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Thursday Hub Hits the Road

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Woe On the Plains: A Week Two loss is never a good time to panic, but a couple good reasons in today's papers back up my preseason hesitation re: Auburn.

First from the Birmingham News:

Tommy Tuberville knows how recruiting works. The opposition grabs something negative and takes off running. That's what happened to Tuberville and Auburn in 2004 when the double-whammy of an ill-timed trip to Louisville and a SACS investigation hurt his efforts to find the best recruiting class available.

The Tigers are playing a bit shorthanded because of it today.

The Tigers have only four players who initially signed scholarships from that class of 29 players who have full-time starting jobs today.

Maybe that's why all 49 of Auburn's points this year have been scored by freshmen and sophomores. And maybe it is a good thing for Auburn the last two recruiting classes have been top-heavy with talent to pick up the slack. At least 18 freshmen or sophomores played last week, and figure to do it again when the Tigers play host to Mississippi State in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
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Heap the scorn for your youthful indiscretions on Bobby Petrino! And SACS! Otherwise, top recruits would have been flocking to a program that lost 13 games over three years from 2001-03...

Just don't blame the defense, says the Huntsville Times:

Hey, writers, leave this man alone.
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With weary legs and aching muscles, they answered the call once. Then again and again and yet again.

When the offense came unraveled, Auburn's defense hung stubbornly on last Saturday night against South Florida. In the second half, the Bulls started drives at the Auburn 21, 23, 3 and 32 and got only three points for their trouble.

Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall watched it all with admiration and respect.
"I've been coaching a long time," he said. "I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like that."
For all it accomplished, the defense forced no turnovers against South Florida. Auburn's offense turned it over five times.

"We have to do more to win the game and we have to create some turnovers and momentum for our football team," Muschamp said. "That's the bottom line. We have to create some field position and momentum."
"The kids played hard," Muschamp said. "The effort was great. It really was. We hardly had any busts, hardly had any mental mistakes. We just have to have crisper execution.

"The thing is, we had opportunities to win the game on defense and we didn't do it."
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That is a titanic display of, uh, I'll go with selflessness there by Muschamp, who in reality should be berating reporters for not hanging all over the offense that turned it over five times in its own territory rather than harping on the unit that overwhelmingly did its job under impossible conditions one week after winning another tough game by itself. Fumbles and interceptions are the result of breakdowns in blocking - not necessarily by the offensive line in every case, when it comes to pass protection, but certainly a majority of the time - and sitting an overtime away from 2-0 under the circumstances, which include the instant relegation of a senior third-year starter's pocket presence to "chuck and duck," is a testament to the defense.

It's bad for morale when one aspect of a unit internalizes responsibility for the whole, because it's never sustainable; see Saturday night. Psychologically, it's a burden. Muschamp is a fiery guy. He jumps around, yells, swings his arms all over the place, strays way out onto the field between plays, is perpetually drenched in sweat. If he has to stoop to this "we just didn't do enough" routine for the rest of the season, some reporter is going to get hurt. For your own good, guys, keep talking to Al Borges.

For posterity, has condensed every USF positive from Saturday into one eight-minute clip of pure Auburn pain:

Not included are the Bulls' seven straight possessions without a point in the second and third quarters, or their three missed field goals in four drives that all began in kicking range after Tiger turnovers in the second half.

Tour de Tu Update: I don't do a lot of extraneous blog linking for the sake of linking, and I refrain from that sort of thing purposefully, so you can trust me when I say this: I can't recommend any single installment of Jonathan Tu's epic, season-long, 14-week, 25-state, 22-game road trip highly enough. I vowed to promote the hell out of this trip when he announced it, and at the moment I desperately want to be on it with him, because it's the kind of pointless yet enduring endeavor all virile youngsters such as ourselves should do before we become fun-craving corporate skeletons. And while I'm sitting at various desks throughout the day, Tu is doing it well:

Jonathan Tu: Like Kerouac, but for football.
- - - far this trip has turned out exactly as I envisioned it: smelly, cramped, uncomfortably hovering around $3.00 per gallon, sustained only by CLIF Bars, my Nalgene bottle and no less than three Johnny Cash albums. I have a Garmin 330c GPS unit I have nicknamed Henry due to my summers spent in his seafaring base. (Will my Garmin unit eventually be surpassed by Spain, France and England in terms of world prestige? Yeah, probably. But it'll still beat the Brits in penalty kicks.) My car is a 1996 Nissan Maxima that so far has no name but seems to be discussing, in closed sessions, the moniker "Joppy" as in, "Who the fuck would drive that jalopy? That thing doesn't even deserve three syllables." My bed is the back seat, or else both the driver's seat and the back seat in a diagonal accomplished by lowering the former, or else an uncomfortable pea soup-like atmosphere in which my organic marginalia slowly dampen, ripen and wither away like so much paper based material brought to the not-un-wet tropics of the Philippines. I am missing toes and fingers here, people. As Neal Stephenson once wrote, I can feel the incipient malaria, and it is hot. Chicks dig my organic look, probably because women love the idea of fertility and there is nothing more fertile than having a week's worth of grime caked into your pores because Joppy won't lower its windows due to the thousands of mosquitoes swarming outside its already thoroughly compromised barriers, and is that wheat growing out of your collar?

