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12.31.2009

Examining the Matchup, Part II

Hey everyone. Here's a more general look at the game -- including my prediction.

AUBURN vs. NORTHWESTERN
When: Friday, 10 a.m.
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Line: Auburn by 7.5
On the air: TV – ESPN. Radio — WLWI-FM 92.3, WMSP-AM 740


FOUR DOWN TERRITORY

1. Few believed Auburn would qualify for a meaningful bowl after losing its final two regular-season games. Circumstance (six Southeastern Conference teams finished with 7-5 records) and some good salesmanship from athletic director Jay Jacobs helped the Tigers seize an important opportunity. Coach Gene Chizik now has guided what appeared to be a struggling program into a New Year's Day bowl, which has to be considered a successful first season. Auburn administrators played a major role, but Gus Malzahn's offense and the players running it gave the Tigers an engaging, distinguishing characteristic.

2. Onterio McCalebb's first college season changed for good in September when he injured his left ankle during a fake punt. He spent the next two months trying to run without pain. It didn't happen. Without McCalebb, one of the team's fastest players, the running game dipped from epic to strong. Six weeks of treatment and relatively light training have given McCalebb confidence that his troublesome ankle no longer is an issue. If he's fully healthy in Tampa, Northwestern could be in for a long afternoon.

3. Ted Roof saved his best for last, devising a brilliant defensive scheme to slow Alabama's rushing attack. A dedication toward controlling gaps undermined the Crimson Tide's zone-blocking tricks and provided clear affirmation that Roof knows what he's doing. Was that a one-time deal? Roof will have Eltoro Freeman back on the strong side and his remaining starters, fatigued to the max after working 60 or more snaps per week during the fall, are as rested as ever. Auburn's defense wasn't very good this year. A strong defensive performance in Tampa should prompt fans to knock their 2010 expectations up a notch.

4. Chizik wasn't exactly a popular choice when named head coach last December. Yet the Tigers beat expectations by winning seven games and now have a chance to win eight. Players seem revitalized. Recruiting has gone well. Fans have been pleasantly surprised by the team's renaissance. Bowl games typically are considered hyped exhibitions, but Auburn isn't taking this one lightly. A program that markets itself as an up-and-comer needs to demonstrate that guile in Tampa. If the Tigers beat Northwestern, analysts across the nation will begin picking Auburn as an SEC contender this summer. Not bad for a coach who went 5-19 at Iowa State, no?


KEY MATCHUP
Auburn DE Antonio Coleman vs. Northwestern OT Al Netter

Coleman's season was bisected by a wrist injury that cut his production during October. He rebounded furiously in November and emerged as an NFL-caliber playmaker. That wasn't enough. Coleman, now six weeks after the cast was removed from his right wrist, is ready to prove his worthiness. It's almost money time. He'll be going against Netter, an accomplished tackle, in many of the difficult situations today. Netter is a sophomore who started all 12 games this season and showed consistency throughout. He's used to tough assignments. Still, Coleman may be the most difficult challenge of the season. If Netter isn't able to keep pace with Coleman's speed rush, quarterback Mike Kafka and the Wildcats' passing game will suffer. Northwestern desperately needs its passing game to function well today.


PLAYER OF THE GAME

Eltoro Freeman
LB, 5-11, 220, Soph.
Freeman's first year with the Tigers has been a disappointment. He struggled to earn playing time out of fall camp. Once he cracked the starting lineup, he was productive just long enough to feel comfortable before suffering an injury against Georgia. Freeman didn't play against Alabama. When healthy and focused, Freeman is a run-stopping terror. He's fearless. He hits with authority. He has enough talent to undermine Northwestern's run-game plans. Freeman so badly wants to be an every-down contributor and, to this point, he hasn't been that guy. Today could give fans -- and the linebacker himself -- a taste of what is to come during the next two years.

BY THE NUMBERS

-14 -- Auburn's fourth-quarter scoring margin this season

5.0 -- Yards per carry for Auburn this season, its highest average since 1986.

13 -- Auburn's rank among FBS programs in rushing offense this season

25 -- Fumbles by Auburn this season

41 -- Auburn's first-quarter scoring margin

50 -- Touchdowns scored by Auburn this season, double its 2008 output

80 -- Auburn's rank among FBS programs in rushing defense this season

323 -- Points allowed by Auburn this season, the most in school history.


