Could Auburn play in the National Championship Game?
First-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has his team believing.
While it may seem far fetched, at least one former major college coach thinks it’s a distinct possibility.
“The way things falling out, Auburn could end up playing for the whole thing,” the coach told one member of the Rumor Mill staff today.
I laughed at first but after giving it’s some thought, it’s not as out there as you might think.
The Tigers control their own destiny, and their two toughest remaining games — Georgia and Alabama — are both at home. A win over Georgia doesn’t nearly as out of reach as it did a month ago, and while Alabama is, well, Alabama, Gus Malzhan’s offenses have caused their share of problems for Nick Saban.
The Auburn players apparently don’t think it’s crazy, either.
“I think we can win it all. You know?” defensive end Dee Ford said earlier this week. “There’s no reason to say that we can’t. We said we wanted to have the biggest turnaround in college football. Why not win it all?”
Still, a road win over a Texas A&M team that is porous (to put it nicely) on defense is a long way from playing for the National Championship. This was, after all, a team that was 3-9 last season and had clearly quit competing for Gene Chizik late in the year.
The Tigers should get a win Saturday at home against Florida Atlantic, but they still have to travel to Fayetteville — a place where Auburn has historically struggled even when it has won — where they’ll face an Arkansas team that should be hungry for a big win for first-year coach Bret Bielema.
The Tigers also must also go to Knoxville to face a Tennessee Vols team that may present the biggest challenge left on the regular season schedule not named Alabama.
Regardless of whether or not Coach is right and the Tigers end up playing for the title, there’s no denying that the turnaround Malzahn has orchestrated thus far on the Plains has been remarkable.
It will be very interesting to watch how it plays out the rest of the way to say the least.
Southern Miss now boasts the nation’s longest losing streak. 18 games. As Mississippi sportswriting legend Rick Cleveland recently pointed out, it has been 670 days since the Golden Eagles have tasted gridiron victory. It takes more than one bad season under a new coach to get that bad.
It takes a few years of bad recruiting. It takes an incompetent president and an ill equipped, ego-centric, uninformed and incompetent athletic director, a bunch of meddling boosters and a host of other factors.
Southern Miss used to play toe to toe with the Alabamas, Auburns and Nebraskas of the world. Now? The Golden Eagles are stuck in a conference with UAB, Rice, UTSA, FAU, FIU, MTSU and the like — and losing.
Meanwhile, former conference foes Tulane, East Carolina, Tulsa, SMU and others are either playing in or set to play in the revamped AAC (former Big East), while former rival Louisville is headed to the ACC.
Southern Miss currently has 23 freshmen on the two-deep depth chart. Seventeen of those are true freshmen. Of the 19 offensive linemen signed in 2009 and 2010, only four remain on the team.
Southern Miss bypassed purgatory and went straight to hell — and the Golden Eagles may be there for quite some time.
Not surprisingly, Oregon State coach Mike Riley’s name has again been mentioned in connection with the USC job. Keep in mind, Riley has turned down both USC and Alabama (his alma mater) in the past.
Has there been a guy over the past 11 seasons who has done a better job? Oregon State used to be considered the worst job in the Pac, but not anymore.
Riley has compiled a 79-54 record since he returned in Corvalis is 2003. The Beavers are off to a 6-1 start this season after an opening day loss to Eastern Michigan and a slew of injuries. The schedule gets tougher down the stretch, but Riley will likely have them in every game.
Could the Corvalis native end up back at USC after all these years? Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News reports that he asked Riley directly a couple years ago if he would ever return to USC. “You never know,” he said.
Our sources view a move as possible, but unlikely.
Dan Mullen got a much needed win over Kentucky tonight. The Bullies are now 4-3 and will need to win two more to be bowl-eligible. South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss remain. Frankly, it’s hard to find two wins in that group.
As we’ve noted previously, if he goes winless with some bad losses, he could be in big trouble. Could being the operative word.
Our guess is that he wins one and returns for 2014.
How do coaches grade film after a game? Here’s some interesting insight from former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook via 247sports’ site AuburnUndercover:
“Everybody grades differently, but we used to always have an assignment and a technique grade for every single play. We always added a hustle grade…
The assignment: What was the player’s assignment and then the technique in which he performed that assignment? Not every player is going to be involved in every single play. If he’s lined up right, carries out the assignment and his responsibility – and does it with the correct technique and does it with hustle, then usually we are going to give him a plus.
What you’re going to do is take the number of plays that you have and divide it by the number of minus plays and come up with a grade.”
Photo credit: Todd J. Van Emst, Auburn Media Relations