After two weeks of the JV schedule, it's back to the SEC and yet another OMG-this-game-will-determine-the-rest-of-the-season matchup for our Hogs. Since Auburn has been a bit of an enigma this year, we were wondering things like: How will Brandon Cox play? Do memories of last year's rout linger for the Tigers? And what's up with that whole 'War Eagle' thing?? (apparently that last one is a touchy subject) For answers, we turned to Jerry at the extremely witty and consistently entertaining Auburn blog, the Joe Cribbs Car Wash. See what he had to say below...
Also, Jerry naturally had a few questions of his own...explaining the somewhat insane state of Razorback football to an outsider is a tall task but we did our best. You can check out our efforts over at the JCCW.
Big thanks to Jerry for participating in the Q&A, and for supplying answers that educated us and made us laugh on more than one occasion. Read on:
1. Which is the real Auburn team, the one that lost to Miss St or the one that beat Florida? And which one is going to show up in Fayetteville?
Funny you mention this, this has been a popular question to ask of Auburn of late (probably because Auburn has done things like, well, get Croomed at home and beat WunderTim and his WunderFriends in the space of three weeks) and I took a stab at it to kick this week off. My answer is that both Auburns are the real Auburn. Tubby's Auburn has been defined by the crush-the-skull-crushers / wilt-against-the-wilters dichotomy for so long it's silly to pretend either one is more representative of what Auburn is than the other. Yin and Yang and all that crazy Matrix-Neo spoon-crap, man.
So to answer your question: I have no doubt that you will see the real Auburn on Saturday. I don't make the slightest claim, however, to know how that team will perform. (Though so I'm not dodging the question entirely, I do think it's unrealistic to expect Auburn's offense to continue performing with the ruthless efficiency it's shown the last two weeks and the tons of injuries on the defense have to start hurting some time. I think it's better to catch Auburn now than later.)
2. Seems like Tommy Tuberville's coaching seat was getting pretty hot before the Florida game. What's the general perception of him among Auburn fans now? If you had to guess, where will he be coaching next year?
The reports of Tubby's death were always greatly, greatly exaggerated. Yes, we were all in need of a hug and a cup of hot chocolate with a couple of marshmallows where one of the marshmallows was one of those awesome purple horseshoes from Lucky Charms after the Miss. St. debacle. But only the Auburn fans on the furthest end of the rationality spectrum were actually calling for Tubby's head. After 2004, most of us signed up for the long haul. I would say the silent majority of Tiger fans wouldn't have even argued then to jettison any assistants in the Crooming's wake, though if the season had continued (or reverts to) that previous vein, it's likely Borges and possibly a few position assistants wouldn't have survived. In any case, winning at Florida takes care of all that for the time being, thankfully. Suffice it to say I don't think there's going to be a Century 21 sign outside Tubby's new 9,000 square-foot home* any time soon.
*Note that Auburn bloggers are required by federal law to mention the square footage of Tubby's home every time they mention the possibility of his departure.
3. Hypothetically, if he does leave, one way or the other, who would be the likely candidates for the Auburn job? Who would be on your wish list?
Tubby's not leaving voluntarily, and not just because of the 9,000 square-foot house, either, sweet a pad as it probably is. It just doesn't make much sense, from where I sit, that Tubby would agree to hang around in 2003 at a school where the President and AD he would serve under had just thrown him under The Bus With Razors and Rabid Jackals For Wheels, and then a few years later walk out on a 100 percent supportive administration just for a breath of fresh coaching air.
So we're in the realm of the extreme hypothetical, and even here I wouldn't begin to hazard a guess at who the Auburn administration would look at. I hear Petrino's available, yuk yuk yuk.
Personally, I have tremendous admiration for Jim Grobe's success in the running game at Wake, I don't understand why a coordinator with as much experience and success as Charlie Strong can't get a look, and I'm willing to bet Brian Kelly is going to be a well-nigh Meyer-esque success at whatever lucky BCS school eventually snatches him up. But for today and the foreseeable future, there's quite honestly no coach I'd rather see on Auburn's sidelines than Tubby. Except, come to think of it, maybe Elle MacPherson circa 1989 with Tubby's coaching acumen fused into her brain, but I realize that's asking a lot.
4. QB Brandon Cox has had an up-and-down season (or maybe "down and up" is the better phrase). What's been the key to his recent success? Do you see it continuing for the rest of the year?
As far as I can tell, the key has been finally ignoring that voice from his arm that goes "Sure, that guy's triple-covered, but remember when I threw that rock straight through your girlfriend's window from 100 feet away in 9th grade? I'm money, baby! Trust me! Let's squeeze one in there and show 'em how far away the places the two of us are headed! Let 'er rip!" (Yes, I think Cox's arm sounds like Howard Dean, for the record.) Sounds just a shade far-fetched, I don't but I don't have a better answer. Why a few quarters spent on the bench vs. MSU should completely rearrange his psyche to the point he could drive Auburn up and down Florida Field is beyond my understandings as a football fan.
My guess is that Cox spends most of the rest of the year in the space between his first few weeks and the last two: more reckless than he should be, but not so reckless to re-become the millstone around the offense's neck.
5. What are the keys to an Auburn victory on Saturday? In other words, what are the early signs that the "good Auburn" has shown up instead of the one that got Croomed, as you put it?
Picking up right where we left off, as Cox goes, so goes the entire team. It's not coincidental in the slightest that Auburn's season picked back up the minute against New Mexico St. Cox began acting like the quarterback we all fell in love with in 2005 (some, perhaps, more than others). When Cox is on--hitting his slants, checking into appropriate plays, not bailing at the first tangible hint of pressure--the line blocks better, the backs run harder, the defense seems more focused. It all starts there.
