years only LSU, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame have more 4- and 5-star recruits. And he’s regressing.

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      • The other Doug

        TAMU plays in the West and that’s the toughest division in CFB. Can you imagine how bad we would be if we played in the West? Yowzah!

        Sumlin needs to tighten up the defense, and Chavis should be the guy for that.

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      • Greg

        UGA would have had no choice but to kick Richt to the curb many years ago if we were competing in the SEC West. It’s a whole different world than the East. Richt has been able to survive since the whole division has been down for many years, but he hasn’t taken advantage of the situation as the last 3 years have shown with Mizzou winning the division twice and now UF this yar with a first year head coach.

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    • Will (The Other One)

      I thought the problem was Allen was good early, but is injured now?

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  3. Great info, as always.

    My own, less profound, “first thoughts” on those people are: (1) I hateses them to their gutses, precious, and hopes we beatses them eleventy billion to none; (2) if that doesn’t happen, the Orange Doom Trifecta (i.e., losing to UT, FU and AU in the same season) will have been visited upon Mark Richt for the first time ever, and on our Dawgs for the first time since ’99 (when we also lost to the Nerds). To my mind, that’s much worse than missing the SEC champ game.

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  4. Macallanlover

    Not sure the SC win made me think TAMU was stout, it seemed to expose a soft under belly that showed how vulnerable they are. They will continue to be competitive against all comers as they continue to benefit from Texas HS recruiting as UT’s problems make them a question mark. With Sumlin and Chavis on board, it will only get better; A&M may be the biggest ongoing threat to Bama in the West, more so than LSU. Sumlin would be my top choice for the coaching job at UGA should Richt leave, but I don’t think we could get him to leave TAMU.

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    • With Sumlin aboard it will only get better? You shitting me, Clark?

      2012: 11-2 (Manziel)
      2013: 9-4
      2014: 8-5
      2015: 6-3 with LSU on the road left.

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      • Biggus Rickus

        Exactly. He had a nice first season, and otherwise they’ve gone 4-4, 3-5, and are currently looking at 4-4 or 3-5 in conference play.

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        • RocketDawg

          I don’t get the Sumlin love. He has 2 less SEC Championships than Richt and 5 less division championships. Without Johnny Fooseball he is pretty average.

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        • mp

          I thought at the time that Sumlin was making a big mistake not listening to the NFL offers (or offers to go to someplace like USCw). Sure seems like he caught lightning in the bottle for a couple years, but is coming back down to earth.

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        • Russ

          But he coached at Houston, and everyone knows that Houston is the cradle of great coaches!

          Okay, I’m being sarcastic. Sumlin certainly looked good starting out. His predecessor, Art Briles, has done fairly well. I know lots of people are touting Tom Herman. So, I guess I don’t really have a point. Other than to just post something.

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    • Mayor

      Sorry, Mac. While you and I disagree sometimes on issues I have always respected your opinion before. Unfortunately, not this time. Sumlin would be a bad hire of galactic proportions.

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      • Macallanlover

        It’s all good, I expect there are many differing opinions on coaches but that is mine. Doesn’t matter anyway, we don’t have an opening, and could not lure Sumlin even if we did. Really like him, and also respect the A&M program and traditions. Hope they do well, and expect they will.

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  5. Biggus Rickus

    The LSU game skews Auburn’s numbers quite a bit. They’ve been consistently mediocre against the run otherwise, but not as bad as Kentucky’s been lately.

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    • Auburn gives up 4.2 YPC and 14 total rushing TDs against teams not named LSU.

      That number jumps to 4.78 YPC and 19 TDs if you add LSU in. My god did LSU hammer them.

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    • Russ

      The thing that skews my perception is that game against Jacksonville State that they absolutely should have lost. At home.

      I know everyone has a game like that occasionally, but still, Auburn looked terrible. I suspect they aren’t as bad as they looked, and we certainly found out we weren’t as good as we looked. I think it will be a fairly even matchup, and I’m counting on Richt continuing his voodoo on the WarTurkeyPlainsBuzzards.

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      • Biggus Rickus

        He has had Auburn’s number for the most part. The last time they lost an even matchup was 2005. We’ll see if that trend continues. I’m not confident that the offense will do enough to score many points, and it’s entirely possible they’ll make some mistakes that cost Georgia the game.

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      • Mayor

        Also, as it has turned out, Jacksonville State has one of the best teams in the FCS this season. It would not surprise me at all if they won the FCS playoff.

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  6. charlottedawg

    Sorry if this jinxes us but i feel very confident against our remaining schedule including auburn. Mark Richt is to auburn and tech what Florida is to him. In the past ten years we’ve only lost to auburn when they had a national title contender or we had a concussed tra battle. and even with crappy teams in 10 &13 we still almost beat them.

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  7. Jared S.

    Last week’s victory began our 18-0 run! Buckle up for next year! It’s the second coming of Bobby Bowden, bitches!!!! (That was Eternal Optomist Me. Realist Me says, I hope we don’t get embarrassed by Georgia Tech again. Womp womp.)

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  8. UGA85

    With Kentucky, we could run the ball without any passing attack. Call me a pessimist, but I just don’t think we can do the same with Auburn. I think we will need to pass to open up the run.

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  9. Bright Idea

    I worry about Auburn’s window dressing getting our young defenders lost and they hit some big plays. Bobo and Richt usually had some success against Muschamp but who knows now. I recall Stafford running free in 06.

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    • Russ

      Our defenders were younger last year, weren’t they? And we beat Marshall like he stole something. I’m looking for more of the same from our defense. It’s our offense I’m worried about. We may win 7-3. Or 3-2.

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      • CannonDawg

        Sure, I’d take 7-3 or 3-2. In fact, I’d take going to overtime deadlocked at 2-2, kick a field goal and win 5-2. Then again, I wouldn’t object to beating them 47-17 and seeing only red in their stadium late in the 3rd quarter..

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  10. My initial thoughts: I like drivin’ in my truck.

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  11. sniffer

    So, you think we win?

    You heard it here, folks. The Senator says we win Saturday.

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  12. mg4life0331

    They sucked on D since they came into the SEC. They just cant outscore people anymore with a QB. Chavis will have them playing better soon. Once again, at least they have hope.

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  13. WarD Eagle

    The difference in the game, from an AU perspective will be LB/DB play on defense. AU’s linebackers are not very good run stoppers, especially against a good back. They are often out of position, just blindly miss tackles, and can’t seem to play in the box well. The DBs are a well-known quantity. Although they’ve picked off some passes this year, they still get torched and heaven help them if Michel gets past the linebackers.

    On offense, they need to call the game like last week, run, run, run, and throw short passes. Death by 1000 plays is how it works. If Jeremy Johnson starts and is asked to throw it deep, especially against a cover two, your DBs will have a field day. AU needs to let it ride on the line, H-back, and running backs.

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    • Biggus Rickus

      McKinzy is a solid linebacker. Otherwise, I agree, the back seven is pretty rancid for Auburn. Attacking the edges with the run and the middle medium area of Georgia’s pass defense seems to be the most likely strategy for success. Of course, I still can’t figure out how Georgia managed to completely stifle Auburn last year after the first drive, so analyzing how Georgia has played to date may not tell us much.

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