Tag Archives: Daniel Carlson

Auburn: No Need to Curb Your Enthusiasm

I just completed reading an article written by my friend, and co-host of the SEC 411 podcast, Seth Merenbloom. Seth is also an editor here at Campus Pressbox. I have a great deal of respect for his opinions on sports, in general, and on the SEC, in particular.

But I am going to have to part ways with my colleague on this one. He is of the opinion that Auburn is overrated. This piece from SEC Country deals with the Sports Illustrated prediction of Auburn as the number 10 team in the country. The column also mentions the Tigers as CBS Sports’ pick as number nine in the preseason.

The only poll we have at this point belongs to the coaches. Auburn ranks 13th there.

Let’s pause for a moment and reconsider the fact that all of this is merely talk, opinion, conjecture. Teams have begun practice all across the land but no one has played a single game just yet.

But talk is what we rabid fans do this time of year in the dog days of summer. The actual games begin on August 26th and the first game in the SEC, Florida A&M at Arkansas, follows on August 31st.

Back to Auburn and my take on the matter. I am with CBS Sports. I would put Auburn in the number nine slot. Also, I would precede my Tigers with 1. Clemson (I am of the old school opinion that the number one team from the previous year remains numero uno until/if they are defeated during the upcoming campaign. See September 9, Auburn at Clemson) 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Washington 5. Florida State 6. Penn State 7. Oklahoma 8. Southern Cal.

I would put Michigan at 10.

And I do my rankings based on how strong I foresee teams. I don’t take into account schedules, conferences, etc. I ask myself, “How good is this team in relation to the other teams in the FBS? How strong are they overall? What if this team played ‘X’ on a neutral field?”

Now, here is my reasoning on Auburn’s ranking as a top ten team.

Auburn returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including its three top tacklers. Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams must be replaced but there is a ton of talent to go around on this surly defense.

Marlon Davidson is a beast and with help from the likes of Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Tre Williams, Darrell Williams, DeShaun Davis, Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews, to name just a few, the D is stacked with top line SEC talent. There is also enough quality depth to make this unit as good or better than the 2016 group. And Kevin Steele is back as the coordinator. That’s big.

The offense should be lethal. We all know about Jarrett Stidham but the Tigers are three deep at quarterback with Sean White and Malik Willis. Running back? Loaded. Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, Malik Miller, and C.J Tolbert give Auburn a stable of horses second to none in the conference.

The offensive line is more talented and deep than it has been in years. Pat Dye thinks they have the potential to be as good as any since he began coaching at Auburn in 1981.

Wide receivers? Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Will Hastings, Ryan Davis, Marquis McClain and, now, John Franklin, will give Auburn very good talent and depth here.

Also, the tight end position should be much improved with Jalen Harris returning and transfer Sal Cannella, and his excellent hands, making this a position of strength.

Oh! Auburn has the best placekicker in the country in Daniel Carlson, as well.

The talent, experience, and depth is all in place down on the Plains. And, I think, Gus Malzahn has put together the complete and cohesive staff he has been looking for since he took over in 2013.

When you mix all of these ingredients together along with a great team chemistry and a hunger to win, I think you might be looking at a very special season down in the Loveliest Village.

I don’t think I can “Curb My Enthusiasm.”

Rivalry Week: The Iron Bowl

Here we are again, fast approaching the last Saturday in November, and that means one thing to college football fans… Rivalry Week.

Well, there’s that matter of Thanksgiving, and football, on Thursday (the Egg Bowl in the SEC), but this weekend is all about our favorite teams renewing matchups with our arch-rivals.

In the Southeastern Conference we have the intrastate contests pitting Ole Miss-Miss State (in the aforementioned Egg Bowl), Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, Tennessee-Vanderbilt, and the Big Kahuna… Auburn and Alabama.

The Iron Bowl, or as I prefer to call it, the Auburn-Alabama game.

Alabama has been installed as an 18 or so point favorite, depending on which source you look to. Personally, I think that is too many points to give. The game is in Tuscaloosa but that doesn’t necessarily matter. Auburn is 7-3 in T-Town.

Here is an excellent little primer on the game, courtesy of WSFA-TV in Montgomery, AL.

One thing that jumped out at me from that piece of information: six Auburn-Alabama games have been decided by one point and Auburn won five of those battles. I attended games two through six.