It would rather obviously also be a big help if McFadden and/or Jones don't break loose for an 87-yard run on the Hogs' first snap, as I believe the odds state they are 1 in 3 to do. Actually, given that Auburn's kickoff coverage as looked less than stellar at times, it will be something of a victory to even force a snap.
6. Give us a quick cheat sheet: which Auburn players will Razorback fans be cursing the most by the end of the game?
Brad Lester probably won't get as many carries as the increasingly-bruising (and effective) Ben Tate, but you're more likely to remember Lester's touches, because they're more likely to end in the end zone. The guy really does have a nose for the goal-line--no, really, they did this weird study, his olfactory nerves become heightened and sensitive in the presence of field paint--and with his initial "OK, let me prove to myself I'm still as bad-ass as I think I am" phase passed last week, his speed and slitheriness are going to get the full workout this week. I'm giddy.
Defensively, not even Auburn fdiehards knew that much about Chris Evans before the season. When you have a name like "Chris Evans" and you're backing up a force of nature at its most red-in-tooth-and-claw in Tray Blackmon, it's easy to get overlooked. But the guy has been absolutely everywhere since taking over for the ankle-deprived Blackmon. He's not just a tackling machine, he's a tackling machine from the year 2131. I keep expecting him to miss a game and explain afterwards he was chasing after Arnold Schwarzenegger and some goofy-looking teen, but it hasn't happened yet.
And oh, if Wes Byrum has the opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal, Wes Byrum is going to kick a game-winning field goal, by damn.
7. A lot has happened to both teams since their game last year. How much do you think memories of the 2006 game will impact this Saturday's matchup?
What game? I don't know what you're talking about. The last time Auburn played Arkansas, I was seven, and my Dad said, "Son, Auburn won, so here's a pony! With laser-beam eyes!" That's all I remember.
All right, so the players probably do have memories. I don't think it's honestly going to matter much. The "revenge" line from one year to the next is overplayed--look at what Georgia did to Tennessee, boy howdy were they mad, etc. (See also: Auburn 20, Florida 17, I should hasten to add.) You're right that a lot has happened in the interim, and that's all going to have a lot more impact than any alleged scores to settle. Hell, half Auburn's team was still in high school anyway.
8. We're sure that it's impossible for you to answer this objectively, but we have to ask: Ronnie Brown/Cadillac Williams vs Darren McFadden/Felix Jones...who wins?
An excellent question, and they'll probably suspend my Auburn blogger's license for this, but I have to say D-Mac and Jones. I'd take Brown over Jones for his consistency, ruggedness, and versatility out of the backfield, and Lawd knows I'm not knocking Cadillac--people remember his explosiveness, but his sheer guttiness (the 40-carry, 175-yard games he'd toss up once a season) was the mark of the sort of back who would play for a 13-0 team some day.
But I also happen to think that when healthy McFadden is the most terrifying, dynamic tailback to hit the SEC since the Herschel and Bo days. Blasphemy, I know, but there you go.
9. We've never fully understood the relationship between the War Eagle battle cry and the team's name being the Tigers...can you clear that up for us once and for all?
Well, see, that's the thing ... there is no relationship. Here's the exceedingly abbreviated version: A guy allegedly brought an eagle to the first Auburn game, it flew around, people chanted "War Eagle," that's the cheer. But Auburn's teams got nicknamed the Tigers. Being led by sensible people who weren't going to turn down a perfectly good battle cry or nickname just because it didn't match the other, Auburn kept them both.
I do wonder on very rare occasions if it's worth it, though, to put up with all the world's endless "Why can't you guys just pick one nickname? Guffaw!" jokes. You'll want to be cautious if you're asking an Auburn fan for further information on this subject, because a lifetime of "Guffaw!" has led to some understandable sensitivity on the subject. Consider that the deliciously snide bitterness of this passage ...
""War Eagle" is a battle cry, used by Auburn fans in the same manner Alabama fans yell "Roll Tide!" and Arkansas fans yell "Sooie Pig!" You never hear Alabama referred to as the Alabama Roll Tides or Arkansas as the Arkansas Sooie Pigs, and to call Auburn teams the
Auburn War Eagles would be just as incorrect"
...comes to you direct from the Auburn media guide.
10. Lastly (and completely unrelated to Arkansas), who's going to win the Iron Bowl this year? Besides Alabama, who do you consider your most hated rival?
I'm not touching a prediction on the Iron Bowl at this early stage with a ten-foot pole with a dozen latex gloves on the end. If the quarterbacks of the respective teams continue to play the way they have the past couple of weeks, yes, Auburn becomes the tentative favorite. But the cable company's estimated time their guy will arrive comes with a more airtight guarantee than what Cox and Wilson are going to be playing like six weeks from now. The stakes for this game, this year, are so completely, disproportionately SABAN VS. TUBBY LOSER LEAVES STATE RAAAAH RAAAAH ginormous that it's hard even for a blogger like me who prides himself on a certain degree of even-handedness to think about it without pondering the price of enchanted spinning wheels, so that if Auburn loses I can just prick myself and enter a pleasant Tide-less sleep forever.
I know a handful of Auburn fans that despise seeing our team upstaged by a guy so, well, Nutt-like as Houston Nutt and would take a W Saturday over any other non-Tide related victory possibly on the schedule. But by and large LSU has become the runaway consensus #2-most hated rival on the list, in part by virtue of some of the victory cigar-scented bad blood that wafted up between the teams back in the Saban days and in part by virtue of the two teams frequently taking on the appearance (if not the reality, as I'm sure you folks would no doubt attest) of the two teams who will decide the SEC West between them. Plus, they smell like corn dogs, the cajun wackjobs.