Please allow me to borrow a line from former Auburn Coach Pat Dye as we count down the days until the Florida-LSU clash this weekend:
Gators, you’re not man enough to beat LSU.
The Tigers from Baton Rouge are coming to take out your quarterback, take out your national title hopes and maybe take out the notion that Urban Meyer’s spread offense is the path to Southeastern Conference dominance.
As Dye might put it, they’re here to take your manhood.
Dye, the former Auburn coach, loves old-school football. The coach who built Auburn into one of the SEC’s elite teams in the 1980s might smile when he looks at today’s SEC standings. The coach who more than once has listed “manhood” as a requirement for winning SEC games would see evidence of his theory at the top of the standings.
Perhaps it’s not coincidence that the SEC’s three remaining undefeated teams — Alabama, LSU and Vanderbilt — are also the league’s top three rushing teams.
While many teams have followed Florida’s lead in adopting elements of the spread, power football is back in vogue. Is Saturday’s showdown between the past two national champions also a referendum on the spread of the spread in SEC football?
The spread offense that was supposed to revolutionize the SEC is instead just revolting in some parts.
Look at Dye’s former school.
Tommy Tuberville recently led Auburn to its greatest stretch in school history. Six straight wins over Alabama. The best record in SEC games since 2000. An unbeaten season. Division and conference championships. And yet he’s suddenly very much back on the hot seat thanks to a decision this year to implement the spread.
So far, that decision has backfired. The offense has been abysmal and Auburn has lost its identity. On Wednesday, Tuberville relieved first-year offensive coordinator Tony Franklin of his duties.
Tuberville’s team just blew a 13-0 lead on Saturday and lost to Vanderbilt for the first time since 1955. It doesn’t get much worse than getting pushed around by the Nerd Patrol, who are now pushing around the SEC by being more physical than opponents. Interesting … Vanderbilt! has become a bully by blocking, tackling and running the football. How quaint.
The Commodores run the spread, but they do it a bit differently than Florida and Auburn. The Commodores ranked 116th in the nation in passing offense the night they lined up against Auburn. Didn’t matter.
Vanderbilt, as Dye might say, took their manhood.
Auburn, on the other hand, looked even worse in a 3-2 win over Mississippi State. And make no mistake — LSU has the Tigers’ manhood in a Mason jar after it came to Auburn and stole a victory through fourth-quarter grit. It sits on the shelf next to Florida’s from 2007.