I have attended 39 Iron Bowls, but I’m not going into that until next year when I plan to show up for my 40th in the series at Jordan-hare Stadium in Auburn.

Back to the one point games. This year’s game could be one of those and I think that favors Auburn.

If it’s a low-scoring game, say in the teens or low 20’s, Auburn will be right in the thick of it until the final gun. The longer the Tigers can hang around, the more they will continue to believe they have a shot at it. A one score deficit, either way, in the fourth quarter will point to another humdinger of a game, or as Keith Jackson would say, a dandy.

For Auburn to find itself in that position will require great play in the trenches from the Tigers, and they are more than capable of that.

Also, Sean White and Kamryn Pettway will have to be in good health and play lights out football.

Will Carroll, of SEC Country, examines the injury situation.

Another potential motivating factor for Auburn is the Sugar Bowl is at stake. If the Tigers can pull off the upset it would probably put them in New Orleans for a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Read more here.

There are many other factors to consider in order for Auburn to have a realistic chance Saturday. There are key Alabama players that need to be stopped, slowed, or neutralized.

Saturdays Down South delves into this topic.

Here is something that intrigues me, about this classic rivalry, since Nick Saban became the head coach at Alabama.

Auburn won in 2007, which was Saban’s Iron Bowl debut, 17-10 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Three years later, in 2010, Auburn pulled off the remarkable “Camback”, winning 28-27 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. And three years later, in 2013, who will ever forget the “Kick Six”, which will go down in the annals of college football as one of the greatest games ever played.

And now, yet again, it’s another three years later. 2007, 2010, 2013… Will 2016 be another epic upset in the series?

It could happen. It’s not probable, but it certainly is within the realm of possibility.

So, what will transpire over in west Alabama on Saturday afternoon?

I will gladly provide you with an Auburn optimist’s view on the game.

Both teams come out slugging, like a heavyweight fight, with fur and hide flying everywhere. Auburn scores, on its first possession, on a 54-yard Daniel Carlson field goal, 3-0.

Alabama finally gets on the board, in the second quarter, with a Jalen Hurts scramble to put the home team up 7-3.

Auburn counters with another three-pointer by Carlson, 7-6 Bama, at the half.

Rudy Ford takes the second half kickoff back to the Tide 22-yard line.

Kamryn Pettway bursts into the end zone from there. 13-7, Auburn.

Bama answers with a 65-yard bomb form Hurts to Calvin Ridley and that puts them up, 14-13.

The battle rages on into the fourth quarter. Bama gets a field goal from Adam Griffith and leads, 17-13, late.

Auburn takes the ball at its own 25 following the kickoff. It marches 45 yards to Alabama’s 30. Time is running out. It’s fourth and inches.

Everybody and their grandma is looking for Pettway up the middle. The quarterback (White, Franklin, Johnson?) pulls the ball, on a zone read, and makes it to the pylon to give Auburn the lead and, ultimately, the win, 20-17.

Hang on to your hats, folks. Here we go!

 

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Beating Bret Bielema

Auburn and Arkansas have only been playing football against each other since 1992 when Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference. There was the Liberty Bowl of 1984, when the Tigers, behind game MVP Bo Jackson, trounced the Razorbacks, 21-15. But that was the only meeting between the two prior to the SEC’s expansion, which also included South Carolina.

As a side note, there was a freshman walk-on wide receiver on that 1984 Hawg team by the name of Gus Malzahn.

Auburn leads the series with 13 wins to Arky’s 11. There has been one tie, 24-24. That occurred in the 1992 game in Auburn. Coincidentally, Bo Jackson’s number 34 jersey was retired that day.

We now find ourselves, in the year 2016, with Arkansas native Gus Malzahn serving as the head ball coach (a nod to Steve Spurrier) at Auburn and a brash Bret Bielema at the helm in Fayetteville.

Bielema is also the focal point of a mini web television program, Being Bret Bielema.

Good for Bert (as we often refer to him here in the friendly confines of Campus Pressbox).

Our own Seth Merenbloom is particularly fond of the Bert moniker.

Seth is also sadly off base with his prediction on this game. He, mistakenly, has picked the Razorbacks to come out victorious in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.

https://soundcloud.com/fourlightsfm/the-sec-411-61-alabama-just-keeps-rollin

Sorry Seth, it ain’t happening.

