Marshall: 2006 Football and AU Hoops

Phillip Marshall writes about a number of topics including the 2006 football schedule, basketball and football recruiting.

Tuesday morning ramblings...

If things go as expected, Auburn's 2006 football schedule should be finalized in the coming week.

It is all but decided that the game against LSU will be played on Sept. 16. The questions that remain to be answered are whether Auburn will play Temple or another team on Sept. 23 and whether the game at South Carolina, scheduled for Sept. 30, will be moved to Thursday, Sept. 28, for ESPN as the Southeastern Conference office desires.

Auburn officials are working with Mid-American Conference officials to resolve the Temple question. If Temple does not remain on the schedule, it will probably be replaced by another lower-level MAC team. Assuming that gets done, the South Carolina game will be moved to Thursday night.

Putting it bluntly, if Auburn is to agree to move the South Carolina game, it needs a game against an overmatched opponent on Sept. 23.

For anyone who might have missed it, here's a look the probable schedule:

Sept. 2 Washington State; Sept. 9 at Mississippi State; Sept. 16 LSU; Sept. 23 Temple or another MAC school; Sept. 28 at South Carolina; Oct. 7 Arkansas; Oct. 14 Florida; Oct. 21 Tulane; Oct. 28 at Ole Miss; Nov. 4 Arkansas State; Nov. 11 Georgia; Nov. 18 at Alabama.

With Florida, the probable favorite in the SEC East, replacing Kentucky and Washington State signed up for the season-opener, Auburn will owe no one any apologies for its schedule next season. The Tigers will play every other SEC team that made it to a bowl last season.…

There was a time when going to a basketball game at Florida was a lot like going to a basketball game at Auburn. If the game was particularly significant, there would be a large crowd. If not, there wouldn't be. The atmosphere, in short, was nothing special.

My, how that has changed.

With Auburn in town last Saturday, there was more noise during the introduction of the starters than there was at any time during Auburn's home game against Alabama last Wednesday. When Auburn had the ball, players had to use hand signals. On virtually every possession until the game was decided, it was too loud for verbal communication.

During timeouts, there were no contests, no paid acts, nothing of that sort. The band played, the cheerleaders cheered and the crowd screamed. It's not like it was a particularly big game. It was the No. 1 team in the SEC against a team that hasn't won a league game.

The O'Connell Center itself is nothing out of the ordinary. Other than more modern and attractive electronics, the arena really is no different than most in the SEC. But when Florida plays at home these days, there is a big-time atmosphere, regardless of the opponent.

Can that happen at Auburn? Of course it can. Will that happen at Auburn? That's another question.

In due time, second-year coach Jeff Lebo is going to provide one ingredient. He will put a winning team on the floor. If it is a championship contender, history says Auburn fans will show up, at least for SEC games.

The rest of it is up to others. Until someone in position to make things happen recognizes there is a problem and takes a hard look at how it is done at the places that do it best, unless fans educate themselves about the game, Auburn basketball will not become the festive event it can be and should be. And as long as it isn't, it will be more difficult to recruit and win at Auburn than places where it is.

We shall see...

I'm no expert on rating a player's NFL potential, but I'm mystified that Auburn nose guard Tommy Jackson was not invited to the Senior Bowl. He figures to be drafted as high or higher than some that were...

Tommy Jackson should have received an invitation to the Senior Bowl.

Want to know how much star ratings for recruits really mean?

The Pittsburgh Steelers, one win from the Super Bowl, have a roster that includes players from Eastern Michigan, Tusculum, Kent State, New Hampshire, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Brown, Northern Colorado, Louisiana-Lafayette, Tiffin, Western Carolina and Youngstown State.

It's a pretty safe bet there's not a five-star in that group...

My guess at how the 2006 SEC race will be forecast next summer:

WEST: 1. LSU, 2. Auburn, 3. Alabama, 4. Arkansas, 5. Ole Miss, 6. Mississippi State.

EAST: 1. Florida, 2. Georgia, 3. South Carolina, 4. Tennessee, 5. Kentucky, 6. Vanderbilt.

Until next time...

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