Thursday, August 28, 2008

August 30: Auburn vs. University of Louisiana - Monroe

Say one thing for ULM, no one should ever complain about their non-conference schedule. ULM opens at Auburn and then plays at Arkansas, before starting their conference games. Of the two remaining non-conference foes, one is Ole Miss. This means that ULM will play as many SEC West teams as SEC East teams are required to do.

Normally, if this game weren’t the opener, it wouldn’t get much attention. However, with history and bad blood, it’s hard to miss. I’m not talking about bad blood with ULM, but bad blood with Alabama. The school that paid $4M to go 7-6 last season lost 21-14 late last year to the Warhawks. And while it’s hard enough to compare teams during the season, especially with so many upsets, it’s even harder to compare season over season when teams change personnel and chemistry. Make no mistake, though, an Auburn win over ULM this season will be viewed against an Alabama win from last season. (And, in the same vein, Alabama’s opening game against Clemson will be viewed against Auburn’s bowl game vs. Clemson). Ironically, ULM, in its other non-conference games, lost to both Clemson and Texas A&M, meaning that last year’s Alabama team failed at something that both its opening day opponent and Dennis Franchione accomplished last year.

But back to focusing on the Warhawks…

The Warhawks will make this a quick game. They like to run the football. Last year, ULM led the Sun Belt Conference in rushing and was 16th in the nation at 209 yards per game. And though they lost their top RB from last year, the teams’ focus will remain the same.

Auburn, as the fans know, also likes to run the football. The Tigers have Ben Tate and Brad Lester in the backfield and last year’s can-do anything guy, Mario Fannin, playing in the slot receiver position. At QB, the depth char still shows Kodi Burns and Chris Todd. I think Kodi will take the first snaps, but that both will play a lot.

On defense, look for Paul Rhoads to iron out kinks and rotate many players, particularly in the secondary. Seen as a strength early on, the secondary now lacks depth and playing time is the only solution.

The game, which kicks off at 6:00 p.m. CST is on PPV only. Replays should hit on CSS on Sunday evening around 6:00 p.m., if it holds form to last year.

Look for an enjoyable game. Look for Auburn to make at least one mistake big enough for ULM to capitalize on. Look for Auburn to, in the end, wear ULM out.

And look for an Auburn victory.

War Damn Eagle!!!

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