And with that, I welcome you to my own take, on the game, in my first installation of Beating Bret Bielema.

Auburn will defeat Arkansas, and here is how they will do it. This will be a complete team victory in the three vital areas of a football game: offense, defense, and special teams.

Let us proceed.

OFFENSE

Arkansas has given up points by the dozen in conference play and Saturday will be no exception. Auburn will be able to establish great balance between the running and passing games, and should join its fellow SEC brethren who have piled up both points and yardage on the visitors.

Click here for a glimpse at the Tigers’ now highly potent O.

We move on to our next phase of the game…

DEFENSE

I wrote an article before this football season that spoke to how Auburn would be much improved in 2016 and that it would begin with defense.

That has been the case, thus far, this year.

Check out what Wesley Sinor of AL.com has to say about the defense’s challenge to thwart Hawg quarterback Austin Allen.

And now…

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams have also been a key to Auburn’s success as it rides an impressive three game winning streak, and placekicker Daniel Carlson has been a big reason for that success.

This column from the USA Today speaks to the junior All-American’s remarkable level of play.

Auburn is coming off a bye week. It is well-rested. It is playing with great confidence and swagger. And it is playing very loose and having a lot of fun.

Expect that attitude to continue in this upcoming game.

Arkansas has played seven straight games without a bye week. It’s last two opponents have been two strong teams from the SEC West, Alabama and Ole Miss.

It was fortunate to come from behind to beat Ole Miss but it took a whuppin’, both on the scoreboard and on the field, against the Crimson Tide, the best team in the nation.

The odds makers like this Auburn team as well.

The Tigers opened in Vegas as an eight-point favorite. That line has now risen to 10. It could climb even higher before enough people begin to put down some money on the Razorbacks.

10 points won’t do. If I were a gambling man, I would take Auburn, minus 10, in a heartbeat.

I would take Auburn minus 16 in a heartbeat.

Take that, Seth! And welcome to this episode of Beating Bret Bielema.

Auburn 34, Arkansas 17.

 

E-mail Bird at  or follow him on Twitter@Autull

Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

Paxton Lynch

Do you know who that is? It is the name of the player you will be hearing the most about coming into this game. He is the quarterback for Memphis and he could be the best QB in college football. He will, most assuredly, be the first signal caller taken in the NFL Draft this spring.

Let’s love him a bit more.

Lynch has completed 280 of 407 pass attempts this season, for 3,670 yards and 28 touchdowns. He has thrown only 3 interceptions. Lynch has a 166.8 efficiency rating and his completion percentage is 69%. And get this, he is 6’7” and 245 pounds.

Thus, here is Bird’s strategy for Auburn to win the football game. KEEP THE BALL AWAY FROM PAXTON LYNCH! Brilliant, huh?

And how does one keep the ball away from Memphis and Lynch? By running the heck out of it.

Now here is where that proposition gets dicey. The strength of the Memphis defense is stopping the run. They allow only 137.8 rushing yards per game. Auburn runs the ball for 191.8 yards per game. Mark this as a critical matchup. The Memphis D-line vs. the Auburn O-line. Something’s gotta give. Or not.

Memphis Tigers

These two sets of felines have met only twice on the gridiron. Who do you think leads the series? If you said Auburn, you were wrong. Memphis beat Auburn both times they faced off. In 1975 Memphis State, as she was called back then, beat Auburn, 31-20, at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The following year Auburn fell 28-27 at the Liberty Bowl in the Bluff City.

Memphis is a member of the American Athletic Conference. These Tigers finished the 2015 regular season with a 9-3 record and they were 5-2 (third) in conference play.

Their interim head coach is Darrell Dickey. Also, a new head coach has been hired. Waiting in the wings is Mike Norvell, who was previously the offensive coordinator and Deputy Head Coach at Arizona State. That’s what they call them out there. Deputies. It’s the west. Norvell will be the youngest head coach in FBS football. He is 34 years old. I have a son older than that. When I was 34, number 34 was winning a Heisman Trophy at Auburn. You know who that was.

Now back to Memphis. There are a lot of great songs about Memphis. No, the football team. Short-term memory.

Pass the Geritol, please.

