In the preseason, Damon Amendolara, like many, thought that Auburn was one of the best teams in the nation – and perhaps the best team in the SEC.
Two games into the season, however, Amendolara is quickly rethinking that. The Tigers barely held on to beat Louisville in their season-opener and needed overtime to beat Jacksonville State – at home, no less.
As a result, Auburn fell from No. 6 to No. 18 in the AP Poll this week. Is that an overreaction, or was Auburn’s performance a real eye-opener?
“I think it’s a little bit of both, and at this point, we have to react,” Bleacher Report lead college football writer Adam Kramer said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “The sample size is small, and Auburn, I think, has the coaching and the talent to turn this around. But right now, they are not a top-15 football team. They are not a top-20 football team. I think more concerning (is that) Jeremy Johnson is throwing it to defenders in stride – somewhat regularly. That’s concerning. The other thing that’s concerning, if you watched last week, there was just a huge amount of space in the middle of that defense. And when you look at a team like LSU coming on deck with a guy like Leonard Fournette – if he gets free and past that defensive line, who’s going to stop him?”
Then again, Auburn is probably just hoping Johnson doesn’t stop the team by himself. He has five interceptions through two games.
“I’ll admit it: I was kind of buying the Jeremy Johnson hype train,” Kramer said. “I looked at him – a kid with size, a kid that felt really poised to take that next step. He simply has not. And you could say that with the defense as well. They’ve got some guys up front – guys like Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams are doing a great job – but just collectively, that group is not there yet. So no, I think we can react. Right now, Auburn is a team that many were picking for the playoff; they’re not that team. There’s still time to turn it around. Remember: This is the anniversary last year when Ohio State looked completely helpless against Virginia Tech. That’s not going to become the norm. Not everybody’s going to do that, but there’s a lot of season left.”
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had Auburn lost to Jacksonville State. What if the Tigers then rallied and ran the table and won the SEC? Would they have been a playoff team despite such an ugly loss?
“They have enough meat on their schedule and time heals all wounds,” Kramer said. “I would say it would not help matters. I think (their odds) become slim. But I think one thing we saw last year with the playoff is that momentum matters. They close with Alabama. Say (something clicked for) Auburn from that point on (and) they won the rest of their games, and then in the Iron Bowl they destroy Nick Saban (and) win the SEC championship for fun. And then all of a sudden you have a situation (like) we saw (with) Ohio State (manhandling) Wisconsin (59-0). With the human aspect of it, all of a sudden Jack State is years ago, not months ago.
“So I do think losing a game like that – it’s not Virginia Tech. That would have been certainly a death blow,” Kramer continued. “But because we no longer have computers looking at this thing, I don’t necessarily think it would have been ‘That’s it. The season is over.’ I think the cool thing and the unique thing about it – because we have Jeff Long and the committee able to judge this week to week – (is that) by the end of it, they may have a much different view. Now, the big difference is they have to turn it around. And that is the thing that most teams will not be able to do.”