The Dye-Gest: Wrong Way to Pick A Winner

Former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye is puzzled by a newspaper's prediction and writes about the progress of this year's Auburn team in this week's Dye-Gest column.

I go to the truck stop every Saturday morning and read the paper, drink coffee and eat breakfast. I meet three Auburn fans, buddies of mine, and we talk about the previous week and we talk about the game coming up that day. It is much like what happens at different places on Saturday mornings all across the state of Alabama in football season.

Most of the time I read the paper before my friends get there and last Saturday before the South Carolina at Auburn game I was totally amazed and amused at reading the Opelika-Auburn News prediction for the game.

They had a list comparing the Auburn team and how it matched up position by position for the game vs. South Carolina. The way they had it set up was good and the way they started the comparisons with the quarterbacks was good. However, the conclusion they reached was totally amazing.

They picked the quarterback for Auburn, which was a good pick, and correct. On the running backs they picked Auburn because of Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, and that turned out to be correct. For the receivers comparison they picked South Carolina, which turned out to be correct. Comparing the offensive lines they picked Auburn, which was correct.

For the defensive line they picked Auburn, which was correct. For the linebackers they picked Auburn, which was also correct. Comparing secondaries they picked South Carolina, which probably was correct. For special teams they picked South Carolina. Auburn missed a short field goal, so that was probably correct.

Comparing the coaches they picked South Carolina because of (Steve) Spurrier and his experience, and that is up for debate.

Then, they made an overall comparison and picked South Carolina to win the game, which didn't make any sense to me. In fact, it amazed me that they would pick South Carolina based on their own comparison chart.

The most important player on a football field is the quarterback, and the pick was Auburn.

The next most important part of a team is the defensive line followed by the offensive line. After those areas the next most important group of players is the running backs followed by the linebackers

Those are the difference-makers in a college football game and for each of those areas the pick was Auburn. You can see why I had to laugh and snicker a little bit about what I was reading.

I would like for whoever wrote that article and put it in the paper to call me and give me some explanation as to how he came upon the idea to pick South Carolina based on his own conclusions, not to mention that South Carolina was going to have to play the game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, one of the toughest places in America for a visiting team to win.

Something I do understand and enjoy reading about and watching is this year's Auburn football team. I think Coach Chizik and his staff are doing a fantastic job. I'm so happy and proud for the seniors and I am impressed with their leadership and how they have played to win three tough football games starting on the road at Starkville followed by the two come-from-behind wins against good football teams. I don't know that Clemson and South Carolina are great teams, but they are good teams.

Clemson had a decided advantage coming into the Auburn game because it opened with two weak opponents and had all fall to get ready to play Auburn. South Carolina had a weak opponent the week before playing Auburn, which had to play Clemson that week so it hasn't been easy road for Auburn to get to 4-0 going into this week's game.

Several things excite me about this Auburn team, and you can start with the quarterback. Cameron Newton has done everything that you would expect and then some.

I think by the time the season started that everybody figured that he was talented and was going to be able to do some things that were unusual because of his talent. However, I am not sure how many people, including me, realized that he would turn into the type of leader he has become for this football team.

Cameron Newton powers for yardage vs. South Carolina.

I don't think there is any question that Cameron has earned the respect of his teammates with the way that he has competed in these first four football games. I hope that he will continue to build on what he has already got started because he's had a heck of a start.

I like the fact that Auburn is leading the SEC in rushing and is also near the top of the conference in rushing defense. That is where you start if you want to be successful in the Southeastern Conference--running the football and stopping the run.

You would have to say that Auburn's pass defense not being a little better than it has been through four games has been disappointing. Things have been better when it has been Auburn throwing the ball although the Tigers have not been throwing it a lot.

The kicking game, for the most part, has been solid. I know that the coverage teams are twice as good as they were a year ago. This Auburn team has so much more speed and that makes a difference. You can tell the kids are having a good time making plays on special teams and that makes a difference, too. That is allowing some of the starters who were having to play special teams last year to be able to get off the field more this season and stay fresher as the game goes on.

Looking at this team there is a lot of good karma, which I think is the right word, all around this it. I also think there shouldn't be a player on this team who doesn't believe that his team can't compete and win against anybody in the SEC.

The one thing that is an absolute must to be successful in the Southeastern Conference is for your players to play fast, or at a high rate of intensity. These Auburn football players have displayed the ability to do that. Maybe they haven't done it for 60 minutes in every ball game, but when it came to closing time in the fourth quarter in all three of the tough games they have shown the mental toughness, the character, the intensity, the fight and everything that you would want a football team to give as far as heart, soul, character and effort are concerned.

On the other hand this Auburn team still is a work in progress. At times we have seen a lack of discipline in executing assignments and that is creating some hardships on the team.

There is a fine line between playing reckless, playing hard and being emotionally involved in the game and still being in a state of mind where you don't commit too many penalties and make the type of mistakes that'll get you beat. That is where this team is, trying to get to the point where it can play with the same level of intensity we are seeing and doing while playing smart football.

When the Tigers can get to that point with the talent on this team, I think that Auburn can have a great season and will have a chance against anybody, including the best teams left on the schedule, and everybody knows who they are.

Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.

(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to

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