Introducing The Outsider

Posted by The Outsider | 6:23 AM | 0 comments »

Hello. I hope everyone is in a fantastic mood, seeing as this is the last weekend without football for the next five months. For you Auburn fans, this might be one of the few teams you see one of my posts while in a good mood, so let me take advantage by introducing myself.

I'm this blog's Alan Colmes, the balance to the never-ending stream of AU love you'll see from AUBurns and Tiger Histalmos. That's not to say I hate or even dislike Auburn; it's actually the contrary. After a couple of years of knowing and working with those guys I've come to respect AU and root for them when it comes to all things Southeastern Conference. However, I will call it like it is when Thursday and Friday roll around and it's time to take a stand on the weekend's contests. If I think Auburn will lose, I'll tell you, and I'll explain why. I don't expect you to agree, but I expect you to respect my opinion if I at least present valid reasons to back it up.

With that, let me make my first prediction on this blog.

Auburn football will win the SEC West.

Let me make my second prediction.

Auburn will lose to Florida in the SEC Championship Game.

Let me get back to the positive though. The two reasons I love Auburn's chances, both in the SEC and as a sleeper BCS Championship contender, are their starting defense and their schedule.

Despite losing two defensive linemen to the NFL, the Tigers defensive line looks, to me, at least as strong as last season's crew. There is a very nice balance of size in the middle with Jake Ricks and Sen'Derrick Marks and top-end agility on the ends with Michael Goggins and Antonio Coleman. They are going to be tested, though, as it can be said that five of the best 35 or 40 offensive lines (including Auburn) in the country reside in the SEC West. Any questions about depth should be answered early in the season, and by the time the SEC schedule is in full swing guys like Antoine Carter and Zach Clayton should be able to contribute against LSU, Tennessee, etc.

The back seven returns five starters and good depth at linebacker with all the projected backups having experience. Tray Blackmon and Merrill Johnson must stay healthy for the Tigers to live up to the expectations, but it's great to have backups like Chris Evans who have started before and understanding the difficulty of a full season in the SEC.

Most unit rankings I've seen this year have Auburn's secondary in the Top 30. The Tigers are losing nine defensive lettermen from last season, and five of those are from the secondary, and as good as last year's unit performed it would be difficult to expect an improvement. However, Powers is a proven ballhawk who will contend to lead the NCAA in interceptions, and the linebacking corps is one of the nation's best when it comes to pass coverage, with Blackmon owning NFL-level on-ball skills that allow him to seamlessly transition into third-down defense against top-level tight ends and strong receiving running backs. This back seven is going to make the difference in the crucial early season games against LSU and the Vols, teams with big-time quarterback questions entering this season. By the time AU takes on the SEC's experienced QBs like JP Wilson, Matt Stafford and Mackenzi Adams (not to mention Pat White from West Virginia), their back seven will be the most dangerous turnover-forcing unit in the conference.

Now, the schedule. I'm a freak about it when it comes to predicting upcoming seasons. I don't care what ANYONE says about Georgia's talent level, there is absolutely no way they get through two brutal multi-week, no rest stretches this season, one early in the season (S. Carolina, Ariz. St. and 'Bama) and one late in the season (LSU, UF, Kentucky and Auburn). Meanwhile, the Gators do not have one instance of consecutive "difficult" games. The LSU game is preceded by Arkansas; the Georgia game is preceded by Kentucky, South Carolina by Vanderbilt, Tennessee by a bye week, Florida State by The Citadel. It's insane; I don't see one other national title contender with such a perfectly set up slate.

That leads me to the Tigers' schedule. Yes, they get LSU and Tennessee back to back. But both games are at home and are sandwiched by relatively easy road games against Mississippi State (could be tough, maybe...probably not) and Vandy (ha ha). Yes they have West Virginia and Mississippi on the road in consecutive weeks, but the WVU game will come with 11 days rest and the Mississippi game comes with 8 days rest. You could not have a better situation to enter consecutive road contests. The Georgia-Bama games are separated by a bye week.

LSU, on the other hand, gets one of their two bye weeks leading into a crushing stretch at Florida, at S. Carolina and home for Georgia. That will be their season defining moment, and I'd say their more likely to finish it 0-3 than 3-0, 1-2 than 2-1.

So there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed my first post; I'll be back with more now that we are four nights away from kickoff, including my opening weekend picks.