Thursday, November 11
Manic-Depressive Preview: If you've got any more Prayers on the Plains, now'd be the time to use 'em.
So we're nearing the end of a difficult season, and the Dawgs now sit at 5-5, and at a crossroads -- they've got two big rivals left, Auburn and Georgia Tech, and they're gonna have to beat at least one of them to make it to a bowl this year. Will they make it? Manic Doug, who watched every last second of the Dawgs' 55-7 beatdown of Idaho State last week, and Depressive Doug, who used the time to catch up on his flossing, bring you their views and predictions on the first of those two matchups here. You probably will not be surprised to find what their respective positions are.
Manic Doug: So has Cam Newton been suspended yet?
Depressive Doug: Seriously? Is that what you're waiting on? 'Cause if it is, this is gonna be the shortest preview we've ever done.
MD: No, Eeyore, I'm just trying to feel out every angle I can. Any little competitive edge we can get is gonna help us.
DD: First of all, I'm sure Mr. Newton is ever so flattered by your characterization of him as a "little" edge, not to mention the Heisman Foundation. Second, am I to infer from this that you're actually worried about the Dawgs' chances with him in the game?
MD: Well, of course I'm worried, dumbass. I'm an optimist and an aggressive drunk, not a complete idiot. But I'm not about to sit here and say that having to face the best player in the country automatically dooms us to a loss.
DD: Well, no problem there. I'll be happy to do it for you.
MD: What a shock. OK, then, answer me this: Can you name one guy on Auburn's offense besides Newton?
DD: Michael Dyer, running back. Darvin Adams, receiver. Mario Fannin, receiver. Lee Ziemba, offensive guard.
MD: Well, that one kind of blew up in my face.
DD: Onterrio McCalebb, running back. Philip Lutzenkirchen, tight end . . . shall I go on?
MD: Well, congratulations, you read your Phil -- wait, Lutzenkirchen? You made that up. Or else he's a character from a Dr. Seuss book.
DD: Nope, he's quite real, and he's got nine receptions for 81 yards and two TDs this season.
MD: Oh, well! Nine catches for eighty-one whole yards? Screw Cam Newton, it's obvious they don't need him!
DD: Are you anywhere close to making a point here? 'Cause if not, I'd love to go ahead and put in that DVD of the third season of "Mad Men" we were watching earlier, if it's all the same to you.
MD: What I'm saying is that while yes, there are other players on Auburn's roster, none of them have come close to making the kind of contribution that Newton has. Even you have to admit it's pretty much a one-man show. If we stop Newton, we've got a chance at winning. It's that simple.
DD: Yeah, and if I was Superman I could reverse the earth's rotation, go back in time and keep A.J. Green from selling that fucking jersey. So what? How do you propose we stop him?
MD: We don't have to stop him . . . if he stops himself.
(long, very weird pause)
DD: Was there supposed to be some music there? I feel like something was supposed to happen there that didn't happen.
MD: Yeah, I had Dramatic Chipmunk cued up, and then my computer froze on me. Hold on, you take a moment to admire this week's Associated Hottie, model and Auburn polymer engineering major Scarlet South, while I try to make this thing work.
DD: I'm not sure what I find harder to believe about that statement -- the idea that her real name is "Scarlet South," or the idea that there's a chick who looks like that anywhere who's majoring in polymer engineering.
MD: You want to go look it up, be my guest. All right, here we go. What was I saying again?
DD: Something about Cam Newton "stopping himself" that I can only imagine was beyond inane.
MD: Right, right. OK. We won't have to stop Cam Newton . . . if he stops himself.
DD: Bra-fucking-vo. You want to explain this line of thinking before I start regretting having asked in the first place?
MD: OK, check it: For the last two weeks all we've heard about are scandals about Cam Newton -- why he left Florida, what his grades were like, whether his own dad was shopping him around out of junior college, even what kind of traffic citations he ran up while he was at UF. Last week that didn't matter, because Auburn was only playing Chattanooga, and they were never going to keep him out there for that long anyway. But against Georgia, an actual team, and with this recruiting scandal blowing up bigger and bigger with each passing day, that's got to wear on him a bit, don't you think? Cause a bit of a distraction?
DD: OK, you know what? If we were playing stellar defense right now, I might actually be somewhat inclined to agree with you. To a point. But you can't honestly believe that "distraction" alone is going to be able to keep Cam Newton from running wild on us.
MD: Why wouldn't it? Auburn's offense is clearly biased toward the run, and I don't know if you noticed or not, but Georgia's got the #13 run defense in the entire country. And only a tick behind South Carolina in the SEC.
DD: Yeah, fine, but it's one thing to clamp down on the running attack of a team like Idaho State or Vanderbilt. We still can't stop a running QB to save our lives. You saw what Trey Burton did to us a couple weeks ago, right? And even Burton's not anywhere close to the level that Cam Newton's playing at right now.
MD: But we've got another ace in the hole, which is that Auburn can't pass. Their aerial attack is ranked 73rd in the nation at the moment -- they're just barely getting up over 200 passing yards per game.
