Auburn

The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WACK-12
The Pac-12 came into the 2015 season looking to challenge the SEC for conference football supremacy.  While that may end up still being the case, it was a rough Week 1 in myriad regards for the Left Coast league, particularly its northern division.

First and foremost, No. 21 Stanford went into Evanston as heavy favorites only to be upended and upset by Northwestern.  And it wasn’t just that one of the preseason favorites in the North was beaten, it was that they were roughed up by the Wildcats and seemed to play timid on both sides of the ball.  More embarrassingly, a couple of hours later Washington State lost to FCS Portland State, which came into the game a 30-point underdog.

The South contributed to the first-week malaise as No. 15 Arizona State, viewed by some as a darkhorse playoff candidate (sheepishly raises hand), capped off the night with a 20-point loss to unranked Texas A&M.  At least that, though, was a loss to a Power Five school, and one from the stacked SEC West no less, in what was essentially a home game for the Aggies.

Add in Washington’s loss to Boise State — no shame in that — and Colorado’s loss to Hawaii Thursday night — a whole hell of a lot of shame in that — and it turned into a horrific lost weekend for the conference.  That said, remember how many were writing the Big Ten off a year ago at this time?  Yeah, it wouldn’t be wise to repeat that history.

WEAK 1?
If you thought that the Week 1 schedule, especially Saturday, was especially lacking when it came to compelling on-paper matchups, you’re not alone.  In fact, the raw data is sitting right along side you.

Opening weekend, and including the two still remaining, there were/are 87 games involving FBS teams.  Of that, 11 pitted Power Five vs. Power Five (for this exercise, I’m considering BYU a P5); another 47 — more than half — featured FBS teams playing an FCS team.  There were 22 Power Five teams that opened their season against an FCS team, with the ACC far and away leading the cupcake way with seven.  The Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 had four apiece, while the pastry alley that is the late-season SEC lagged behind with three.

There were also 23 games played between Power Five and Group of Five teams.  The SEC accounted for eight of those games, while the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 saw four each.  The FCS-heavy ACC had three such games.

It wasn’t just the Power Fives feeding on the FCS, though, as 25 Group of Five teams opened against the former Div. 1-AA.  The remaining six games saw Group of Five squads squaring off against each other.

While most of the FBS feasted on their FCS cupcakes, a handful choked on them.  Two that lost to FCS teams were Power Five members in the aforementioned Wazzu and Kansas (South Dakota State, more on that below) and two were Group of Five teams in Army (Fordham) and Wyoming (North Dakota).

BAD BLOOD CHEAP SHOT?
Vernon Adams transferred from Eastern Washington to Oregon earlier this offseason and ultimately earned the Ducks’ starting quarterback job.  As luck would have it, Adams’ current and former teams squared off in the season opener in Autzen Saturday night, and there was one interesting development in UO’s 61-42 win.

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No. 6 Auburn hangs on vs. Louisville in Atlanta, where Tigers hope to return in Dec.

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No. 6 Auburn (1-0) got its season off to a great start in Atlanta. If things go according to plan, these Tigers will be back in the Georgia Dome at the end of the season in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn seemed poised to put the game on cruise control with a 17-0 lead at halftime, but Louisville (0-1) made Auburn keep its foot on the gas pedal in the second half. Auburn held on for a 31-24 victory, with every second counting down the stretch.

Auburn’s defense made some plays, including an 82-yard fumble returned for a touchdown, but Louisville put together over 400 yards of offense, including 240 on the ground. Will Muschamp added some fire to the defense at first but it will have to show more consistency moving forward, especially in SEC play. Auburn’s offense struggled at times as well, showing room for improvement, which may be a little scary.

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson was intercepted three times by the Louisville defense, which is a strength for the Cardinals even though this result may not show it on the scoreboard. Johnson completed just 11 of his 20 pass attempts for 140 yards. The three interceptions thrown were never anything that hurt Auburn on this day though, as Louisville could only muster three points off of the turnovers, while punting the other two times. The lesson here is Lousiville needs to find a way to cash in on those free opportunities, otherwise they could easily get burned in ACC play later on. The Cardinals also need to find a rhythm in the passing game. Lamar Jackson was just 9-of-20 for 100 yards and an interception. Reggie Bonnafon was 8-of-13 for 67 yards when given a chance to lead the offense.

Auburn got a big day on the ground from Peyton Barber, who rumbled for 109 yards on 25 carries. Ricardo Lewis and Johnson each ran for a touchdown.

Louisville will return home next weekend to host what could be a tricky Houston team. The Cougars have a new head coach in Tom Herman, and could bring some good offense to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium next weekend. Auburn will also be home next week, hosting Jacksonville State.

Muschamp’s defense making plays as No. 6 Auburn in control of Louisville

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Auburn is hoping to end the regular season in the Georgia Dome in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn is starting the season there as well and showing how valuable the addition of Will Muschamp has been to the defense. Muschamp’s defense has turned in three sacks, forced a turnover and returned a fumble for a touchdown while blanking Louisville in the first half of the Chichbk-fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta. No. 6 Auburn leads Louisville 17-0 at the break.

Louisville could not have asked for a worse start in the Georgia Dome. Lamar Jackson’s pass on the first play of the game was picked off by Auburn’s Tray Matthews, and the Tigers offense went right to work from the Louisville 26-yard line. Jeremy Johnson completed two passes and finished off the short drive with a short touchdown run to give Auburn a fast 7-0 lead. That lead doubled midway through the second quarter when a promising drive by the Cardinals ended with a fumble returned for a touchdown the other way. Justin Garrett picked up a loose ball at the Auburn 20-yard line and went the distance for the score. Auburn added a 56-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson in the final minute of the half.

