Scouting the Tigers
by Murray Poole
Location: Auburn, Ala.
Conference: SEC West
Tigers in a thumbnail: Coming off last season’s 8-5 record (4-4 SEC) and
with nine returning defensive starters and seven returning offensive regulars,
Auburn was looking to be a factor in the SEC West Division race this
season. Unfortunately, for the Tigers, those hopes have long since vanished
as they have inexplicably gone through one of the worst campaigns in AU
football history. The Tigers enter Saturday night’s battle with ancient rival
Georgia with just two victories, that being a 31-28 overtime decision over
Louisiana-Monroe in the third game of the season and a 42-7 win over a
now 1-8 New Mexico State team this past Saturday on the Plains. At 2-7
overall and 0-6 in the SEC, Auburn has fallen to Clemson (26-19), Mississippi
State (28-10), LSU (12-10), Arkansas (24-7), Ole Miss (41-20), Vanderbilt
(17-13) and Texas A&M (63-21). As one can see, the Tigers have
played well against only one good football team, that being the close, lowscoring
loss to LSU.
A look at the Auburn offense: After losing offensive coordinator Gus
Malzahn to Arkansas State, the Tigers offense has floundered greatly under
new coordinator Scott Loeffler. And Auburn has especially struggled at the
quarterback position as neither sophomore Kiehl Frazier nor junior Clint
Moseley has been productive for an offense that averages just 16.4 points
per game. Frazier has passed for 753 yards and just two touchdowns this
fall while Moseley has thrown for 373 yards and only one score. That’s
why, in the New Mexico State game this past Saturday, Gene Chizik elected
to give freshman Jonathan Wallace his first start at quarterback and Wallace
responded by completing 9-of-16 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown
in leading the Tigers to the 42-7 win. Sophomore Tre Mason is
Auburn’s rushing leader with 706 yards and a 5.6 average per carry while
senior Onterio McCalebb has run for 453 yards and a 6.1 average. Against
the Aggies, Mason carried 22 times for a career-high 152 yards while Mc-
Calebb, who also excels on kick returns, ran for 113 yards on just eight carries.
Senior Emory Blake has been a fine receiver for the Tigers, with 39
catches for 609 yards and three touchdowns while preseason All-America
candidate, senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, follows with 15 catches
for 139 yards.
A look at the Auburn defense: Also under a new coordinator in former
Georgia assistant Brian VanGorder, the Tiger defense has likewise been
porous this season, giving up an average of 27.3 points per game. With also
former Bulldog assistant Willie Martinez heading the Auburn secondary,
the Tigers have been led defensively by senior linebacker Daren Bates (86
tackles), junior strong safety Demetruce McNeal (84 tackles) and sophomore
defensive back Jermaine Whitehead (73 stops).
What Tigers head coach Gene Chizik says: “I am very proud of our
team because again I feel like they have worked every week. I feel like
again today, they deserved it. They deserved to win, and they deserved
for several guys to get to play who haven’t gotten to play a whole lot this
year. We have a great SEC game coming up next weekend against Georgia,
and it is going to be extremely tough, but we will take some things that
we did a little better this week than last week, and we will try to build on
those, and we will continue to work every day in practice and try to improve.
We know what we have cut out for us next week, but we are going
to enjoy tonight and enjoy this victory."
Game Prediction: Who could have seen this disastrous season coming
for the Auburn Tigers? What it means for the future of Gene Chizik and his
staff will only likely be known after the Tigers’ Nov. 24 finale against archrival
and top-ranked Alabama but even with this coming just two years
after Auburn won the national championship under Chizik, you’re hearing
that heads might roll on the Loveliest Village on the Plains. Prior to the
start of the 2012 campaign, I said the Bulldogs would go into Auburn this
Saturday and escape with a tough 21-17 win but now, if Georgia lets this
bad Tiger team hang that close, it would invite questions whether the Bulldogs
would have any success at all in the SEC title game against likely No.
1 Alabama. But, who knows in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry? Auburn
just may rise up and stage its finest effort of the season in attempting to
pull off a monumental upset and thereby prevent the Dogs from going
back to Atlanta for a second consecutive season. No way that should happen.
Georgia clinches the East crown by 38-14 over the Tigers.