Looking beyond the obvious

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2008

At the midpoint of the college football season, Alabama fans are sky high after huge wins over Clemson and Georgia (two top-10 teams when the Crimson Tide played them) and survival wins over Tulane and Kentucky. Auburn fans are less than thrilled after their Tigers lost close conference games with Louisiana State and Vanderbilt and have struggled offensively all year. While most fans are sure they know exactly why things go right (Nick Saban is the next “Bear” Bryant!) and why things go wrong (why isn’t Kodi Burns playing?), some often overlooked factors can be found.

As well as Alabama has played – better than any other team in the country to this point – the Tide has been fortunate in some areas, such as health and miscues by opposing teams.

After six consecutive games, ‘Bama heads into an off week before Mississippi visits on Oct. 18. Coach Saban will no doubt allow his team some rest, but the Tide might not need it because no players have sustained serious injuries. Any coach would love to be able to say that this deep into the season, but the lack of injuries is even more significant for a young team whose depth is still probably a little behind that of the elite squads.

Alabama’s opponents have also helped the Tide out. Whether it be Georgia roughing the passer to extend Alabama’s opening drive that ended in a touchdown or Kentucky letting a late and potentially game-changing fumble slither out of bounds and back to the Tide, it always seems the team lined up against Alabama is feeling awfully generous that day.

One could say you make your own luck or it’s better to be lucky than good, but a special football team is usually both lucky and good. Check and check.

Auburn, meanwhile, hasn’t been lucky or good, though the Tigers are still 4-2 with four winnable games coming up before the season concludes with rivals Georgia and Alabama.

There has been no shortage of explanations for an offense that has produced only five touchdowns the last four games: unfamiliarity with a new offense, lack of talent, poorly handled quarterback situation, and on and on. Here’s a thought: Could Tony Franklin be the victim of a vastly different game than he was coaching the last few years at Troy?

Only two of Troy’s 12 games last year were broadcast on national television. Meanwhile, Auburn’s last five games have been carried by CBS, Raycom or the ESPN family of networks. If you’ve ever been to a game shown on one of these entities, you know TV timeouts can ruin any flow that might develop in a game.

That, along with the new clock rules used in college football this season, could be helping make life difficult for an assistant whose offense is based on tempo.

A Southeastern Conference-caliber quarterback wouldn’t hurt, either.