Dye-Gest: Dealing With SEC Road Games

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about SEC football in this edition of his Dye-Gest column.

With the SEC Network showing replays of the top football games in the league from last year it has been a lot fun to watch some of those as an appetizer for the upcoming season on these hot July nights.

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One of the things that stands out from watching these games is how much of an advantage the home teams have got in the Southeastern Conference. Unless something unusual happens road teams normally have to be significantly better than the home teams to go into those venues and leave with a win.

One of the replays I watched recently was Florida’s upset victory over Georgia. The Gators and Bulldogs play that game every season in Jacksonville. I believe that is an advantage for Florida playing that rivalry game in-state and close to home.

When I was coaching at Auburn one of the things we did was move our home game vs. Alabama to Jordan-Hare Stadium rather than play every year at Legion Field in Birmingham, which at that time was a home stadium for Alabama.

Regardless of the teams splitting the tickets every year at the Iron Bowl, it was an Alabama home gameat Legion Field and definitely an advantage for Alabama that we needed to end, which is what we did. Of course, I never mentioned to my players going into those games that it was a disadvantage playing there because I didn’t want them to even think about that, but I knew it was the case.

One of the best ways to win road games in the SEC is to take a strong defense with you because the home crowd has less of impact on a defense than it does on an offense. The communication that is necessary for an offense to operate smoothly is not easy to produce playing in a loud, road environment. I think one of the strengths of Coach Gus Malzahn’s Auburn teams is how well his players handle those situations. With road games at LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M on the schedule his 2015 team’s communication training will be tested.

The key to making that happen is how the quarterback handles the situation. If there is a big question mark about Jeremy Johnson it is how he is going to do as a road starter. The real test won’t come until the Tigers play in Baton Rouge because the Louisville game in Atlanta will be like a home contest for Auburn and the next two games will be played at home.

If the junior quarterback is ready to perform at a high level on the road that will be a big plus for Auburn’s chances of winning the league this year, especially if the defense has improved enough to help make a difference.

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