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GAME DAY: Auburn vs. Vanderbilt

Hey everyone. Getting it going. I rolled in without incident, as is customary for these 11:30 kickoffs. Hard to get fired up this early in the morning. How do you think Vanderbilt feels? Surely they play a LOT of early games.

I'll pass that one down to the research department.

Thanks for visiting the HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net.

--------GAME COVERAGE--------

AUB -- 35
VAN -- 7

AU (1st, 7:02) -- Ben Tate 4 run (Wes Byrum kick)
AU (1st, 2:55) -- Rod Smith 2 pass from Brandon Cox (Byrum kick)
AU (2nd, 14:24) -- Mario Fannin 22 run (Byrum kick)
AU (2nd, 3:29) -- Brad Lester 17 run (Byrum kick)
AU (3rd, 8:57) -- Lester 5 run (Byrum kick)
VAN (4th, 4:57) -- Cassen Jackson-Garrison 1 run (Bryan Hanfeldt kick)

Third quarter review: You can see what's happening. Auburn's offense got on a big roll there in the first half and that's a wrap. Vanderbilt has played better with backup quarterback Mackenzi Adams in the game. Still doesn't matter. The Tigers' defense is using some third-team guys and VU still isn't having much success. There was so much push along Auburn's offensive front today. That's what stood out on offense. S Zac Etheridge has been the defensive star today.

Of note is the appearance of LB Joshua Bynes and CB Ryan Williams. They were redshirting. They played today, which means they no longer are redshirting. Auburn needed some depth at linebacker with Tray and Merrill out. But cornerback? I'd like to hear the reasoning on that.

First quarter review: Auburn is getting a great push up front. Tyronne Green pushed his man to the opposite side of the field during a second-possession play. It's nuts. Brandon Cox is 6-of-6 right now. It's all clicking right now. The defense has forced a pair of three-and-outs already. Vandy has held the ball three times so far.

Early update:LB Tray Blackmon is not playing. Safety Aairon Savage also is out. Blackmon is struggling with that ankle. Bo Harris has been playing a lot at linebacker to compensate. Ben Tate and Mario Fannin started together. Brad Lester was subbed in during the first drive. Fannin and Lester are lining up as wideouts far more often than usual today. The first scoring drive was pretty innovative.

News of the day, 10/5

Hey everyone. Sorry for my tardiness. Awful. Had some contractors rolling through the house today. I was not aware things like this were going down. As Tuberville likes to say when asked about rumors: "I'm the last to know." The difference: I really am.

Thanks for breaking off a minute or two to peep the HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net.

I had a reader ask yesterday about Auburn's strength of schedule so far. The BCS rankings and associated computer polls/models won't be released for a few more days. One guy who gets his stuff out there early is Mike Greenfield. His stuff is pretty kooky. He ranks Auburn's strength of schedule at 36, which seems a tad low. It's pretty evident that South Florida, Florida and Kansas State are good teams. The Tigers have played some of the best teams around.

Here is his current set of overall power rankings, which has Auburn at No. 10. Mississippi State is at No. 5. I told you it was kooky.

We'll have a more complete answer on Sunday when the BCS data is released.

News of the day, 10/4

Hey everyone. Not much going on. Ever since the "Worst-Kept Secret In The World" debacle from a three weeks ago (Kodi Burns replacing Brandon Cox), game-week information seeps out much more slowly.

DE Antonio Coleman was saying that he believes Quentin Groves will be back for the Arkansas game next week. The follow-up scan on Groves' dislocated toes confirmed that he suffered no structural damage. Those toes will be sore for a while. It'll be a matter of when the pain subsides enough for Groves to feel somewhat comfortable on the field. He was on the practice field Wednesday working one-on-one with a trainer. At least he's out there.

It sounds like LB Merrill Johnson is getting pretty close. He has missed a month after suffering a shoulder injury against Kansas State. DC Will Muschamp said he's particularly careful with shoulders because they are so susceptible to re-injury. My guess is that Johnson returns against Arkansas.

Thanks for surfing in to see the HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net.

Small recruiting note: Auburn commitment Reggie Hunt, a tailback at Daphne High, will be on ESPN2 tonight. Daphne and Foley are playing on national television beginning at 8 CDT. Also of note is Foley WR Julio Jones. The Tigers want him badly. So does everyone else.

Wes Byrum’s 43-yard field goal on the final play of Auburn’s 20-17 upset victory at Florida last weekend has earned Auburn the "Pontiac Game Changing Performance" Award. The announcement was made on ESPN Thursday night. Auburn won the award with 62 percent of the votes cast.

The game was tied when Byrum was called upon to attempt the winning field goal with three seconds left. His first kick was nullified by a quick timeout call by UF coach Urban Meyer. Byrum calmly knocked through a second attempt to win the game.

