Alright, friend-of-RMN SEC Supremacist is joining us this week to talk about Auburn. I asked him a few questions, and you can see his answers below. His questions for you are in bold at the bottom. Have at it!
1. After a national title in 2010 and a six-win regression in 2011, what are your expectations for Auburn football heading into 2012?
The simple fact of the matter is that Auburn was lucky to do as well as it did in 2011. We lost the vast majority of our talent after the 2010 season (4 of our 5 offensive linemen, Cam, Nick Fairley, linebackers, receivers, etc). We knew last year was a rebuilding year. We should do substantially better this year. With most of our defense and offensive line returning, and Onterio McCalebb as our RB, we have room to improve. Going through the schedule, here's what I see:
Clemson: This will be much closer than last year, and I think we can win it. Tajh Boyd will continue to give us problems, but I think our experienced DBs will be able to slow him down. I think our team felt invincible after the championship and Clemson gave them a hard smack with reality. (0-0-1)
@ Miss. State: We win this. Miss. State has no big weapons to come at us with, and this team will be far more cohesive than we were. (1-0-1)
ULM: We better win this. Utah State caught us sleeping last year, but I don't think our new coordinators, or Chizik will allow that to happen again this year. (2-0-1)
LSU (Cigar Bowl/ Earthquake Bowl/ Tiger Bowl): We've got to see how they answer their QB question. They've got 1 junior and 3 freshmen fighting for the job, but LSU and Les Miles are always a tough game. I think we likely lose this at home. (2-1-1)
Arkansas: We've got them at home, thankfully. They lost a huge asset in their QB last year, and with the coaching problems they've had, it's likely that they will just stumble through the season. I think we win this, but it'll be close. (3-1-1)
@ Ole Miss: We damn well better win this. Like the Ms. St., they really don't have any overwhelming weapons to bring to the game. I think our defense will be able to smother them and our offense will make the best of opportunities. (4-1-1)
@Vanderbilt: Don't take Vandy as a given anymore. Coach Franklin may well be making them a team to contend with. However, most teams have home field advantage when playing at Vandy, I guess because most of their fans and alum are off making gobs and gobs of cash. We win this, but our bosses give us extra work afterwards. (5-1-1)
TAMU: We welcome the new kids on the block to the Loveliest Village on the Plains. And we will beat them. A new coach, new system, and they will have played LSU the week before? They're going to be hurting. We will just have to be sure to keep them away from our livestock arena. Yes, that exists. (6-1-1, yay bowl eligibility!)
New Mexico State: We host another set of aggies and then send them packing. It's homecoming, so we damn well better win. (7-1-1)
Georgia (Deep South's Oldest Rivalry): Very unknown quantity for next year, but Mark Richt always seems to have our number. It's at home, so there's always that, but they've won 7 of the last 12 match ups, and Auburn has only won 3 times since 2002. We currently lead this series 54-53-8. (7-1-2)
Alabama A&M: Essentially a bye before the Iron Bowl. If we lose this, I'm setting something on fire. Be warned. (8-1-2)
@Alabama (Iron Bowl): Let's face it. Alabama is a damn good football team, currently coached by an evil genius. We can debate the evil part, but he's good at what he does, there is no contesting that. This is also played in Tuscaloosa in front of over 90,000 fans. And Alabama is going to be returning quite a few starters from their championship team. This is a likely loss this year. Alabama leads this series 41-34-1 (8-2-2)
At the end of the day, these are all guesses. We're bringing in new offensive and defensive coordinators, so there's not much telling on what to expect. A typical Auburn team will have a mediocre passing game, an excellent rushing attack, and a stout front 4 on defense. Our secondary tends to be mediocre, and linebackers vary from OMG INCREDIBLY AWESOME to underwhelmingly "meh". If we go 10-2, next year will be a great year. If we go 8-4, it won't be terrible. A 7 win season will be seen as a failure. Less than that and we're looking for new coaches. I'm betting on 9-3 with losses to Alabama, LSU, and Clemson.
