1) It’s. Almost. Here.
Feel that chill. Smell that fresh-cut grass.
Fans are soon to go crazy for those Boys of Fall.
I’ve probably had this YouTube on in the background, oh, 20 or 25 times the past couple weeks to get amped up. You should too.
2) Hope you didn’t blink and miss the opening of college football last night. South Carolina kicked things off by winning a tight one at Vanderbilt, and it was testier than the ol’ ball coach might have preferred.
The ninth-ranked Gamecocks held off Vanderbilt 17-13, and All-America back Marcus Lattimore looked pretty healthy off ACL rehab, going over the century mark and scoring SC’s pair of touchdowns.
Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw might have sent a caution flag to all the other young quarterbacks out there: don’t get too aggressive too early. Shaw took two shots to the right shoulder on scrambling plays, and gutted his way out to the final whistle, but it could have been much worse for South Carolina.
Look, just because South Carolina perhaps played more like No. 29 than No. 9, a win’s a win. Especially in August. You’ve got to love Steve Spurrier’s postgame quote: “You look at the preseason press, we thought we were hot stuff. Then we almost got that stuff beat out of us.”
Vanderbilt has redesigned everything: its field, its jumbotron, its attitude. Prepare to hear “don’t overlook the Commodores” approximately 16,000 times this season.
But, no, seriously, don’t overlook the Commodores. Auburn heads to Nashville Oct. 20.
3) Auburn went through one last half-stack practice (helmets and shoulder pads) Thursday, indoors as to avert the sprinkling rain. After a short walkthrough Friday, the Tigers will board the bus for Atlanta and its made-for-primetime opener.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Auburn head coach Chizik said. “The next week we have to play a tough SEC West game, so I think this is going to be a great indicator for us of just where we stand. Whether that dictates how the rest of your season unfolds or not, you don’t know that until December. The last two years, if history has anything to say in it, then it might.”
4) Interesting chart sent our way courtesy of Auburn research student Scott Scroggins, charting the opening-day starting offensive line over the past decade.
The 2010 line which ended up winning a national championship came into the season with 108 combined starts under their belts. Last year’s big uglies, ah, were not quite as seasoned: 12 starts pre-2011, 11 with Brandon Mosley and one for John Sullen. This year’s front has 22 combined starts, split between guards Sullen and Chad Slade. (Reese Dismukes, the presumed starter until he was arrested and suspended last weekend, started all 13 at center his freshman year.)
Apparently, it’s against the rules for a guy to start at right tackle two years in a row. The two positions where you’d want depth, there has been: left tackle was manned by two guys for five years (King Dunlap and Lee Ziemba), and center has been basically a two-year election for whoever’s snapping the ball. Of course, if and when Dismukes regains his job upon lifting of his suspension, you figure he’ll be there for a long time.
5) Reports by Rivals.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution dictate Auburn is taking up the SEC on its recent rule change to host potential recruits at neutral sites in which the SEC squad is deemed the home team.
Reuben Foster, already a Tigers commit, is expected to attend, along with other top prospects Montravius Adams, A.J. Jackson and Trey Johnson, per the Journal-Constitution.
6) Just a point to ponder for Brian VanGorder and the Tigers’ defense, when they speak of rotating linemen every five to seven plays:
You know if you get off the field in three plays and force a punt, it’s a non-issue, right?
For some reason, Auburn was completely miserable in the ‘time of possession’ department for the first four games of 2011. It was an issue eventually corrected, but against Utah State, Mississippi State, Clemson and Florida Atlantic, Auburn’s offense had plenty of time to play Angry Birds on the sideline in between drives.
In those first four, Auburn allowed opponents to run an average of 84.8 plays (91.0 per in the first three!!!!!) while snapping 59.5 times itself. Those four Auburn opponents maintained control for an average of just under 36 minutes.
Blame third-down inefficiency (we discussed this on the chat yesterday) … those four foes converted 41 of 69 chances on the money down. That’s 59.4 percent. Alabama opponents only converted 24 percent of its third-down plays last year.
Without having seen those four games live … frankly, it’s a miracle Auburn went 3-1 in that stretch.
Time of possession. One of those hidden stats you must control. One of the largest tasks in front of VanGorder.
7) And leave it to caffeinated Auburn wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor to compare game week before the opener to the most wonderful time of the year (you know, besides the start of football season): the holidays.
“You know why you’re excited on Christmas Eve?” Taylor said. “Because you’re getting presents tomorrow. We’re excited to see what we have.”