As a former coach that is something that really matters to me. If a team isn’t good enough to win that’s one thing, but to get beat by not giving everything you have got is something different. Alabama was the better team this year and probably played one of its best games with no turnovers, although the Tigers did drop a would-be interception.
The fact that Auburn had a chance to beat Alabama until coming up a little short at the end reflects well on the Tigers, who I am sure are still hurting over not finding a way to win the rivalry game. They will have to live with it for a year and hope to get better in the areas they need to get better in order to have a more successful 2016 season.
The obvious problems that this group of Tigers have had cropped up again on offense with an inability to sustain drives and execute the passing game. Throwing the football effectively was something the Tigers had to do to have a chance to be successful against Alabama’s defense, which is too strong up front just to line up and run the ball at without challenging it with the passing game.
If you think back to last year’s Iron Bowl game the Tigers were able to make a lot more big plays because they hit on long passes that opened up room for the runners. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Tigers had an extra great runner in the backfield with Nick Marshall lined up at quarterback.
Auburn’s inability to produce a lot of big plays this season really complicated things for Coach Gus Malzahn and the offensive staff. I know they know how to teach it so I’ve got to assume that the Tigers didn’t have the personnel to execute at a championship level. That has got to be fixed between now and next year.
I think Auburn’s defense showed improvement during the season. The Tigers faced a big challenge against Alabama’s Derrick Henry, who is a great player. He has had room to run this season and that was the case in the Iron Bowl, which isn’t surprising considering all of the holding and grabbing of defensive players his blockers were doing on Saturday. However, you can’t use that as an excuse for Auburn not winning the game because the Tigers had their chances. A dropped pass on a pick-six play could have made a difference. The same is true of the defense letting Alabama’s quarterbacks escape potential sacks and make big plays. Offensively, the Tigers had occasions with receivers running open and weren’t able to hit them for big gainers.
The game reminded me some of the ones the Tigers lost to Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Georgia in that one play would have made a difference. In the Iron Bowl one or two plays certainly made a difference and prevented the Tigers from have a chance to win against the SEC West champions on a day Alabama played well.
The Tigers have one more opportunity to win this season and that would be a positive as will the extra 15 days of practice that come with a bowl invitation. Hopefully, a lot of young folks get a lot of work during the month of December that will help them become better players next year.
There have been some strange things going on with coaches getting fired this season. Over at Georgia, where Mark Richt got fired or stepped down as head coach, my take is that his team would be playing in the SEC Championship Game this week if Nick Chubb had not gone down with an injury.
With Chubb in the lineup I believe the Bulldogs would have beaten Tennessee and Florida and would have won 11 games this year going into what would have been a rematch vs. Alabama this week. I believe Coach Richt has represented his school well and in a lot of ways will be hard to replace. It won’t be easy for someone to match his winning percentage over such a long period of time.