I'm not so sure Auburn's homecoming game against Louisiana-Monroe is going to be the cakewalk that is being widely predicted. There's no question Auburn is physically superior at every position. There's no question Auburn, at the top of its game, could name the score against the Indians. But I don't look for Auburn to be at the top of its game.
I don't know that I've ever been around a team more clearly looking right through an opponent than Auburn this week. When Louisiana-Monroe has been discussed, which hasn't been all that often, it has been in terms of playing well to get ready for the finishing stretch against Georgia and Alabama. Don't think it can happen? Earlier this season, The Citadel took LSU into the fourth quarter in Baton Rouge before the game was decided. Soon after, The Citadel lost to Western Carolina. That was the same Western Carolina that had been pummeled 56-0 at Auburn.
Back in 1996, when Louisiana-Monroe was Northeast Louisiana, the Indians darned near pulled an upset at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn had to have a goal-line stand and a late touchdown pass from Dameyune Craig to Kevin McLeod to win 28-24. Of course, that was an Auburn team in some disarray. Head coach Terry Bowden was coaching from the press box after having back surgery. A few days earlier, wide receiver Robert Baker had broken offensive lineman Kendall Mack's jaw with one punch. I don't expect much drama Saturday, but I also don't expect a wipeout. We shall see.
*None of the news coming out of Memphis on Thursday night was comforting for Alabama's football program. In fact, it must be very scary. The NCAA, in its findings against Alabama, reserved the right to revisit the case based on legal developments in Memphis. Former high school coach Lynn Lang pleaded guilty Thursday and promised to cooperate. The U.S. attorney, in a startling statement, said he had the evidence to convict Alabama booster Logan Young and former Alabama coaches Ivy Williams and Ronnie Cottrell of racketeering. Reports also said that Lang admitted having someone take Means' ACT test for him at the recommendation of Alabama coaches.
The amazing thing is that this all came about because of an obscene amount of money spent to sign defensive lineman Albert Means, who doesn't look like he's ever going to amount to much as a college football player. He transferred to Memphis after a year at Alabama, was less than spectacular last season and is academically ineligible this season. I don't know if the NCAA will actually revisit the Alabama case or not, but it seems unlikely those words were put into the report for nothing. It might be May, when Lang is due to be sentenced, before there is any real sign where all this is headed.
*It's sad that Antwarn Franklin is no longer a part of the Auburn football team, but he has no one to blame but himself. Head coach Tommy Tuberville is a patient sort, but there are lines a player just can't cross. If he does, he can count on getting his walking papers.
*If I was a betting man, which I'm not, I would bet on Auburn to beat Georgia and lose in a close game at Alabama.
*Freshman wide receiver Ben Obomanu's comments about his disappointment in not getting the ball more sure seemed to create a stir. They probably also got him an earful from a coach or two.
*Will anybody in the nation have a tougher schedule than Auburn next season? The Tigers open with Southern California at home, then go to Georgia Tech. Those testers are followed by games at Vanderbilt, at home against Ball State, at home against Tennessee, at Arkansas, at home against Mississippi State, at LSU, at home against Louisiana-Monroe, at home against Ole Miss, at Georgia and at home against Alabama.
*I had a feeling all along Auburn's basketball team would be better than advertised. After watching the first exhibition game, I'm convinced of it. Certainly, the Tigers aren't ready to contend for an SEC championship, but they might just be good enough to make a serious run at an NCAA Tournament bid. They certainly should be good enough to win most, if not all, their home games. It's interesting to note that, for all the outstanding things Mark Gottfried has done as Alabama's basketball coach, he has yet to win a game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. That even includes last season when Alabama won the SEC , but was one of just four SEC teams to lose to Auburn.
For what they are worth--which isn't much--here are my predictions:
Auburn 38, Louisiana-Monroe 6;
Alabama 34, Mississippi State 10;
South Carolina 17, Arkansas 16;
Florida 27, Vanderbilt 14;
LSU 31, Kentucky 17;
Georgia 42, Ole Miss 27;
Miami 33, Tennessee 17.
It's going to be an interesting Saturday in the SEC. Four games--LSU at Kentucky, Arkansas at South Carolina, Ole Miss at Georgia and Florida at Vanderbilt could impact who goes to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Until next time...