During the 2019 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short.
Here are the panel's comments about where the Tigers stand at mid-season:
Back in August, most Auburn fans would have been thrilled to imagine that we would be 5–1 at mid-season. Many predicted that we’d be 3-3 at this point with losses to Oregon, Texas A&M and Florida. However, with each success, expectations went higher and higher, so by the time we went to The Swamp last Saturday, we were hoping that our No. 7 ranked Tigers would pull off yet another win in hostile territory despite the fact that oddsmakers favored Florida to win at home on their Homecoming. Sadly for Auburn, the oddsmakers were right,
In reviewing the first half of the season, I’d say that Bo Nix set the bar extremely high with the victory that he pulled out against Oregon in the season opener. He was playing on the biggest stage — the impressive AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, known to many as “Jerry World” — and brought the Tigers back in dramatic fashion in the closing minute of the game. The fact that he is a true freshman, the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix, didn’t go unnoticed, and Auburn fans were ecstatic.
The next true test came three weeks later, once again in Texas, when we played Texas A&M on their home turf. College Station is an extremely challenging venue with over 100,000 in the stadium and the entire A&M student section, their legendary “12th Man,” standing and cheering for the entire game. This time Nix got the team off to a fast start, scoring two quick touchdowns and never looking back.
Some thought we might be due for a letdown after that big win and feared that the Mississippi State Bulldogs would be the spoilers, as they were back in 1963, when they ruined our perfect season. That didn’t happen as we played our best game to date, reeling off three quick touchdowns in the first six minutes of the game en route to a 42-9 score at halftime and a 56-23 final score.
Our hopes of a perfect season sunk in The Swamp in Gainesville last Saturday on Florida’s Homecoming. The No. 10 Gators were ready, practically jumping off the sideline before the game ever started. They created an electric atmosphere, took an early lead and never relinquished it. In a sloppy game with eight turnovers, four for each side, the Gators hung on to a narrow lead until Lamical Perine, a running back that Auburn had labeled “too slow,” took off down the sidelines for an 88-yard sprint, giving them an eleven point lead, which was the final margin of victory.
Bo Nix had three interceptions in that game and took a sack at a crucial time in the game, reminding us that he is a true freshman after all. Our offensive line failed to protect him and our secondary allowed Florida to gain 266 yards through the air. It was an especially tough loss since Derrick Brown, who was named the SEC Lineman of the Week for the second time in three weeks, played such a brilliant game on defense, creating and recovering fumbles, sacking their quarterback and making four tackles.
We are fortunate to have this Saturday off, allowing time for the coaches and players to make critical adjustments which will be needed as we face three top five teams — LSU, Georgia, and Alabama — in a five-week stretch between October 26 and November 30. No other team in the country comes close to having this kind of challenge.
I can’t predict what will happen in the second half of the season but I’m not giving up on this team. I expect our offense to improve and our defense to continue to dominate and create problems for our upcoming opponents. One thing, however, is for certain: whether the road ahead is rocky or smooth, there is no other place I’d rather live and no other school that I’d rather support than Auburn. WDE!
Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan
This season has went by fast. We opened up with Oregon with a lot of uncertainty about our offense and young QB. Everyone knew our defense would be good — they were and they are. Then on to Tulane and Kent State. Tulane was a better team than expected. Kent State was a game for our young players to get experience. The road trip to Texas A&M was very scary taking our young players into a hostile situation. We came out scoring and never looked back. The 12th Man was never a factor. Back home against Mississippi State, it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to realize they were over-matched.
This past Saturday was a bad day for Auburn fans. Neither team looked like a top-10 team. Too many turnovers, penalties, not good offensive line play, bad play-calling and poor decision-making of the QB. Defense set us up for three TDs in the first half and we settled for two field goals. I hate to admit it, but Coach Mullen outcoached Gus. He figured out Gus’s smoke and mirrors in the Swamp, a tough place to play. Our score and performance would have been better at Jordan-Hare.
Here we are at mid-season at 5-1. Before the season, how many fans thought we would have one loss at this point? I didn’t. Gus will need to open up his play book for Bo, reduce turnovers, stay healthy, and the offensive line needs to improve.