DD: Can't pass, or just doesn't need to? They may be going to the air only sparingly, but Newton is still number two in the country in pass efficiency. He's completing more than two-thirds of his passes and has only thrown five picks all year, compared to 19 interceptions. Hell, he went off for 317 yards passing against Chattanooga just last week.
MD: Pfffft. Chattanooga. You don't think we can clamp down on their receivers a little better than the Mocs did? Is that all the credit you're prepared to give us?
DD: All I'm saying is, the dude can pass, whether they actually need him to or not.
MD: Look, is Cam Newton going to roll up some yards? Of course he is. And is Auburn going to score some points? Sure. But I refuse to believe that we can't keep up with them on the scoreboard. Look at the points they've let people roll up -- 27 to South Carolina, 34 to Kentucky, 43 to Arkansas. Hell, they even gave up 24 to Chattanooga, and not all of that in garbage time, either.
DD: So what you're telling me is that Georgia's going to be able to keep up with the SEC's best offense in both yardage and scoring, huh? Is that what I'm supposed to take away from this?
MD: Why not? Auburn has the second-worst pass defense in the league right now. And you've seen what Aaron Murray can do when the opposing defense has A.J. Green to worry about. Even against Florida, even in a game where he threw three picks, he still managed to go off for three TDs and more than 300 yards. And that was against a good secondary. Auburn's pass defense is going to be ripe for the picking.
DD: Well, if Murray decides to throw three picks again this weekend, we're fucked no matter how vulnerable their secondary supposedly is. But let's say, just for the sake of argument, that they really are going to play that badly against us. What if we can't keep Murray upright enough to take advantage?
MD: Why wouldn't we? Our pass protection has come around the last few weeks -- only three sacks allowed in the last month.
DD: Yeah, but none of those teams had a Nick Fairley to throw at us. Fairley is second in the SEC in sacks, right behind Justin Houston, and number one in tackles for loss. You'd better be crossing your fingers for both Aaron Murray and our running game with a guy like that on the other side of the line.
MD: Our running backs are going to be fine. Yeah, Auburn's run-defense stats look good on paper, but it's not like they've had to face that many elite running backs this year.
DD: I'm touched that you think our running backs qualify as "elite." OK, Pollyanna, hit me with your prediction -- just give me a second to get my popcorn ready, I'm sure it's gonna be a doozy.
MD: Well, again, it could very well be a shootout. But Auburn's gotten caught up in shootouts before -- Kentucky and Arkansas, right off the top of my head -- and we've got a better defense than Kentucky and a more balanced offense than Arkansas. I think we'll keep within striking distance of Auburn for most of the game, make a couple stops on defense when we need to, and then Aaron Murray will lead us down the field for the winning touchdown with less than 90 seconds to play -- sort of a replay of the "Prayer on the Plains" from 2002. Georgia wins, 37-34.
DD: That'd make for a great story, and I'd be as thrilled as anyone if it came to pass, but I just don't see it. I think Auburn, like four of the five teams who have beaten us this year, rockets down the field to a touchdown on their very first drive and puts up a multi-score lead on us before we even have a chance to blink. The offense gathers itself, starts getting into a rhythm, but they're playing out of a hole and the pass rush really has an opportunity to key in on Aaron Murray once it becomes clear we've got a big deficit to make up and not a lot of time to do it. Auburn wins big, 42-23.
MD: Wow. I mean, you've predicted losses here before -- lots of 'em -- but three touchdowns? That's depressing even by your standards.
DD: Maybe, but at least it's grounded in something resembling reality. You really think we're going into Auburn and coming out with a win over the number-two team in the nation?
MD: You act like we've never done this before. Four years ago, we were coming off that awful 1-4 stretch -- we'd managed to lose to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, lest you forget -- and we took advantage of an Auburn team that was ranked fifth in the nation but playing sloppy. Picked them off four times, won by three TDs. This year they've got the distraction of the Cam Newton situation, they're in danger of looking ahead to a huge Iron Bowl matchup in a couple weeks, we're playing in Auburn, where we've won six outta the last nine . . . and come on, you can't seriously think that a Gene Chizik team is gonna run the table, do you?
DD: Not really, but at this point it doesn't seem any less probable than a five-loss Georgia team knocking off a top-three Auburn squad led by a Heisman frontrunner.
MD: Man, fuck that. The intangibles all break in our favor. Auburn is the one feeling the pressure, both in terms of the national-title race and whatever the NCAA is looking into regarding Cam Newton. This is our time. This could be our chance . . . to stun the world.
(Another long and embarrassing pause)
DD: Yeah, if it's all the same to you, I'm gonna go put in the "Mad Men" DVD now.
MD: Well, our predictions average out to a 38-30 win for Auburn, so congratulations, you've managed to massively skew another one in favor of a Georgia opponent. But it's cool -- I'll be sure to bring you back an awesome souvenir from Auburn after we win. You know, since I'll be going to the game and all.
DD: Fan-flippin'-tastic. As long as you come home under your own power, as opposed to me having to come out to Auburn and bail you out of someplace, your clean criminal record is all the souvenir I need.
MD: Suit yourself. I'll do my best to stay out of trouble. . . . Or will I?