Auburn will receive a $5,000 contribution from Pontiac toward the school's general scholarship fund. The Tigers now are eligible for the "Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the Year" Award, which carries an additional $100,000.

News of the day, 10/3

Hey everyone. I had a good time yesterday talking with Eddie Gran about Antoine Carter. Gran recruits south Florida. Carter is from Ft. Lauderdale. Gran said Carter's family is one of the most respectful groups of people he's ever met. Dad is career military. Mom works for the post office. I liked Gran's synopsis so much that I wrote a story about Carter for today's editions.

Check below for the link.

So what are people talking about? I'm getting emails about Brad Lester. People want to know how much he'll play against Vanderbilt. I say he gets 12 carries for 72 yards and one touchdown. Remember that he's never before been a featured back. Well, never for more than one game. Tuberville wants to work Lester in slowly.

We're exuberant here at T.H.A.B.O.T.N. headquarters because you again have arrived for a peek at The HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net. We have been expanding our international reach since the Tigers' win over Florida.


I'm surprised by the relative lack of publicity generated by S Zac Etheridge. I know I'm partially responsible for that, but I've never received a single question about the kid. He's been the team's No. 2 defensive producer this season behind another underrated guy in CB Jerraud Powers. Talk all you want about the linemen and LB Tray Blackmon. A lot of those guys are good, too. Those top two defensive backs, though, are the ones playing the most dynamic roles: Pass defense and run defense.

Speaking of Blackmon, did you even notice him against Florida? I watched him a few times and he was getting caught up in the "garbage" along the defensive front. He didn't make many plays. I didn't think that ankle injury was all that bad. I was wrong. Blackmon at full speed is an excellent play-maker. He's just not there right now.

LT King Dunlap has played with more vigor during the past week or so. I think he'll get a chance to play during the next few weeks. Ryan Pugh is the starter and will stay there as long as he a.) keeps producing and b.) C Jason Bosley stays healthy. Big Snacks Berry is listed as the second-team C, but it's really Pugh.

News of the day, 10/2

Hey everyone. It's the second day of the week, so you know what that means: "Tuesdays with Tommy." I'm sure he'll have plenty to say at his 1 p.m. press conference. Make it an emphasis to ease back after 1:45 to see what Tuberville says about the issues of the day.

I was researching Vanderbilt yesterday for late-week stories. That's a pretty good team. In a position-by-position breakdown, I gave VU the advantage at WR and LB. I could have gone with QB as well, but a normal Brandon Cox is a tad better. Vanderbilt is excellent along the defensive front as well. With Quentin Groves out, I thought about giving Vandy the check there. Really, though, Quentin has been the third-best lineman behind Antonio Coleman and Sen'Derrick Marks. Maybe fourth behind Pat Sims. Auburn got the check.

Anyway, beating the Commodores isn't an easy task anymore. I told you last week that Auburn was going to play well down there. Now I'm telling you: Vanderbilt is going to play tough at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

I know. I said no more prognostications. I failed. So it goes.

Here is your weekly "Tuesdays with Tommy" excerpts:

*On seeing famous kicker Al Del Greco in the audience: "Hey, Al. How are you doing?"

*On moving forward: "The challenge in front of us is to get over that game Saturday."

*On practice today: "We didn't have a great practice, so we did a few things to get their attention."

*On needing to improve: "We didn't play a great game. We played a good game. If we had played a great game, it wouldn't have come down to the end like that."

*On injuries:
"It's getting pretty serious with the injuries. It's hard to improve when you don't have guys out there in practice. This is a team sport. Guys don't just come out there for a couple of days during the week and be ready to play. We don't have the depth we had earlier in the year."

*On Vanderbilt: "They've had some bad luck. It looks like the luck is changing to their way."

*On Bradley Lester: "He won't start. He'll have a role to play. This is the first game of the season for him. First games are tough because you're usually not in playing shape even though he has been practicing a lot."

*On his team's recipe for success: "We've won around here with kicking and defense for a long time."

(EDIT: Auburn led the SEC in scoring during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.)

*On Rod Smith: "We didn't throw the ball to Rod nearly as much as we should have during the first couple of games."

*On DE Sen'Derrick Marks: "He probably could play linebacker. He couldn't play on the outside, but he could play in the middle. He has a tremendous attitude."

*On the South Florida loss: "We should have won that game."

*On the "interfering with a catch" call during the Florida game. Auburn submitted a formal inquiry into that decision on Sunday: "I usually hear back on Tuesdays, but I haven't gotten (an answer) back yet. I'm sure I'll get a long explanation on that one. I'm anxious to see what they say."

