Monday Morning QB Column: Tigers And the SEC

The Auburn Tigers are hoping tweaks during the off week will make the team more productive on offense and defense for the second half of the 2014 football season.

Bye Week Important For Tigers

For the Auburn Tigers the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Following a loss to Mississippi State and with the offensive line still in shuffle-mode because of an injury to Patrick Miller, Auburn’s offense needed a week to clean up its mistakes while trying to continue to incorporate freshman running back Roc Thomas into the mix.

The biggest work may have been done on the defensive side of the ball as the Tigers got physical during the bye week, playing the first defense against the first offense in various situations. That is something teams don’t get much of a chance to do during the season so it’s important for the defensive staff to get a feel for what guys can do against top-flight talent.

With a need for help from the pass rush I’m really looking forward to seeing what Brandon King can do if he gets a shot to play defensive end this week. It won’t come unless South Carolina is in an obvious passing situation, but with his speed and athleticism he could be a fun player to watch off the edge for the Tigers. There is no question they need some help getting to the quarterback and he could be just the ticket down the stretch if he can pick things up quickly enough.

Ready To Roc

We have seen glimpses of what Thomas can do with the football so far this season, but this week could be the true coming out party for the talented freshman. Allowing 181.7 yards per game on the ground (5.3 yards per carry) and 15 scores, South Carolina’s run defense has been spotty at best this season for Coach Steve Spurrier. Giving up more than 200 yards three times, including 239 and four touchdowns to Kentucky in a loss back on Oct. 4, this could be the week to get Auburn’s running game back on track with Roc getting a heavier load.

Just-in Time

Auburn’s play at the linebacker position has been solid this year, but one of the things Coach Ellis Johnson is always striving for is to be multiple. That was part of the reason behind using Cassanova McKinzy and the “cinco” package this season. It makes it more difficult for an offense to be able to match up with a defense when you can do different things with the same personnel on defense. That’s what Garrett brings to the table for the Tigers as a linebacker.

As a true linebacker he’s physical enough to play between the tackles. A former high school safety who was athletic enough to play outside at the "star" position in Auburn’s defense, Garrett will allow the Tigers to keep the base personnel on the field and still match up with three and four wide receivers because of his ability to cover in space. That is a huge bonus when facing teams such as Ole Miss and Texas A&M down the road that depend on throwing the football.

SEC Week In Review

Speaking of Texas A&M it’s hard to imagine a worse performance than the one the Aggies put on Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Before the season we predicted TAMU to go 5-7 based on the summer off-the-field problems and the losses on offense and Coach Kevin Sumlin better be fortunate they got South Carolina early or that might have been the record this season. Watching them play was eerily similar to watching Auburn’s 2012 team when everything seemed to go downhill in a hurry, a bad sign for the Aggies with still a lot of football left to play this season.

Ole Miss continued to take care of business with a strong defensive performance, not a surprise considering Tennessee’s lack of quality play up front on the offensive line. The Rebels still rely heavily on the arm of Bo Wallace, something that will be interesting to watch this weekend when they travel to Baton Rouge to face a confident LSU team coming off a thrashing of Kentucky. While the Tigers will have problems moving the football as efficiently against Ole Miss, this will be a major task for the Rebels to remain undefeated come late Saturday night.

I don't remember a more brutal performance on both sides of the ball than the one that took place in Gainesville on Saturday night. Missouri scored on a fumble return, an interception return, a punt return and a kickoff return to rout Florida and turn the heat up even more on Coach Will Muschamp. The craziest part of the game may have been the fact that the Tigers won going away despite gaining less than 120 yards of total offense. With no answer on offense and games against Georgia and Florida State still on the schedule, it's going to be another long fall for the Gators.

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