2. Name your favorite two Auburn teams to follow outside of the obvious No. 1.
Auburn women's soccer is always fun. Unfortunately Mizzou has beaten them the last 2 times they have played eachother (08 and 09). They are the defending champions of the SEC tournament
While it's only a club sport, I still have strong allegiences to Auburn rugby. Sticking with scholarship sports, you have to watch Auburn's swimming and diving teams. Since 1997, there are 13 team National Championships between the Men's and Women's teams. Since the early 90s there have been over 170 individual NCAA champions from the two teams. We've also fielded numerous Olympians and won quite a few gold medals at international events.
3. Describe a Saturday night in Auburn when football isn't going on. Where do folks go? What do folks do?
Auburn (had) a scene for everyone that you could imagine. I can only speak in the past tense because the bars change name with some regularity, and I haven't had a night on the town down there in quite some time. The Strutting Duck was the country bar, just outside of town, where you could find live country music cover bands on Thursday nights and good cheap beer. I've heard it's been closed down however. For live rock, one would go to The Highlands, which had a massive deck. Their slogan was "women love a huge deck". They had a pool room, a quiet bar, and "the pit" where bands played, including some bigger names (I saw Afroman one year and he bought me a beer). Downtown has several kinds of bars, from dance clubs to sports bars, etc.
The most frequent activity, though, was house or trailer parties. Go over to a friend's place, grill, and drink some beer. A substantial portion of Auburn's students live in trailers, with rent cheaper than apartments, and more freedom. Yes, we're a little bit country. I can't speak to Greek life, that was never really my thing.
4. I wouldn't be me if I didn't ask this: favorite BBQ in the state of Alabama?
If you want ribs, then you can enjoy the only reason to visit Tuscaloosa: Dreamland BBQ. It's quite true that "there aint nothin like 'em nowhere". For pulled pork, in the Birmingham area, Jim 'n Nicks and Full Moon are great. In Auburn, my favorite was always Country's BBQ. Great for working off a hangover.
5. Any questions of your own for the roundtable?
I would love a question about what preconceived notions Missouri fans have about auburn. Are we seen as a powerhouse? Mid major? What, aside from cam, are we known as/for? Coming from inside the bubble its hard to know what unbiased people think.
The Beef: I was told there would be no reading on this test....
1. First person I have seen in awhile use the "tie" column when predicting football records. Well done
2. Swimming and Diving still seemed nationally relevant when I looked at all sports...men’s golf has received a boost due to the notoriety and effusive personality of Jason Duffner.
3. Trailer Parties...dear lord what have we gotten ourselves into
4. I would be remiss (especially for one reader) if I did not mention Sneaky Pete’s....home of the Junkyard Dog. No...it is not BBQ, but it was in Birmingham the last/one time I went.
5. I started to write that had you asked me that a few years before 2010, I might have said strong mid-major. But I suppose I do forget about the undefeated season not terribly long before that and the Terry Bowden years as well. In the end, I have Auburn up there just outside the echelon of Bama/LSU/UF, but they are pretty darn close. From an overall program strength standpoint, as my all-sports post would show, the department is rather strong and some sort of revival of basketball would only make it stronger
RPT: My perceptions of Auburn are somewhat warped, as I am the son of an Alabama graduate but the cousin of two current Auburn students. Ironically enough, probably the strongest praise (though somewhat of a backhanded compliment) I've heard about Auburn, at least as it pertains to the Iron Bowl, is that they ALWAYS manage to make a game out of things. My dad hates watching Alabama play Auburn not just because it's Auburn, but because even in years in which Auburn is horribly overmatched, they give them hell every single year. Even though the game ended as an Auburn loss, the 2009 Iron Bowl is a perfect example. That 7-5 Auburn team didn't have much business being on the field with that Alabama team, yet the punched them in the mouth early to get the 14-0 lead and it took a championship caliber two-minute drive from Bama to win that game in the fourth quarter. I don't know if you chalk it up to the same "bad Missouri basketball teams have beaten incredible Kansas teams" rivalry factor, but that "Damnit, why won't they just die?" mentality is to their credit.
Before Alabama made the rivalry relevant again, a lot of my immediate associations with Auburn were the six straight Iron Bowl wins in the early to mid 2000s, particularly the Honk If You Sacked Brodie game. If Chiefs fans are curious where every one of his bad mechanical habits came from, find the tape of that game and you'll start to understand.