As for the offense, Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson has completed five of nine attempts for 60 yards, and he has been picked off twice by Louisville’s equally aggressive defense. Louisville’s defense has done well keeping the Tigers under wraps for the most part, holding Auburn to two third down conversions out of four attempts and just 64 rushing yards. Defense is not the question for the Cardinals this season. It is the offense, which must replace some key players. Early on, it suggests Louisville’s offense will be a bit of a work in progress, and going against a defense showing improvement like Auburn’s is a tough draw out of the gates.

Now let’s see if either offense can make adjustments to get something going in the second half. If not, things look to favor Auburn with the 14-point edge and the defense making plays the way it is.

Auburn’s spring game offensive MVP abruptly leaves Tigers

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To say the least this is interesting timing on Myron Burton Jr.‘s part.

Just four days before the start of the 2015 season, Auburn confirmed that Burton has decided to take his leave of Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers football program.  No reason was given for what was as a “mutual” divorce between the player and the team.

Burton was a three-star member of AU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

His main claim to fame during his brief time on The Plains was being name as the offensive MVP of the annual A-Day spring game a few months back.  In that game, Burton portended a potential role this coming season by catching seven passes for 124 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

From al.com:

Malzahn said the Tigers will move receivers among the three main spots to compensate for the departure.

“We’ve got three or four guys who can play both,” he said. “We’ll move people around probably more than we have in the past. We do have some depth at receiver we feel good about.”

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Playoff Predictions

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Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Year One of the College Football Playoff brought a new energy to the sport of college football, begging many to ask after each week of games just where teams stood in the playoff hunt. Sure, the conversation and debate over playoff position may have been forced or manufactured at times, but there was no escaping the idea that playoff hopes could be dashed in almost any given week. Then, as the season drew to a close we were left wondering just how the selection committee, a group of characters from all walks of life brought together and locked into one single meeting room, would emerge with the final say.

Alabama. Oregon. Florida State. Ohio State. (Sorry Baylor and TCU).

That was last year. We learned a few things along the way as we watched the selection committee dive head first into this brand new playoff format. We learned that conference championship games matter more than some were led to believe. We learned it is still OK to lose early, as it once was under the BCS system. We learned that going undefeated may not necessarily make you a lock for one of the four golden tickets. And we learned that being left out leads to some bitterness and resentment. Of course, we also learned that predicting how this whole thing will play out can be a difficult task, with rankings changing week by week using a logic that seems to change just often enough to throw you off your game once you think you figured it out. And guess what. We haven’t even learned everything yet.

This season will see a brand new set of scenarios brought to the table for discussing inside those closed doors. How will the selection committee handle things not yet seen? That is anybody’s guess, just as it is anybody’s guess which four teams will finally reach the playoff on New Years Eve.

Ohio State and TCU look like strong contenders out of the gate, locking down the top two spots in the national polls that have been rendered even more meaningless than they already were. The SEC and Pac-12 feel like conferences strong enough to send a team back to the playoff even if the conference champion wears a crown with one loss or two. The ACC has some potential candidates as well with Clemson and Florida State, although the margin for error may not be as wide as it is for whichever team comes out of the SEC, be it Alabama or Auburn or Georgia. Oh, and let’s not forget about Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish always seem to wiggle into this conversation with some serious merits in the preseason.

Below are the College Football Playoff predictions from the College Football Talk crew, as well as a few extra special guests.

John Taylor: Orange Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State over No. 4 Clemson (Orange Bowl), No. 2 TCU over No. 3 Auburn (Cotton Bowl). Ohio State over TCU in CFP championship game.

Zach Barnett: Baylor, Ohio State, Michigan State and Auburn – not necessarily in that order.

The four teams that reach the College Football Playoff will be great in two areas: quarterback and defensive line. Sure, you want your offensive line stout and your defensive backfield deep, but no positions hold sway over a game, a team, and a season like those two. Those four teams will allow their quarterbacks to make plays while making their counterparts miserable, and they’ll be the ones playing on New Year’s Eve.

Kevin McGuire:  No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Oregon (Orange Bowl), No. 2 TCU vs. No. 3 Auburn (Cotton Bowl)

I have gone on record saying I believe Ohio State and TCU will each run their respective tables in the regular season, and I’ll throw Ohio State a 13th win with a Big Ten championship game victory over Nebraska. TCU will not be left on the outside looking in this season if they manage to avoid a trip along the way. A 12-0 record gets the Big 12 in this season. Oregon manages to sneak in at the end of the season, and Auburn pulls down the other spot despite having a pair of losses. That’s right, we’ll have a 2-loss SEC champion in the fun while the ACC champ gets left out.

Vinnie Duber (CSN Chicago, Big Ten Talk): 1. Ohio State, 2. TCU, 3. Auburn, 4. USC

The Buckeyes seem like a lock for the CFP with all their returning talent at nearly every position on the field, plus they seem like they should be even better than last year’s team, which obviously won it all. TCU boasts maybe the nation’s best quarterback in Trevone Boykin, who has the experience to beat out Baylor in what should be a Big 12 dogfight. Auburn should pile up points behind quarterback Jeremy Johnson and could be snuffing out opposing offenses behind new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, though the SEC West is always a gauntlet. And finally, USC has the Pac-12’s best QB in Cody Kessler, allowing the Trojans to edge out an Oregon team replacing Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.

Ben Kercheval (Bleacher Report, former CFT contributor): TCU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn