Continuing the series we head into October. Auburn earns a well-deserved week off after what is sure to be a very physical game with LSU, and then entertains the Arkansas Razorbacks before taking off to visit Ole Miss and then Vanderbilt before returning to the comforts of Jordan-Hare stadium to take on Texas a&M.
So without further ado, here are my preseason pickings.
This is probably the most difficult game on the schedule to pick. After the motorcycle antics of their former coach Bobby Petrino, the Hawgs find themselves in a unique situation. The players will start the season with the same group of assistant coaches, but the program is being directed by a new head coach in John L. Smith.
It is not my wish to delve into the mental aspects of the team after having gone through that ordeal, simply to state that things will be different. The word from Arkansas AD is that Smith is to let the coaches coach, but Smith will have control over everything from practice schedules, and team meetings and so forth. Some things inherently will change from the way that former coach Petrino had done them.
Is it enough to change the way the players react and play? It’s hard to grasp at this time, so I’ll give two predictions.
First, if there is no real meddling by Smith into his assistant coaches and there preparations then Arkansas could be a very good team this season.
Arkansas has a tremendous amount of quality talent returning, and a coaching staff that has won some big games. Every single game played in the SEC West is big, so the Hawgs won’t have trouble being amped and the loss the last time they were in JHS will be motivation enough to be focused. If this is the case, and Arkansas is playing up to potential Auburn could lose this game by 10 points or more. Making their record 4-1
The second scenario is that John L. Smith can’t help but meddle with the assistants that he inherited, and disrupts the continuity of the staff. How much disruption? How does this translate into on field performance?
Let me state that any action by Smith that would create an imbalance in the coaching staff would be disastrous, and an eventual Auburn victory. Leaving Auburn undefeated up until this point and 5-0 on the campaign.
I actually had the Razorbacks winning the West division this year, until the motorcycle ride from hell happened. We will all have to wait and see just how well John L. Smith does staying out of the way of the assistant coaches. They are not his assistants, he didn’t hire these guys he inherited them.
I know Hugh Freeze came into Auburn with Arkansas State and created havoc with his offense on a Ted Roof defense. This is still Ole Miss and Ted is gone to purgatory in Penn State. This isn’t the same Auburn defense that was rattled by short passes and quick screens. Try that now, and a price will be extracted.
Auburn wins big on the road in this one.
The last time Auburn was in Commodore country it left embarrassed and minus one offensive coordinator. That won’t happen this time.
James Franklin the Vandy coach has recruited rather well, and is saying all the right things, the Commodores are an improved club top to bottom under Franklin.
This writer thinks that still won’t be enough to stop what is sure to be a seasoned Auburn offense, and a much more disciplined defensive unit. Auburn will win this game, and really be garnering some national attention with a possible 7-0 record.
The Aggies are a difficult team to get a clear picture on because of the new coaching hire during the transition to the SEC. If you will pardon the analogy, changing the Chief of the tribe, and learning new hunting grounds makes things very difficult. I’ll give the edge to my home standing Tigers.
Next up is November, and “Amen Corner”.