Honestly, I get the perception that Auburn is Texas A&M plus more recent success. Good people (stand down, RMNers who have only met Aggies online), good ag/engineering roots, strong program, but there is ALWAYS the massive in-state shadow. But it's a solid program historically that would be even bigger if it were located somewhere else. I think "powerhouse" and "mid major" are far extremes on the continuum, with the truth somewhere in the middle if not leaning a little to the left.
SEC Supremacist: If ya'll feel like going back and looking I posted a YouTube link to "Brodie's greatest hits" on the Monday football analysis. There were also links to other classic" iron bowl games. No doubt it is the most important game of the year.
SEC Supremacist: Sneaky Pete's is still around. On a similar not (not BBQ), the best burger in the state is Milos, a Birmingham chain. Their tea gives you diabetes, their fries give you hypertension, and their burgers are amazing. As it should be.
Michael Atchison: For years, I thought of Auburn as the school that Alabama beat at the end of each season (when I was a kid, Auburn didn’t have much of a national profile). Then I thought of it as the place that produced Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley. I suppose my perception is based more on a few transcendent talents than on the program as a whole. Now I think of it as a good program laying in the weeds that can jump up and be really dangerous from time to time, which I guess means I think of it as one of the best (maybe the best) programs in what I’d deem the SEC’s second tier (they’d probably be vying with Arkansas for that distinction).
Bill C.: Agreed. Before I really had a reason to think much about Auburn as I was growing up, I still knew of Barkley and Bo.
Honestly, Auburn is about the size of Stillwater, and it hurts my head a little bit to think of them as an OSU, only with 90,000 people at home games. Stillwater tends to feel a little bloated with 50,000.
So let's talk about gameday experience a bit. At some point in the next 13 years, Mizzou fans will have an opportunity to visit Jordan-Hare -- what makes the Auburn gameday experience unique? What should we make sure to do (and where should we make sure to go) when in town?
Michael Atchison: And this will bug me for days. I said "laying in the weeds." It should be "lying," right? Laying/lying is my who/whom.
Also, I’m not going to be around later to revive this thing was some left-field musical recommendation. So when it goes off the rails, check out the very fine new Richard Hawley release:
ZouDave: I have to echo RPT’s final paragraph here as that was absolutely my first thought when I read the question: I think of Auburn the way I always thought of Texas A&M. And I absolutely mean that in a good way.
Back in 2006 the week we were set to play aTm down in College Station (which, apparently, is the only place we ever play them) the TexAgs.com Radio guys had me on as a guest and asked me basically what Mizzou fans thought of them. My answer to them would pretty much be exactly what I’d say to Auburn: you are incapable of ever sneaking up on a team. Nobody is ever going to look at Auburn on the schedule and just think "Oh, that’s a win." (other than maybe Texas, or Alabama in your case). Even in years where you maybe haven’t been the best you could be, or had downright bad seasons, you still carry with you the mystique and aura of a program that has been around forever, has great tradition, has achieved the highest goal, and historically one of the names you associate with "college football". You may not have the same number of trophies, rings, etc., as the true elites of the sport, but very few schools wouldn’t jump at the chance to trade histories with you. And it seems like all it’s going to take is the right coach and the right turn of fate to take you from what you are to unstoppable juggernaut for a few years.
I unfortunately haven’t known many Auburn fans in my life (yet), but the ones I do know have always been exceptionally gracious and easy to deal with. My parents have known a pair of Auburn fans dating back to the 60s (as chronicled by my dad’s story about Alabama last week) and they count them as some of their favorite people on the planet. I’m trying to get them and my parents to provide something for this week as the "wildcard" story but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m running out of time on that!
SEC Supremacist: Game days are gloriously insane. The 2 places that you MUST go are Toomer's Drugstore and Mama Goldberg's. Toomer's has the best lemonade in the state, though food options are very limited. They squeeze the lemons in front of you to make the lemonade. You can buy a gallon for $14.95 (that is not a typo). Mama G's is a phenomenal deli. They fix their sandwiches and then steam them (no baking or anything like that) so that they are warm and hot. The original store looks rough, but it's great. Be sure to try the Mama's Love, all the way.
