My pal Jerry Hinnen, a fine blogger and a pretty bright all-around guy (particularly for an Auburn grad), does a feature every week over at War Blog Eagle where he sneaks a peek at the teams yet to arrive on Auburn's schedule, gauges how they did that week, and makes a determination as to how that should affect Auburn fans' worry level for that particular opponent going forward.
Seemed like a good enough idea to steal (and Jerry specifically gave me permission to do so), so let's take a look at the teams Georgia will be facing the rest of the way in 2010 and do a little Opposition Research.
ArkansasQuite a peculiar little box score for the Razorbacks on Saturday: They had 499 total yards, 400 of them off the arm of Ryan Mallett, compared to less than half that for opponent UL-Monroe. Yet the only led the Warhawks 7-0 at halftime, and 14-0 after three quarters, before depth finally took over and helped them roll to a 31-7 lead. The Hogs will still give Georgia's regrouping defense everything it can handle, but with running back Dennis Johnson out with a "bowel injury" (eeesh) for this weekend's game and a -4 cumulative turnover ratio suggesting some regression to the mean after last year's ridonkulous +15, they're clearly not invincible.
Worry level: Down -- slightly.
Mississippi StateHolding a Gus Malzahn offense to only 17 points shows that the Bizarro Bulldogs are continuing last year's progress and maturation on defense. Only notching 14 points of their own, though -- against a defense that got a nice little three-hour cardio workout from Arkansas State the week before -- shows they're still searching for the kind of horses Dan Mullen needs to run his spread offense.
Worry level: Same as before -- optimistic, but guardedly so.
ColoradoA dominating win by the Buffs over in-state rival Colorado State in their opener made it look like Dan Hawkins might have finally turned the corner in Boulder. Too bad they turned that corner right into the path of a speeding 18-wheeler called California, who annihilated the Buffs 52-7. Have fun in your new conference, Coach Hawk.
Worry level: Down by quite a bit.
TennesseeAs Tauren Poole left cleat prints all over the Oregon defense and the overmatched Vols rolled up an improbable 13-3 lead on the Ducks Saturday night, my first thought was, "Oh, God, we could really get whacked by these guys, again." But then Oregon reeled off 45 unanswered points and I kind of stopped thinking about it. Poole is a manbeast, to be sure, but if Saturday is an accurate depiction of the Vols' shaky depth on both sides of the ball, that's not the last first-half lead that's going to crumble into dust right before their eyes this year.
Worry level: Down.
VanderbiltHow many times have we seen this from a Vandy team -- keep the score close and ugly just long enough to get people asking "What the hell's going on here?", then wilt in the fourth quarter. And there you go: LSU only led Vandy 10-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, but managed to end the evening with a 27-3 margin on the scoreboard.
Worry level: Steady at "not much."
KentuckyShould I be concerned that a team quarterbacked by Mike Hartline rang up 63 points on someone, or excited that a Western Kentucky running back (Bobby Rainey) managed to gash the Wildcats for 182 yards? Let's call it a draw.
Worry level: Steady.
FloridaAnother shaky start for the Gators, who were tied at halftime with South Florida and only led 28-14 after three before superior depth and talent on the blue-and-orange side took over. (Is this starting to sound like a familiar theme?) That may not work against the better, deeper SEC teams on the Gators' schedule, but after having gotten wrecked by a South Carolina running back last week, Georgia fans probably shouldn't be gloating too much about this -- or assuming they're destined to be one of the beneficiaries of the Gators' struggles.
Worry level: Up a bit relative to last week.
Idaho StateLast year, Idaho State went 1-10. In the Big Sky Conference. This year they've already matched that win total, but the win was against Montana-Western -- an NAIA school. Against lowly Utah State the following week, they lost by three TDs. Enough said.
Worry level: Nonexistent.
AuburnSeeing Gus Malzahn's offense contained by Mississippi State's relatively young D was comforting. But last year's lackluster performance notwithstanding, the Tigers can play some defense too -- and junior Nick Fairley, a new starter at defensive tackle, was the stuff of nightmares. It's not too late for someone to connect him to an unscrupulous agent, is it?
Worry level: Steady at "high."
Georgia TechTake heart, Dawg fans: As rickety as Georgia's defense looked at times on Saturday, they didn't get rolled by an offense last seen mustering all of 3 points against North Dakota State. Looks like the Dawgs won't be the only ones struggling with the conversion to a 3-4 front this year, which suits me just fine.
Worry level: Down somewhat. They can still run the ball, after all.
UL-Lafayette, the Dawgs' opening-day scalp, took a 24-7 halftime lead on Arkansas State and cruised to a 31-24 win, bringing the Dawgs that much closer to being able to say they knocked off the Sun Belt champs. Which, plus four bucks, will get you a grande mocha at Starbucks.