PREDICTION

You know Auburn is a difficult team to predict. This group will play really well at times. Then it'll unravel. The degree of that unraveling determines Auburn's end-of-the-day fate and, honestly, that's a difficult thing to assess ahead of time. The Tigers look good to me. I sense a thirst for postseason excellence that hasn't existed at Auburn since the 2005 Sugar Bowl. This offense has certified its authenticity time and again. We all know Auburn will score. The question is if Auburn can stop the other team from scoring. Northwestern has a good team, but its strength is defense. The running game simply isn't there and Auburn loves hearing that. You know why.

Auburn 35, Northwestern 17

54 Comments:

Blogger scottie durden said...

FIRST?

3:09 PM  
Blogger E-Bro said...

Scottie with the Substance!!

3:13 PM  
Blogger E-Bro said...

After this post, though, the substance really belongs to Tate...JayG style.

3:15 PM  
Blogger coosa said...

Great substance, Jay, sure hope you are right on the score.

3:16 PM  
Blogger scottie durden said...

i was lacking with substance. JG brought it, though.

i highly recommend The Simpsons Arcade game on your iphone or ipod touch. i'm no good but it's fun. :)

3:17 PM  
Blogger E-Bro said...

And did we really have 25 fumbles throughout the season?

Ugh.

I know we didn't lose all of those, but let's do better (much better) next year, starting tomorrow.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Jet the Dancin' Gopher said...

Chili cookin' low and slow. The blue cheese dip is chillin'. Settlin' with a cup of coffee.

3:21 PM  
Blogger D. Miller said...

Here's to a Happy New Year to you all! War Eagle!

3:24 PM  
Blogger Ephemeral said...

As the sun that finally came out is moving toward the western horizon on the last day of two thousand nine, I wish all Hotties a Happy Twenty Ten.

War Eagle!

3:26 PM  
Blogger jhag said...

UFs top recruit 5-star safety Matt Elam switches to FSU today as I predicted moons ago...WOW Jimbo

3:26 PM  
Blogger Ephemeral said...

Jimbo with the substance.

3:28 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

That number of fumbles is disturbing. I think it was 1983 when we had 13 turnovers the entire season, that is fumbles and interceptions.

I like where this team is headed and I am guessing we will see our best performance of the season tomorrow. With the bull back, the linebackers should be fine, unless we have a sudden rash of injuries. The defensive line should have enough depth. The area of concern will likely be the DBs, but if Mike McNeil and Anthony Gulley are able to contribute there, I like where we are at.

Offensively, I am reading a lot into Tim Hawthorne's departure. I am thinking we will see Benton or Emory get significant touches.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Tar Heel Tiger said...

whatup

3:29 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

It is going to be hard not to become an FSU fan. I really am hoping Jimbo does well.

3:30 PM  
Blogger scottie durden said...

whattup THT?! hope Tampa is treating you well.

3:35 PM  
Blogger jhag said...

Theres nothing wrong with FSU...they take away from UF and Bama recruiting wise...their class is getting very very dangerous...2 Five Stars as DB's

3:37 PM  
Blogger scottie durden said...

SFC, you know once you mention FSU Jhag is going to pop up. :)

i hope Bowden goes off a winner tomorrow.

3:41 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

I am really excited about seeing Virginia Tech tonight. They are far and away my favorite ACC team. They have a great coach and it amazes me how the Hokies stuck with him. He started out having a tough time at VT, but has turned them into one of the great programs in college football. I don't know whether they have less fair weather fans or just a better athletic department than most, but it is amazing how patient they were with Beamer. He may end up being the next Paterno/Bowden.

3:43 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Scottie, I kind of have mixed emotion about Bowden. Initially I hoped to see him go out a winner, but they got in a bowl I don't think they really deserved simply because he is retiring. I fear that will cost them. West Virginia is a very good team.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Aubie said...

How come I have never heard of the packet?

3:46 PM  
Blogger Aubie said...

The packet is here:
http://www.wareagleauburn.com/WEAForum/index.php?topic=6162.0

3:47 PM  
Blogger Tar Heel Tiger said...

scottie - clutch performance on the prior thread! Made me very happy :-D

we had a great Thai lunch, then went strolling on the beach at Fort Desoto State Park, then went over the Skyway Bridge -twice. (I love bridges and had been over the original Sunshine Skyway, but not the "new" one that opened c1987).