Offense? They average 510.4 yards per game and 42.7 points per game. Like I said, keep the ball away from Paxton Lynch and that juggernaut of an offense! Covering Mose Frazier would be a good place to start. Frazier nabbed 66 passes for 750 yards and 4 TD’s.

When Memphis runs the ball, Doroland Dorceus is their ‘go-to’ guy. He ran for 613 yards at 4.3 yards per rush.

And, by the way, Lynch is very good at extending plays with his legs. Keep the ball away from Paxton Lynch!

Auburn Tigers

We’re not going to say, keep the ball away from Jeremy Johnson or Sean White. We don’t know, just yet, who the starting quarterback will be for Auburn, but, suffice it to say that neither will strike fear in the hearts of the Memphis faithful the way Lynch will in Auburn Tiger fans.

But…BUT… whichever of those two guys Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee starts, he better manage a good game, not turn it over, and make good decisions. If the Auburn QB does not do these things, then the burnt orange and navy blue will, likely, suffer through a long afternoon at 400 Graymont Ave W, Legion Field.

Auburn’s QB numbers are pedestrian. Johnson is 94 of 156 (60.3%) for 1,043 yards. White has thrown 130 times and completed 75 (57.7%) of those for 1,064 yards.

What MUST Auburn do to be successful on offense? That’s right! They MUST run the football and run it well. The guys who can get that done? Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson. Barber has run the ball for 976 yards at 4.3 yards per carry. Robinson, who hails from Memphis, is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He has 513 rushing yards.

When Auburn does throw, their most popular target is Ricardo (The Prayer at Jordan-Hare) Louis. Louis has hauled in 45 passes for 699 yards. He is averaging 15.5 yards per catch.

The AU Tigers’ D has been a bit porous but they had begun to gel, somewhat, as the regular season came to an end. They allowed 421.8 yards per game. Opponents rushed for 189.7 per contest (WAAAAAY TOO MUCH) and passed for a 232.2 yard average in each game (WAAAAAY TOO MUCH).

Johnathan “Rudy” Ford lead all Tiger tacklers with 113. That was also good for second place in the SEC.

Placekickers

Daniel Carlson (Auburn) and Jake Elliott (Memphis) are excellent placekickers. Oddly enough, they both hit 22 of their 26 field goal attempts. If it comes down to a last second field goal both schools are, obviously, in great shape there.

What To Expect

A shootout? Possibly. But nothing like the 55-52 pinball game that Virginia Tech and Tulsa found themselves embroiled in recently. It should be something more like the 37-29 Nebraska win over UCLA.

Memphis is going to get some passing yards. Auburn is going to get some rushing yards.

Both sets of Tigers will score some points. The question is, who gets the most points? That is who always wins the football game. Every time. Book it. Done deal.

In the end, Auburn (6-6, 2-6 SEC) has more talent, SEC talent at that, and really wants to send this group of seniors, who have NEVER won a bowl game, out with a win. I like what I’m hearing from the practice filed concerning Auburn’s work ethic, attitude, and effort.

The Tigers of Lee County Alabama subdue the Tigers of Shelby County Tennessee.

Prediction. Auburn 34, Memphis 24.

Here is the link to the Birmingham Bowl website.

http://www.birminghambowl.com

Tiger Takes and Fowl Play

On September 27, 1969, Auburn sophomore quarterback, Pat Sullivan, led the Tigers into Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The visitors slipped and slid all over the newly installed, artificial tartan surface of Shields-Watkins field that afternoon. They returned home, battered, with turf burns and bruised egos.

The Vols humbled the Tigers, 45-19, and intercepted young Sullivan FIVE times.

It was one of the future Heisman winner’s worst performances of an otherwise stellar career.

This scenario was one of the first things that crossed my mind, Sunday morning, following Auburn’s 31-24 win over Louisville the day before.

I left the Georgia Dome, Saturday night, far too focused on quarterback Jeremy Johnson’s 3 interceptions, which could have been FIVE, instead of the fact that Auburn had just beaten a very good football team. I was able to view the previous evening’s events with a much clearer perspective following a good night’s sleep and the memory of that debacle in Tennessee which occurred to me, soon after awakening, on Sunday morning.