If you're taking an RV or camper, get to town mid day on Thursday. They will open up RV lots about 6 p.m. If you just want to tailgate, you can stake out a spot on Friday (used to be 2 p.m., but that may have changed). The quad is the best spot, right in the middle of the dorms. and near Jordan-Hare (a.k.a. The Jungle). One can also tailgate on the concourse (a wide brick path through the middle of campus). After Auburn wins, make your way to Toomer's Corner again for the rolling of the trees. It's a unique experience with thousands of people standing in an intersection, small children throwing TP up in trees, etc. Here's a link to it after winning the MNC.
We're a bit more careful since the trees were poisoned, but it's still a tradition one has to witness.
Expect a lot of southern hospitality. If you don't want to tailgate on your own, wandering through the RV lots can get you a good bit of free beer and bbq, just saying hello to folks. It's a warm atmosphere and pretty much everyone gets along (though like all fanbases, we have our morons too).
The Beef: Mama Goldberg’s? I never would have thought my people would end up Auburn, AL
SEC Supremacist: While there is a small population, it has nothing to do with the resturaunt. Urban legend is that it started as the only kosher deli in town, but I can't find anything to back that up. Cool Story Bro: I was friends with the daughter of the rabbi and went over to their house a time or two. On the front porch they had a sign that said "Shalom, y'all".
SEC Supremacist: With all the comparison with TAMU, I would just like to make a few notes:
1) We do NOT sleep with farm animals. That's Mississippi State.
2) Had Bear Bryant ever coached our team, he would be disowned outright and those games tossed down the memory hole.
3) We tend to doze through the first half, not the second. See 2010 Iron Bowl.
4) We like having women on the field. We want more women on the field. Basically, women = good.
5) We don't play dress up. We have our ROTC, and we greatly appreciate them, but you won't find any non ROTC/veterans in military gear.
6) The eagle kicks Lassie's ass in terms of badass live mascots. End of story
ZouDave: Why not, Beef? This one went to Georgia:
The Beef: Was actually born in Tulsa, OK, which I no more associate with my people as I do Athens, Georgia or Auburn, AL (though Atlanta has a strong population of Hebrews and Shebrews if we are talking the state of GA)
D-Sing: I would never compare TAMU to Auburn. The analogy I tend to use is Arkansas=TAMU because the more insane I've encountered among those fanbases do have similar levels of delusion. Not calling all of them delusional, because that would be unfair.
Anyway, to answer SEC Supremacist's question, my perception of Auburn was severely lacking until recently. Like most conferences, I think that the air and the media attention at the top are sucked up by a couple of teams, and the rest have to fight for the scraps. Auburn is one of the ones fighting for scraps, especially given that they not only share a division, but share a state with one of the more legendary programs for most people.
My knowledge of Auburn was limited to Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley (two of my favorite athletes). Now, if I am being a lazy sportswriter and making a comparison between things that don't totally fit, I view Auburn much like I view Michigan State: someone who might be seen as a "younger brother" and is a land grant school, but is plenty damn dangerous in its own right and can win a BCS title if the chips fall the right way.
The Beef: The juxtaposition of this made me laugh:
Extra ham, kosher bologna, salami, provolone, and extra American cheese on a white bun
So...get ready to get Jew Story Bro’d right here:
One of the ideas of "kosher" as it works back to the Old Testament is you cannot mix milk and meat products. This sandwich does that, in fact with EXTRA American cheese (beyond the Provolone)
Also, the pig is not considered a kosher animal because it does not have a split hoof and chew it’s own cud. This sandwich has that, with EXTRA ham.
BUT DON’T WORRY. The bologna is kosher
ghtd36: A RMN Roundtable format change? I AM FRIGHTENED AND CONFUSED.
The Beef: Been a tough week for you...between this and BST’s emergence. You want I should have him taken care of?