We're all sleep deprived. 2.0 is taking a nap, LGG Byron is reading a book, and I'm checking up on all the Hotties.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Tar Heel Tiger said...

JayGT - your writing and analyses are always superb. Thanks for this fantastic Outback Preview.

3:51 PM  
Blogger scottie durden said...

i'm always around THT. :)

3:53 PM  
Blogger jhag said...

I doubt FSU can stop Noel tomorrow and without Ponder i dont see how they can win

3:56 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Those player comparisons at wareagleauburn are cruel and incensitive. I mean, really, comparing a player with a California Raisin?

But fortunately they are hilarious, so I am good with it.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

You are missing the parade THT.

4:00 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

That Stanford QB just nearly got his fullback killed.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Tar Heel Tiger said...

The number of parades I've not attended is too numerous to count. The number of parades I've missed is much closer to zero.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

But the Bob Jones High School Band, largest school in the state of Alabama, is there as is The Auburn University Band.

4:06 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Clowns attend parades. They are almost as dangerous as puppets.

4:08 PM  
Blogger NoVaTiger said...

I HATE Tennessee. The fact that they are coached by Kiffy makes it even easier. The fact that they are playing one of my schools makes it a no brainer.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Jet the Dancin' Gopher said...

Navy's defense is amazing. There are NO defenders on the line between the tackles. There are two ends outside the tackles and the nose guard is 2 yards off the ball standing up. They are daring Mizzou to pass.

4:10 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

I believed in Houston. Houston got a mud hole stomped in them.

4:10 PM  
Blogger NoVaTiger said...

As the father of a band member, I attend parades. The next one will be the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

4:11 PM  
Blogger auforme said...

This may have been discussed in previous thread. Tommy Tuberville, according to CBS, is interested in Texas Tech. To me, that is not a good match. I think that his jump ahead and then cling to the lead approach would drive TT nuts. It could be interesting b/c they share initials.
Also, some crazy responder over there said that CTT started losing games because of the players and how they weren't any good. Hmmm... Didn't we just have a winning year with many of the same players?

4:11 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Navy beating Missouri? Air Force beats Houston? What's next, dogs sleeping with cats?

4:12 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Tuberville has changed his strategy, as was evident last season. My guess is he hires a spread coach. As for last season, if we had kept Franklin, we would have likely won just as many games last year as this season.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

My daughter was in the BJHS band and several of them are now in the AU band. I also attend parades.

4:14 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Will someone please get this whining Mike "WTF" Leach off my television. Someone shut him up. You are fired. You are history. Get over it and stop whining like one of your player's fat little girlfriends.

4:15 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Sorry about that folks, but it needed to be said. I have had about enough of him.

4:17 PM  
Blogger NoVaTiger said...

I think CTT would do fine with a new staff built from the ground up.

I don't think Franklin staying would have improved last season. The coaches had lost players and nothing was likely to turn that around.

4:18 PM  
Blogger D. Miller said...

Newton has signed with AU.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

http://twitter.com/FootballAU

4:21 PM  
Blogger D. Miller said...

http://twitter.com/FootballAU

4:22 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

D. Miller, thanks for the twitter link. WHo posts those tweets? Is it the university?

4:28 PM  
Blogger Dadof3Girls said...

I believe it when I see it on a "real" site

4:29 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

I think Tuberville messed up getting rid of Franklin in the middle of the season. Our offense was pathetic afterwards. Franklin had to go at the end of the season, but dumping him in the middle just made things worse.

It is possible we wouldn't have done better because I think Todd was basically done at that point in the season. Would Caudle have become the guy? I don't know. I just know our offense because way to predictable and we lost to a very bad Arkansas team.

4:30 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Scouts is saying Newton made his choice. Anyone got a subscription?

4:32 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

His page doesn't show a commitment yet.

4:33 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Beaver is saying he picked Auburn. Beaver subscribes to the pay sites, so I imagine it is true.

4:35 PM  
Blogger SteveFC said...

Is is official. Cam Newton is a tiger.

4:37 PM  
Blogger NoVaTiger said...

Steve, come over to the new thread.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Dadof3Girls said...

Alright already, I now believe.

4:39 PM  

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