Sunday, October 09, 2005

Call It Throwback Weekend

Call it throwback weekend for Auburn fans. For the first time since 1993 an Auburn conference game will not be carried on television. So gather the kids and huddle around the family radio (do we still have those?) for some old-time college football.

This weekend’s match-up with the Arkansas Razorbacks will be available by radio only. You can thank Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles who declined a request by Auburn Network to carry the game on pay-per-view. That’s another story in itself.

But the overriding question this week is how will this Auburn team who besides Nebraska is the only team still not to play an away game, perform in Fayetteville. The answer lies with Quarterback Brandon Cox.

Cox has certainly matured since the opening night lost to Georgia Tech. He continues to get more comfortable after every snap. But playing in Western Arkansas on a Saturday night, in a place where the Tigers have traditionally struggled will be the true test.

Let’s hope the Tiger’s coaching staff doesn’t make the same mistakes they did in week one. Cox was forced to carry the team when Auburn abandoned the run. The result was a four interception night for a kid that never should have been put in that position.

Much has changed since then. Auburn has established its running game with both Kenny Irons and Brad Lester swapping time in the backfield. The Tigers ability to run has allowed Cox to grow and get more comfortable throwing the ball. As a result, Auburn’s talented receiving group has stepped up in recent weeks. With Courtney Taylor at near full speed this weekend I expect Cox to throw it if Auburn is able to establish the running game early.

Arkansas remains a mystery team. Everyone is aware of the monumental whipping it took in Los Angeles. We also saw how closely they played an Alabama team that now appears to be among the best in the country. Saturday night, the Razorbacks rolled over Louisiana-Monroe on the backs of two freshman runners who both ran for more than 100 yards. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones combined for 227 yards and three touchdowns in the easy win.

Here’s a stat I bet you didn’t know. Arkansas leads the SEC in rushing with nearly 300 yards a game. Who would have guessed that? They will be tested by an Auburn defense that gets better every week. Since dropping the loss to Tech, Auburn’s defense has given up only 24 points – many of those by second and third stringers playing mop up duty late in the games.

The consensus is this will be an Auburn win. It better be more than just a win. The Tigers are now less than two weeks away from that showdown in Baton Rouge. A loss Saturday night and that game means little. I don’t expect Tommy Tuberville to leave much to chance when we gather around the radio on Saturday night.

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