SEC Supremacist: One more question for the brain trust. When I moved here, I heard about Mizzou/KU being the greatest rivalry in the country. Naturally, I disagreed. Others thrown out there are ND/USCw and aOSU/Michigan. Where do you rank these (or other rivalries of note). Try to remain objective (though I know that's not possible). Consider hatred between fanbases, quality of play, and impact of the game on the national scene.
ghtd36: I'm not saying to take care of him, Beef. I'm just saying that I'm tired of his stupid face.
D-Sing: Although to be honest, don't most people want to say that their rivalry is the best in the country? I think it's more about the importance of the rivalry to the region/fan base than anything else.
Oddly, right now I wouldn't consider Southern Cal and ND to be rivals; I feel that there's more heat between ND and Michigan State right now than between Southern Cal and ND (Bush push game excepted).
I think that Ohio State/Michigan has heat; obviously Auburn/Alabama has heat. An underrated one is the emnity felt by BYU and Utah (living out here near lots of BYU and Utah alumni makes you appreciate this one).
SEC Supremacist: Want to? Certainly. But some are definitely greater than others. Some of the "second tier" rivalries I'm referring to are Auburn/UGA, UF/LSU, Bama/TN, TN/Vandy, Okie lite/OU, KU/KState, etc. But among the top tier, especially if one has a vested interest, it's impossible to judge objectively. The main reason I bring up USCw/ND is the golden shelieghly, which is admittedly an awesome trophy.
ZouDave: I still firmly believe that Mizzou vs kansas is the most hate-filled and hate-fueled rivalry I've ever witnessed. Given the roots of the feud, its going to be really tough to top in that respect. Unfortunately, in football we've had basically one truly nationally meaningful game in our history and that was of course in 2007. That definitely detracts from the recognition this rivalry could ever have received because so many outside the region just see it as a hotly contested pillow fight. Basketball has historically been better and more competitive, but even then kansas holds a COMMANDING lead all-time and dwarfs us in accomplishments. Plus, our basketball rivalry would always be behind Duke vs UNC regardless of how good we may have done.
Nationally I view Ohio State vs Michigan and Alabama vs Auburn as the two biggies in rivalries. Others certainly are big and worth seeing, but those to me are the standard bearers for hatred plus relevance.
SEC Supremacist: One other question. Recently y'all have played both Ole Miss and Arkansas. How did that taste of the SEC strike you? Obviously Mizzou was the victor in all 3 matches. Did anyone go to the games, particularly at Oxford? I've always heard tailgating on the Grove was incredible, but never had the chance to do it myself. If you did, I'm jealous.
Michael Atchison: I didn’t go to Oxford, but I went to the Cotton Bowl. My impression of Arkansas was that their fans left early.
The Beef: I attended the game in The Grove (along with the Cotton Bowl actually). The Grove lived up to the hype without a doubt. And to be honest, to try to attach words beyond that would be a waste of time. It is really is amazing. I do wish the rules on BBQ/grilling were different (though I totally understand them), but it was the best tailgating environment I have ever seen.
SEC Supremacist: One other thing that is not to be missed when in town: Tiger Walk. The cheerleaders, coaches, and football team walk the quarter mile from the practice facilities to the stadium high fiving fans that line the road the entire way. Info can be found here: http://www.auburntigers.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/090810aae.html and a video (that doesn't give a good indication of the scope of the event) is here:
SEC Supremacist: Last, but possiby most important gameday event that I've missed, the eagle flight. You HAVE to make it to your seat in time to see it. We go between a bald eagle and a golden eagle depending on weather/training, etc. It too is a unique thing in college football.
This typically happens 15-20 minutes before kick off (just before the band comes onto the field).
SleepyFloyd7: So have visiting Bammers ever tried to catch the eagle by bringing in some squirrel meat on a stick?
The Beef: If they brought that...what would they have left to eat?
/trying to fit in
SEC Supremacist: No, however rumor has it that War Eagle II (all of the birds are officially named War Eagle) may have been "carried off by a rival school". Granted, this was 1930s and it could have been Georgia Tech. Here's the history of all War Eagles.
To the best of my knowledge no one has tried to steal it lately though. I am glad they don't keep it in the aviary anymore, otherwise Harvey Updyke would have had something else to kill.