I don’t know about you folks, but I’m feeling it. I don’t know what kind of blood courses through your veins. I’m not sure if you’ve ever stepped on a football field and know the emotion that takes over. The mindset that nothing else matters except the next play. That’s where we need to be as fans too. What happened is irrelevant. It’s all about the next play. I think at this point you’re in one of three boats. Either you accepted defeat in February, you accepted defeat last week, or you’re like me. I’m ready to freaking go.
These last two mornings in North Georgia have been 51 and 53 degrees. I walked out to my truck and could see my breath both mornings heading to the office. It felt like actual football. It reminded me how hot and miserable the summer had been. It reminded me of all of the off-season drama and how hot a certain seat might be. The glory in all of that is I walked outside this morning and saw my breath. The heat faded, at least for now. What has happened up to this point does not matter. It’s about to get real.
Remember what you thought you knew coming into the season? Week one rolled around, and a few narratives changed. Now we’re really dialed in right? Then in week two, college football happened. Now that the craziness has taken place we know who is real and who isn’t right? Did Auburn look crisp against San Jose State? Absolutely not, but isn’t it great we get to critique what we think we know after a win instead of a loss? I’m sure Notre Dame and Texa$ A&M would love to complain about their close win against an inferior opponent. Thanks to Alabama having a similar week we can all pretend Texas is back again. That’s a story for another day.
What you think you know up to this point doesn’t matter. You don’t know how open Auburn’s playbook has been. You don’t know how vanilla Jeff Schmedding has kept this defense. I can count on one hand the number of blitzes I’ve seen. Have the coaches settled on rotations, personnel groupings, or quarterback packages? The only thing you know is you don’t like what you see because Auburn didn’t win both of its first games by 40. Me personally I am glad we faced a little bit of adversity before coming into a big game. I know some other programs probably wished they had done the same.
I know the old saying is your next game is always your biggest game, and I agree with that whole heartedly. This Penn State game just seems bigger. I’m not going to sugar coat it and tell you I think Auburn gets the win easily Saturday. I fully anticipate a back-and-forth high drama Saturday afternoon. However, I will say if Auburn plays mistake free football they will win. We saw two dumb interceptions and a roughing the punter call turn the Mercer game from 56-3 to 42-16. We saw two dumb interceptions turn San Jose State from 31-6 to a 24-16 game. No, it wasn’t as pretty as we had hoped, but all the pieces are there.
If Auburn doesn’t turn the ball over Saturday, Auburn will win the football game. I anticipate less of a quarterback rotation this week compared to the first two games. We will absolutely see Ashford Saturday, but I think it will be in more of a package role similar to what we saw in the 4th quarter last week. When the coaches see something they can exploit with his legs they’ll have him in and if we’re lucky Penn State won’t respect his throwing ability and he can take the top off. I expect to see a heavy dose of Tank and Hunter. Don’t be surprised to see Tank line up in multiple spots as Harsin is going to open the playbook. I expect our defense to play well and get pressure on Clifford all afternoon. If our offense doesn’t put them in bad positions they should hold Penn State under 20 points.
The parts are all there guys. It’s SEC football 101. If you can establish the run and not turn the ball over you’ll be in great shape. On the other side of the ball if you can stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback you will be successful. I’ll take our running backs over theirs. I’ll take our defensive front seven over theirs. TJ Finley plays a clean game. Robby is used at the right times. Auburn’s defense and Jordan Hare show out.
MAN I hope you are right!