Marshall: Looking At 2006 AU Football Schedule

Columnist Phillip Marshall takes a look at Auburn's attempt to finalize the 2006 football schedule and several other areas in the athletic department.

Ramblin' around on Friday morning …

It shouldn't be much longer before we know who Auburn's 12th football game will be for 2006. One thing that seems certain is that it won't be a I-AA team. That's because I-AA Villanova is already on the schedule. The other nonconference games already set for 2006 are against Tulane and Temple. The Villanova game was scheduled some time back as a commemoration of sorts of the game between the two in the Bacardi Bowl at the end of the 1936 season. That game ended in a 7-7 tie and remains the only bowl game ever played on foreign soil.

If athletic director Jay Jacobs gets what he wants, the Tigers will play a one-time home game against a team from a BCS conference in 2006. After that, Jacobs would like to line up a home-and-home series against a quality opponent, with Auburn's home game coming in even years to make the home schedule more attractive when the Alabama game is in Tuscaloosa …

No one will know for sure until Monday, but Auburn seems quite likely to receive a bid to an NCAA baseball regional. It probably wasn't going to matter what happened at the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, but it certainly didn't hurt that Arkansas went two-and-out.

According to some close to the selection process, Auburn will likely be on the board ahead of the Razorbacks. Auburn, Arkansas and Vanderbilt finished tied for eighth, but Arkansas won the tiebreaker and advanced to Hoover. The Tigers won their series from Arkansas earlier in the season and would have won a two-team tiebreaker.

Arkansas is 37-20 overall and Auburn is 32-24, but those numbers are deceiving. Auburn's strength of schedule is far stronger. Since starting 24-1 against weak competition and climbing into the top 10, the Razorbacks are 13-19. They have lost their last five. If Arkansas ends up getting more credit for its 37 wins than Auburn gets for its schedule, fans can forget the interesting series against teams like Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Had Slater chosen to go the Arkansas route, Auburn could have played a schedule that resulted in 37 wins or more.

Most projections have 10 SEC teams in the field, with only Georgia and Kentucky staying home. Even Georgia will get consideration. If the Tigers get in, it will be because of their RPI and strength of schedule. It also doesn't hurt that they won series over LSU and Ole Miss, who were West Division co-champions …

Wide receiver Ben Obomanu is one of three Tigers that will have his degree in just three years before next season begins.

It's a prediction based on nothing other than knowing the two young men, but my money says Bret Eddins, who signed with the New York Giants as a free agent, and Jay Ratliff, drafted in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys, will still be playing in September. I also won't be surprised if Junior Rosegreen is still hanging around in Seattle, where he signed as a free agent …

The next Auburn projects in the ongoing facilities race that is costing athletic departments nationwide millions will be an indoor practice facility for basketball, an indoor tennis facility and an outdoor swimming pool. A new track, though running behind, is already under construction …

There aren't a lot of question marks on defense for Auburn as the 2005 season draws closer, but there are some. One is at defensive tackle, where T.J. Jackson, Wayne Dickens and Josh Thompson are going to need some help. The two most talented defensive tackles on the team might be Tez Doolittle and Pat Sims. The question is if and when they are going to figure out the dedication and determination it takes to be successful. It takes some players longer than others. Some never figure it out …

This school year has been a mixed bag for Auburn athletics. The football team's 13-0 run, of course, was the highlight. The men won another national championship in swimming, the soccer team was strong as usual, the women's golf team finished No. 3 in the nation and the softball team had an all-time high third-place finish in the SEC. The final chapters have yet to be written on baseball and track.

Speaking of track, when they stopped keeping team scores in events other than conference or NCAA meets, they made it very difficult for the general public to have a lot of interest.

Anyway, next year is likely to be a lot like this one. Baseball, men's basketball and women's basketball will be in the second seasons under new coaches. The second season is often the roughest ride for coaches building programs, and that could be the case for all three …

Former Auburn football coach Pat Dye's election to the Hall of Fame was long overdue. Dye did a lot more than win 99 games and four SEC championships in 12 seasons at Auburn. He changed the mindset of Auburn people.

Though his career ended sadly, it should be remembered that he was not personally implicated in the findings that landed Auburn on NCAA probation in 1993 …

It might be the most under-reported story about Auburn football. The emphasis Tommy Tuberville has put on academics is paying off in something far more important than championships. Auburn football players are succeeding in the classroom at a remarkable rate.

T.J. Jackson, Ben Obomanu and Lee Guess are among Auburn players who will have graduated when they play next season. That's impressive enough in itself. More impressive is that none of them were redshirted and they did it in just three years.

It is rare for any student to accomplish that, much less one whose time is consumed by playing football …

Until next time …


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