We all know how things turned out for Pat Sullivan, and I don’t think things will turn out all too differently for Jeremy Johnson. He has the skills, and the surrounding cast of players and coaches, to evolve into one of the best signal callers to ever grace the grassy turf of Pat Dye Field.DSC02280

Auburn and Sullivan regrouped nicely in 1969 to go 8-2. They ended the regular season with a 49-26 shellacking of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and an invitation to play in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, TX.

My guess is that the 2015 edition of the Auburn Tigers will have success to a greater degree than that group who proudly wore the orange and blue 46 years ago. They came out victorious, and they did some impressive things in the process. Let’s take a gander at a few of those who stood out.

Daniel Carlson and Kevin Phillips – Special Teams

Louisville did not return one one kick the entire afternoon! That includes both kickoffs AND punts. Daniel Carlson was 100% on touchbacks, perfect on extra points, and nailed a 56-yard field goal. Kevin Phillips averaged 47 yards on two punts. BOOM, huh?

Peyton Barber and Ricardo Louis – Offense

Barber, the sophomore from Alpharetta, GA, rushed for 115 yards on 24 carries in relief of starter Roc Thomas. He also caught one pass for 15 yards. Barber was the trooper that many of us have been expecting him to be. Louis, he of  ” The Prayer at Jordan-Hare” fame,  had one of his best games as a Tiger. The senior receiver scored on a pass reception of 33 yards in the third quarter and a run of 8 yards in the fourth quarter. His three total receptions gained 54 yards and his four rushes netted 21 yards.

Tray Matthews and Montravius Adams – Defense

Matthews, a baller, picked off a pass on the initial offensive play from scrimmage for the Cardinals. He returned it for 35 yards. He also had eight tackles and was a man to be reckoned with before leaving the game with an injury.

Adams might have had his best game yet as an Auburn Tiger. He was a disruptive force throughout the entire game and it appears that he has gotten his game to the point where his coaches have been pushing him. This does not bode well for the remaining eleven teams on Auburn’s schedule.IMG_2272

Ok, that’s a brief look at the past, both distant and immediate, now how about the future?

The immediate future holds the 2015 season’s home opener. The opponent is the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Auburn should be able to get people healthy and utilize the game just played as a great teaching tool. Mistakes were plentiful but correctable. If it’s true that a team’s biggest improvement typically occurs from game one to game two, then this should be a tremendous opportunity to really launch the Tigers forward toward a monstrous showdown with LSU the following week.

Beyond that, the schedule sets up about as well as one can hope for in the SEC West. You gotta play the other six. There is no way to avoid that, but Auburn gets Miss State, Ole Miss, and Alabama in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. SEC East rival, Georgia, also has to make the trip to the Plains as do San Jose State and Idaho.

Besides the trip to Baton Rouge, Auburn travels to Lexington, Fayetteville and College Station for games with Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Those are some truly tough tests for these young Tigers but, again, it’s the SEC where there are NO easy schedules and there is nowhere to run and hide. Man up! Play ball!SEC logo2

So what does this mean for the remainder of the 2015 campaign and beyond?

Auburn now has a team with a lot of talent, the most in many years, but lacks experience in some areas. If they keep their nose to the grindstone and improve each week they could have a special season.

Also, if they continue to stockpile talent and keep their focus, they could be very, very good for years to come.

And that brings us back to the business at hand.

Auburn vs. Jacksonville State

Jax State is an D1 school and should be a strong contender for the FCS Championship. They made it to the playoffs last season. The Gamecocks defeated UT-Chattanooga on Saturday, by a score of 23-20. They rode a punishing ground attack to a net total of 298 yards rushing. Troymaine Pope, a senior, accounted for 173 of those yards on just 15 carries. The Moccasins only had 196 total yards, so the Gamecocks can play a little D, as well.

That’s all well and good. Jax State is no match for Auburn and will not beat them on Saturday.

I expect the Tigers to make great strides in practice this week and show up ready to play. Look for Jeremy Johnson to perform more like the all-star candidate that he is. I think Auburn will exhibit a balanced attack, on offense, and pile up a lot of yards, while limiting the Gamecocks’ rushing attack to far fewer yards than they ground out in their opener.

Auburn scores early and often before the starters give way to the reserves who will be anxious to show what they’ve got.

Auburn 49, Jacksonville State 10