We’re back with our second edition of overreaction Tuesday. Each week we usually have a fan base that’s ready to fire their coach, and they already have a list of replacements in mind. Last week it was Texas A&M with Kevin Sumlin, and this week there are Auburn fans hoping coach Gus Malzahn wouldn’t be allowed back on the bus following the Tigers’ 14-6 loss at Clemson. I am here to tell Auburn fans to collectively take a deep breath and take your hand off the panic button—for now. Here are the reasons why Auburn fans shouldn’t panic just yet.
1.) Everything that Auburn set out to accomplish in 2017 is still right in front of them. Losing to Clemson does nothing to hinder their chances in competing for an SEC championship.
2.) The offense was pathetic (I’ll discuss this more later) and Auburn still only lost by one score on the road to the No. 3 ranked team in the country who also happen to be the defending national champions.
3.) Auburn’s defense looked like a top-five caliber defense in the country. They held a high-powered Clemson offense to less than 300 total yards and only 14 points. The defense will be good enough to keep them in almost every game left on the schedule.
4.) This was quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s second game in Malzahn and Chip Lindsey’s offense, and it was on the road against arguably the best defense in the country. This was also only the fifth start period in Stidham’s young career. He started three games at Baylor in 2015 as a true freshman before he went down with an ankle injury.
So, take a deep breath Auburn fans, and get back to me in mid-October. If the offense hasn’t improved by then and the Tigers drop a conference game or two, I will hit the panic button with you.
This winners and losers list isn’t a compilation of overreactions, but it is an outlook of where programs, coaches, and players stand after the second week of the season.
Lincoln Riley, Baker Mayfield, and Oklahoma: The Sooners went into Columbus as a 7.5-point underdog and strolled out with a dominating 31-16 win over Ohio State. What’s even more impressive is that it was new coach Lincoln Riley’s first ever road game in his young coaching career. His game plan was flawless as the Sooners were in control the majority of the game. The in-game adjustments were impressive as OU dominated the second half 28-13. Baker Mayfield looked like a legitimate Heisman trophy contender as he threw for 386 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, and the Sooners have the best win of any team so far this season.
Lamar Jackson: I’m not sure there has ever been a returning Heisman trophy winner that collectively received less respect entering a season than Lamar Jackson this year. All he’s done through two games is individually account for a total of 1,010 yards (771 passing, 239 rushing). That is 505 total yards per game for all of you math geniuses. He threw for 393 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and rushed for 149 yards on 11.2 per carry in a 47-35 win at North Carolina last Saturday. Jackson has a huge opportunity on the big stage Saturday night when Louisville hosts No. 3 Clemson, who boasts the best defensive front in the country.
University of Southern California: There were many (including me) that were picking Stanford to upset USC Saturday night. The Trojans took care of business against the No. 14 Cardinal 42-24 in dominating fashion. They racked up 623 yards of offense with a very balanced attack. Quarterback Sam Darnold threw for 316 yards, and the Trojans backfield combined for 307 yards on the ground.
Gus Malzahn and the Auburn offense: When your offense has 117 total yards and gives up 11 sacks, (yes, you read that correctly) you make my biggest losers list. What were the reasons for this abysmal performance? Well, for starters, the Clemson defense might be the best in the country thanks to their nasty defensive front. The other reason is the terrible offensive game plan and lack of adjustments made throughout the game by Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. The Clemson defensive line was dominating Auburn’s offensive line and living in the backfield all night. Auburn just kept doing five-step drops trying to throw the ball downfield, and they kept giving up one sack after another. You would think eventually there would be some screens and quick passes called to help combat the relentless pass rush, but that never really happened. They just kept dropping Stidham back deep in the pocket, and he kept holding onto the ball and getting sacked.
The Arkansas Razorbacks: I personally love Bret Bielema and think he is a heck of a football coach, but things just seem to be trending in the wrong direction in Fayetteville. Quarterback Austin Allen was supposed to be the bright spot coming into the season, but he was horrible on Saturday in a 28-7 loss at home to TCU. He completed 9 of 23 passes for only 138 yards against the Horned Frogs. Most importantly, it seems as if the Hogs have lost their identity on offense. They rushed for a total of 129 yards on Saturday. You used to always be able to count on Bielema’s offenses to pound out 250 plus yards on the ground with their power running game, and that just hasn’t been the case even dating back to last season. This has been due to poor offensive line play and key injuries at the running back position. Fans in Fayetteville are getting restless as Bielema is only 26-27 during his tenure at Arkansas, and things will continue to get worse if the Hogs don’t turn things around in SEC play.