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The Black Friday that lasts all year

November 27, 2009

Stores began opening at midnight for Black Friday. Brave (or crazy?!) souls stood in line looking for deals that would begin or complete their Holiday shopping. In Auburn, the only exception were the folks who just wanted to get their deal shopping out-of-the-way to avoid interruption of their game day festivities.

It is chilly this morning on the Plains. Chimineas’ and fire pits dot the tailgating and RV scene. Auburn fans are honestly, very subdued. You can’t blame it on the crisp air – even at a sunny 60 degrees yesterday there were far more disgusting cries of “Roll Tide” than comforting “War Eagles.” And yet, I have little to no doubt Auburn will find their voice and their legs come kickoff at 1:30 pm.

The Auburn Tigers have a near Herculean task at hand today. Alabama arguably has been the best team in the nation all year having already blown through their opponents on the way to their rematch with THE FLORIDA in Atlanta. Auburn has been a refreshing breeze blowing away the stench that hung over last year.

In very general terms, Auburn’s best chance today is to play it the way it has been drawn up: nothing to lose. Auburn is going bowling again. Alabama is going to the SEC Championship and a likely BCS bowl again. The significance of this game for each side then? Bragging rights and redemption for Auburn. A perfect regular season and ever closer to a BCS Championship shot for Alabama – and yes, even though most ‘Bama fans say this game means nothing to them, they would love another year of bragging rights too.

The chinks, if you can call them that, in Alabama’s armor are: kickoff return coverage, defensive secondary coverage and QB Greg McElroy. Believe it or not, there is a team at least statistically worse than Auburn this year in kick return coverage. How Auburn intends to go at these perceived weaknesses is a little up in the air.

Kick returns seem pretty straightforward. Auburn puts their fastest (and healthiest) two guys on the goal line with the instructions to put hands firmly on ball first, feet in motion second, eyes scanning the horizon constantly. A few better than average legal blocks later, and Auburn should start their offensive drives in decent position. And there is always the chance Demond Washington rips off another TD, aka Sanford Stadium style.

Hitting the deep ball against ‘Bama’s D is available provided our O line can give Chris Todd more than a half second to side step Mt. Cody and the horde of barbarians crashing the gate. Again, there are a lot of assumptions in this model the least of which is our receivers having a career day getting off blocks, getting into (open) position downfield and yes, that little thing called, “catching the ball.” Alabama is good enough up front to not have to oversell stopping our run. Their front four to seven are just plain nasty and fast and what some Talladega Nights enthusiasts would call, “hot, nasty, badass speed.” So all of this is to say if Auburn can at least keep ‘Bama’s front seven engaged with our misdirection runs, we would then theoretically have the deep ball open from time to time.

‘Bama QB McElroy has been a case study this year in streaks. He started the year like an all-world player, hit a midseason slump and seems to have regained his form in time to start against Auburn. Ahhhhh, great. Wishing for a 2005 edition of an Alabama backfield full of Auburn Defenders is in order here. Whether or not that wish gets granted is well, up in the air as well. If I were Alabama’s coaches (and no, I can’t throw the game in our favor, sorry), I’d just give Auburn a steady diet of Mark Ingram. If he’s good enough to show off his triceps on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he’s certainly good enough to pound away at Auburn’s wisp of a linebacking corps.

So what does Auburn do? Are you up for one more metaphorical reference? Auburn says, “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.” Seriously, don’t get cute on offense – play full throttle, fun, sandlot style Malzahn football and don’t let up. Make the 1st quarter against Georgia look like a warm-up. Keep going until the buzzer sounds at A-Day. Alabama’s D has shown its soft underbelly only when opposing offenses have gone no huddle. No one ‘Bama has faced yet goes no huddle for the entire game. Auburn O-line take note, your only chance at beating the beasts in front of you are to keep moving in their direction. False starts, shifts and motion need to have been left in Athens. Do this Auburn, and get a just a few balls to bounce your way on defense, and the Tigers hang in this scrap heap to the end.

If Auburn pulls off this upset, I’d wager the Black Friday crowd won’t mind staying up all night at Toomer’s Corner after the game and through the weekend. Otherwise, well…. we aren’t going to mention ‘otherwise.’ We’ve done that for the past year.

Alabama 28, Auburn 30

War Eagle!

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