*On his behavior following the call: "I didn't realize how far out on the field I was."

*On not recruiting former Alabama Player of the Year Chris Nickson, Vanderbilt's top quarterback and native of Brundidge: "We weren't looking for that kind of quarterback at that time."

(EDIT: Auburn began recruiting Kodi Burns less than a year later.)

Tuberville created a itty-bitty dose of buzz during the press conference by saying there could be "one or two" changes along the offensive line this week. As Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story: LT Ryan Pugh is really a C by trade, so coaches want to give Pugh some time at center. That means King Dunlap might have a chance to run with the second-team offense this weekend. That's the big change.

News of the day, 10/1

Hey everyone. Check below for today's information. The players take Monday off for the most part, so I don't expect much in the way of exciting news.

Thanks for setting aside some time to peruse the HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net.

Auburn's Oct. 13 game at Arkansas has been picked up by ESPN2. Good news: It's on HD. Bad news: I have to fly out of Tulsa at 6 a.m. the next morning.

With DE Quentin Groves (toes) out for at least two weeks, a few lower-profile players will be thrust into a more central role. The first is someone you probably know: Antonio Coleman. He was a third-down rusher last season. He has expanded his repertoire this season to include reliable work against the run as well. His production has slipped during the past two weeks, though. Not sure why.

The second guy is freshman Antoine Carter. He took over for Coleman in that third-down role during the season's first month. Now he'll be that third guy (Sen'Derrick Marks and Coleman start) and will get a lot of playing time. Carter is fast and pretty refined when it comes to sliding away from blocks. The problem is that he's 17 years old. He told me Sunday that he's up to 240 pounds or so. Going against 330-pound offensive linemen is going to be a tall order.

Here is my weekly AP Poll ballot. It has been derided by Boston College fans, who think the Golden Eagles should be much higher. I'll concede that No. 20 probably is a tad too low. I think 12-14 is probably more accurate. I'll adjust accordingly if BC wins this week.

1. LSU
2. Southern Cal
3. Cal
4. Wisconsin
5. Ohio State
6. South Florida
7. Kentucky
8. West Virginia
9. Oregon
10. Missouri
11. Florida
12. Oklahoma
13. Georgia
14. South Carolina
15. Hawaii
16. Virginia Tech
17. Arizona State
18. Cincinnati
19. Texas
20. Boston College
21. UCLA
22. Purdue
23. Kansas State
24. Michigan State
25. Auburn

News of the day, 9/30

Hey everyone. What a game. I'll have more to say about this later, obviously, but I have to get myself from Gainesville to Auburn first. I voted Auburn at No. 25 in the AP poll (ballots are due at noon on Sundays), which probably will make some people call me a homer. Isn't that funny? Anyway, I think Auburn deserves it. If not for that MSU loss, the Tigers probably would be in the top 10 right now.

Tuberville said after the game that his team is "back in the race." I don't know what that means. Race for the SEC? Really?

Thanks for stopping by to peep the HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net.

Tuberville said TB Tristan Davis is out indefinitely with a broken bone in his right foot. That's the same foot that kept him out of the first four games. He'll undergo surgery tomorrow in Birmingham. Also, DE Quentin Groves dislocated three toes last night. Tuberville said the initial x-ray didn't reveal any damage. Groves is due for a second exam on Monday. Provided that scan doesn't show anything unexpected, Groves' timetable is probably two weeks.

Here are your top defensive producers from the Florida game. Players are given points for doing significant things correctly. They are docked points for missing assignments, missing tackles, penalties or loafing:

CB Jerraud Powers -- 23
CB Pat Lee -- 23
DE Sen'Derrick Marks -- 17
SS Aairon Savage -- 14
FS Zac Etheridge -- 14
S/LB Eric Brock -- 11
DE Quentin Groves -- 10

Powers -- 101
Marks -- 92
LB Chris Evans -- 88
Etheridge -- 86
Lee -- 82
Groves -- 79
DE Antonio Coleman -- 71
DT Pat Sims -- 71

Powers, Etheridge, Marks -- 5
Lee, Brock, Coleman -- 4
Savage (missed two games), Groves, Evans, Sims -- 3

Here are your team defensive goals for the AU-Florida game.

Win: YES, 20-17
Allow 13 pts or less: NO, 17
Allow 3.3 yards per carry or less: YES, 3.3
Allow 5.0 yards per pass or less: NO, 7.58
Create at least 3 turnovers: YES, 3
Allow no big plays (defined as 15+ rush or 20+ pass): YES on run (0); NO on pass (3)
Allow no TDs inside "red area": NO, 50%
Force opponent to convert less than 30% on 3rd down: NO, 39%

Also, Florida's YAC (yards after catch) number was 78.

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