The open date will be good for us. We need a chance to heal up and look at what we are doing. On paper, the Arkansas game should be a win. After a visit to Hogland, on to Baton Rouge, a place where the last time we won was 20 years ago. It’s time for us to steal a game there. I guess we will know more about LSU after they play Florida. I predict LSU wins by three TDs against Florida.
Back home against Ole Miss should be a win. Open date should prepare us for UGA. If our offensive line and QB can get better, we can make this a special game. Samford at home should be a tune-up game in preparing for Alabama. I think our chances against Alabama are better than against UGA.
We have a lot of football left this season. We could go 11-1, 10-2, 9-3, or 8-4. I think, after what we saw this past Saturday, 10-2 would be the very best we can do. There were times during the Florida game that our offense looked helpless. It seemed the Gators knew what we were going to run before the play started. If Florida can figure out Gus’s play-calling, so can other defenses.
Let’s not give up on our Tigers. Good things are ahead. WAR EAGLE!
Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard
It is hard to believe but the midpoint of the 2019 season has arrived. As the saying goes; “Seems like yesterday” that the Donahue Drive Crew was in Arlington at the phone people stadium taking hits from a bunch of Ducks before that freshman quarterback (more on this guy later) threw a touchdown to one of the good guys who obliged by yanking the ball over the chalk garnering some points that earned AU the win.
Each week saw the Tigers getting a bit better here and improving a tad there. Tulane gave us a good game and it figures; they are undefeated since we handed them their only loss. They are a good team.
Things looked mighty fine when we went to Kyle field and beat an A&M team that has lost to only our guys and Clemson. We dominated (and should have) Kent State. Then there is Miss State. Our best showing on both sides of the ball so far, resulting in a No.7 ranking.
Then last weekend we ran into a mad bunch of gators. Actually, they were an angry bunch that had pointed at the Auburn game as a season-maker with about 90,000 screaming fans behind them. I don’t care which team had been in Gainesville last Saturday. They would have gotten a tough row to hoe.
All this said to point out that we have a good team that can be a great team. I know you’ve seen what our defense can do to the opposition. Folks, they are good. The AU offense is capable of making plays and putting points on the board. We have a young quarterback. He made some mistakes. He’ll likely make a few more.
However, I would submit that if heart and effort were the determiners of greatness, then we are watching something special develop. We all are a bit deflated with the result of our latest contest but it is just one game at this point.
I’m disappointed at some of the negative comments thrown at the kid. I suggest we give the young’un a break. Raise your hand if you think he isn’t trying as hard as he can to win for the guys on the team around him and Auburn. Yep, didn’t think I’d see any. We may not agree with coaching decisions as well but I really doubt they don’t care about winning. Matter of fact, I bet they want to win just as much (maybe even more) than everyone in the AU family does.
One thing that I imagine no one will debate; we have a rough road ahead courtesy of some very good teams we are set to play. We will stand a better chance of success if we stand united and support OUR guys. I know all true Auburn men and women will. Who knows, we may surprise some folks! War Eagle!!
Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff
Even though it is not the exact midyear, it is close and Auburn has a won-loss record of 5 and 1. That puts us in national rankings.
Auburn had been , in my opinion, improving each week. They have several young players, including the quarterback, Nix.
The coaches have done a good job of not overloading them with plays and having them well prepared to play. Each week it looked like more formations and plays were added and the defense adjusted well to the other team’s offense. A good example of this was the Texas A&M game in College Station with approximately 100,000 fans. Auburn didn’t panic and adjusted well, including running new plays that got the ball to the fastest players.
But against Florida, Auburn didn’t look as prepared and clearly did not adjust as well. As the game went on, Auburn looked more disorganized than they have all year. The longer we played the worse it got.
But Auburn is still ranked very high in the rankings and has a week or two to regroup. We need to take advantage of the time as we have the really hard games looming, with LSU (in Baton Rouge), and both UGA and Alabama here. If we can win one or two of those games and beat Ole Miss, we will have a really good season.
James Sprayberry, local attorney and longtime Auburn season ticket holder
Editor's note: Check back in next week's Villager to see the panel's take on the Tigers' road matchup against Arkansas and find the Panel of Wanna-Be Experts online at auburnvillager.com.