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by Al McMordie - 09/17/2007
We just started the pro and college football seasons and several teams are playing up to expectations: USC and LSU in college; the Cowboys, Colts, and Steelers in the NFL. Preseason analysis was accurate in regards to how those teams have thus far played. But what about the flops? There are several teams that have been huge disappointments, and hereâ€™s a peek at whatâ€™s ailing some of them.
Auburn: The Tigers of Tommy Tuberville have been beasts the last three years, going 33-5. Auburn is 4-1 SU, 5-0 ATS the last three years as an underdog, and 11-3 ATS its last 14 as a dog. The Tigers were the only team to defeat 2006 national champion Florida, a 27-17 victory as a +2 dog and welcomed back 7 seven starters on defense, plus senior QB Brandon Cox. But what a disastrous start! Auburn lost at home to South Florida, 26-23, with 5 turnovers, then went belly-up over the weekend with 5 more turnovers in a 19-14 home loss to Mississippi State, a team they were 5-0 SU/ATS against the last five years. What the heck is going on? In a nutshell, itâ€™s the offense. Cox has been awful, throwing 2 interceptions on his first two passes Saturday! He was benched for freshman QB Kodi Burns. With the Tigers down by five points, Cox returned and drove the Tigers the length of the field in the final minutes, but couldnâ€™t rewrite Auburnâ€™s awkward fairy tale. His fourth-down pass from the Mississippi State 9 fell incomplete in the end zone and the Bulldogs escaped. Offensive coordinator Al Borges wanted to open up the offense this year, something he didnâ€™t do last season because Cox was battling injuries. However, with 10 turnovers in two games, the Tigers are more likely to go back to basics and play it conservative for a while. With road games against Florida, Arkansas and LSU coming up soon, kiss any SEC title game hopes for 2007 aside.
Saints: In the NFL, the Saints had the No. 1 offense in 2006 and appeared loaded for this season with QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston, RB Deuce McAllister and RB Reggie Bush. But what a disappointment! They've scored just 10 and 14 points in their two games, blowout losses to the Colts and Bucs. â€œYou really start over each year,â€쳌 Drew Brees said. â€œAs good or as bad as you were the year before, each yearâ€™s a new year. You start over and you need something good to happen to you as a team. You build confidence and thatâ€™s what we need. We need a confidence-builder.â€쳌 And those were his words BEFORE they got their butts kicked by Tampa Bay. Perhaps coming home will help (the Saints started their first two games on the road).
Tennessee: In college, the Tennessee Volunteers were expected to have a strong season with senior QB Erik Ainge returning. The offense has been fine, but what is shocking is how bad this defense has been. Cal carved them up for 45 points, then Saturday Florida ran all over them in a 59-20 rout. The Gators put up 554 yards and averaged 8.5 yards per play. Will the Volunteer defense get better? Note that senior cornerback Antonio Gaines suffered a season-ending knee injury in their win over Southern Miss. I think they're too young on defense. Freshman Eric Berry, who started the Southern Miss game at strong safety, replaced Gaines at cornerback. Brent Vinson, a freshman wide receiver, has stepped in and has been playing part-time cornerback. Thatâ€™s a lot of inexperience now in the secondary and Florida completed 14-of-19 passes. It's also worth noting that Tennessee went over the total easily against both Cal and Florida.
TCU: The Horned Frogs have been upset by Air Force and also lost to Texas. And this from a team that went 11-2 and 11-1 the previous two years. It was interesting that after a 20-17 loss to Air Force last week head coach Gary Patterson questioned a late call by offensive coordinator Mike Schultz. "We shouldn't have went for the end zone," Patterson said. "We should've run the football. Why we threw the football, I don't know. I don't call that side of the ball. We made a mistake. It wasn't our kids' fault on that play." The loss in the Mountain West opener dropped TCU to 1-2 overall for the first time under Patterson and the first time since 1999. The Horned Frogs did not make any players available to the media after the loss.
Notre Dame: 0-3 SU/ATS? We knew the Irish were rebuilding, but minus-15 yards rushing after three games? Incredible. Notre Dame's passing offense is 107th in the nation. A Charlie Weis offense? Amazing. Back this team at your own risk. Unfortunately, we have to watch them on TV all season, too!
Minnesota: Let me get this straight: The Golden Gophers had winning records in 4 of the last 5 years and have been to 5 straight bowl games. Yet, they fired Glen Mason to bring in Tim Brewster. Why?! Minnesota is a mess at 1-2 SU/0-3 ATS, and just got scorched 42-39 by Florida Atlantic. The Gophers gave up 580 total yards and had seven turnovers. Minnesota's defense gave up 393 total yards, including 315 passing yards, in the first half. Florida Atlantic had a 90-yard touchdown drive and a 99-yard touchdown drive. Itâ€™s only September, but stick a fork in the disorganized and defenseless Gophers, who HAD leadership but fired it. Good luck, as always, Al McMordie.