First from the Birmingham News:
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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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, MattGrothe.com 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.
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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:
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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...
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.
• 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.