Yes, it is. I'd make a fine hefeweizen, thank you. And this trip has already lived up to its promise in game one: Colorado 31, Colorado State 28. Overtime, baby. God, your check is in the mail. It's postdated, so, like, call me before you cash. Actually, text me. I have a pay-as-you-go-phone.
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That bit precedes his "nightmare session through the Rockies" en route to the CU-CSU game, the first leg of his tour two weeks ago. Last weekend, Tu took his road show to Norman for the Oklahoma-Miami game, where he discovered predictably hot coeds, the necessity of hanging with racist, unironic Miami fans, and a conflagration of events that led to the following passage:

I have no compunction about getting up whenever the hell a trucker wakes me up in the middle of a Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot (24 hour bathrooms), opening my door and hawking my lungs out the way your gramps used to do back when you were young and scared of things that sounded like Cobra Commander dying in a cage filled with pop rocks and Coca-Cola. I certainly have no objection to brushing my teeth and letting the by-product dribble onto the asphalt beneath the driver's door. And, frankly, I never really cared very much about smelling vaguely French because I have lived in Paris and it eventually fades into olfactory white noise. There is one thing that bothers me, though: bat wings.
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I'll be updating Tu's progress weekly for the rest of the season, if only to do my small part to cheerlead our gridiron Kerouac on to the finish (not like my college friends who vowed to walk across the country like a slightly less-conditioned Forrest Gump. Quitters). His next stop is in Lincoln for his beloved Trojans' game with Nebraska Saturday, so if you're going, look for the young, disheveled, wheat-sprouting Asian being given a six-foot buffer zone by the rest of the crowd at all times. He shouldn't be hard to find.

Remaining on the subject of Trojan road trips to Nebraska, the L.A. Times' T.J. Simers is taking the much duller, hotel-bound route of the middle-aged, middle-class and condescending into the most stereotypical farm country he could find (the series will not likely cover the Corn State's mega-corporate croplands, or its many run-of-the-mill suburbs, box stores and office parks that look remarkably like the ones in Los Angeles, in favor of making fun of the remaining Salt of the Earth instead, such as it can muster), where he is shocked – shocked! – as only a Los Angelino could be to find husbands and wives able to tolerate one another's presence for more than a few consecutive minutes at a time. Oh, and the game Saturday? "A foregone conclusion..."

Housekeeping: The left sidebar is updated at last with links to the very official SMQ preseason Top 25, the momentarily intact dissection of the anatomy of an underdog and the essentially irrelevant speculation of BCS Bustin'. It is now safe to bring children into the world.

Coming and Going...

The New York Times gets into Tim Tebow's head and finds yo-yo champions in state prisons, impromptu duets with Kenny Chesney and pantie-waving co-eds.

Woodson's windup brings the funk.

Andre Woodson almost quit when he was benched for hyped Curtis Pulley in 2005. Now Pulley is off the team and fans are treated to college football's funkiest release.

It wasn't the least he's ever given a quarterback, but Charlie Weis' playbook for Penn State will be significantly beefed up for Jimmy Clausen's second start at Michigan. The offensive line, though? Same old, same old.

Oklahoma had a minor violation expunged from its record by the NCAA Tuesday for the jerseys-in-recruits'-lockers thing, but it has for bigger redemptive fish to fry: the Sooners want their wins back.

Somehow, the Detroit Free-Press' Michael Rosenberg can see Michigan rebounding to win the Big Ten. He can also see the Wolverines' horrible start getting a lot worse this weekend.

Two days after USC announced starting DB Josh Pinkard is out for the season, it's also wondering about linebacker/defensive end Brian Cushing, who sprained an ankle this week and is a game-time decision at Nebraska.

Running back Chauncey Washington, at least, expects to play, as if the tailback-laden Trojans desperately needed him.

Chase Ortiz, victim under review: the TCU senior has had two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery wiped out by instant replay.

The Oregonian's Paul Bukar has an exclusive interview with muzzled offensive lineman Rob Schuenning.