When Pat Dye speaks, Auburn folks listen, so imagine what it was like at the Montgomery Quarterback Club Tuesday night when Dye, now 72, took the podium. After all, since winning the national title with Cam Newton in 2010, current coach Gene Chizik has a 9-8 record, which translates to a paltry 4-6 in the SEC after last Saturday’s 12-10 loss to then No. 2 ranked LSU.
Pat didn’t mince words. “Don’t question the guy we got leading the program. I wouldn’t swap him for 10 (Alabama coach Nick) Sabans,” Dye said in his ever-syrupy drawl, “Saban is the best coach in the country — I’ll grant him that. But he ain’t a better man than Gene Chizik.”
Dye talked directly about inexperienced quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who was 13-for-22 passing for 97 yards and two interceptions in Saturday’s game. “I don’t think he’s scared physically, but he’s scared mentally to make a mistake,” the Hall of Fame coach explained.
“Our quarterback -- bless his heart --I think he’s going to be fine, I really do, but he ain’t ready to play right now. We got to go through the pain of watching him get there,” Dye told a huge crowd and said he still believes Auburn has a good team. “I’ve been saying that they played as hard as any football team I ever coached at Auburn, and I coached some pretty (darn) good ones,” Dye said.
In another interview, Dye praised the Auburn defense for holding vaunted LSU to 12 points. “We're all disappointed in not winning. It wasn't a moral victory or anything. But there wasn't an Auburn person that wasn't proud of the effort on the field Saturday night. Defensively, I thought we played as hard as any football team I've seen at Auburn in a long time."
"The losing doesn't bother me as bad as just not playing hard like we should have been in some previous games. The defense might have been confused and young, but it still didn't look like the Auburn teams of the past that were good defensive football teams,” Dye reasoned.
“We did look like it Saturday night. It was one of the most amazing transitions I've seen. From where we were defensively (before Saturday) to where we were Saturday night, I don't think I've ever seen a team make that much change that fast."
That said, Mr. Dye, here’s how I’m picking this week’s Top Ten games:
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No. 25 BAYLOR AT No. 9 WEST VIRGINIA, 12 Noon (FX) – Look for a great QB battle between UWV’s Gino Smith and Baylor’s Nick Florence in the Mountaineers’ Big 12 debut. Smith threw 338 yards and three TDs in the 31-21 win over Maryland while Florence – replacing Robert Griffin III – has thrown for over 300 yards and 3 TDs in the last three games. The reason UWV is a 12-point pick is because of the defensive edge and the home-field advantage. MY PICK? West Virginia, 34-21.
DUKE (3-1) at WAKE FOREST (3-1), 12:30 p.m. – Both have one loss but – get this – Wake Forest is ranked 103rd out of 120 FBS teams in total defense. Its rushing defense comes in at No. 117, giving up an average of 266 yards per game. So how is Duke still a 3-point underdog? The key is the Demon Deacons got slaughtered at Florida State, 58-0, before giving up 37 in the Army win last week. Duke, beaten 50-13 by Stanford, has whipped three cupcakes. MY PICK? Wake Forest, 24-14.
ARKANSAS (1-3, 0-1 SEC) at TEXAS A&M (2-1, 0-1 SEC), 12:21 P.M. (SEC Network) – The Razorbacks, after getting pasted by Rutgers last week, are a 13 ½ point underdog in College Station and when you recall that A&M throttled SMU, 48-3, two weeks ago, you have to believe the Aggies are going to kill the Hogs. A&M’s frosh QB Johnny Manziel was 15-of 20 passing last week but the Aggie defense, ranked 12th in the country, is why this one will cause more furor for UA coach John Sullivan’s hide. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 42-15.
TENNESSEE (3-1, 0-1 SEC) at No. 5 GEORGIA (4-0, 2-0 SEC), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports) -- When Vanderbilt coach John Franklin calls this UGa offense the best he’s seen in 20 years of coaching, you know why the Vols are a 13 ½ point ‘dog – just like Arkansas. UT simply can’t stack up against the No. 5 team in the country and when Vol QB Tyler Bray admits his teammates “disappeared” against Florida, I don’t see any smoke-and-mirrors helping stop the SEC’s top team in scoring offense. UGA is averaging 47.5 points per game while UT is 10th in scoring defense, yielding 24.25 ppg against a weak schedule. MY PICK? Georgia, 42-14.
No. 14 OHIO STATE at No. 20 MICHIGAN STATE, 3:30 p.m. (ABC-TV) – What do you think? Last week OSU struggled to beat a winless UAB, 29-15, while MSU took a 23-7 win over Eastern Michigan. That’s ain’t Big 10 football! So with the Spartans a 3-point pick at their place, the conference opener should be revealing, to say the least, after a very heated week on both practice fields. MSU snapped a 7-game losing streak in the series last year with a 10-7 win in Columbus but the hunch here is the Buckeyes will return the favor. MY PICK? Ohio State, 21-16.
N.C. STATE (3-1) at MIAMI (3-1), 7:00 p.m. – After Miami’s win over Boston College (41-32) and the upset over Ga. Tech (42-36), I think the Hurricanes are solid in the ACC. NCSt has played three lesser schools since Tennessee got ‘em, 35-21, in the opener so the feeling is Miami has too much talent for the Wolfpack to contain. The Hurricanes are favored by 3 at home and I think they’ll do better than that. MY PICK? Miami, 37-21.
TEXAS TECH (3-0) at IOWA STATE (3-0), 7:00 p.m. (FOX) -- ISU coach Paul Rhodes worked for TTU’s Tommy Tuberville for six years so he knows the Cyclones will have to throw it a lot during this Big 12 opener for both undefeated teams. The winner will probably get a spot in the Top 25 and what’s interesting is that the Red Raiders are a 3-point favorite in Ames. That’s because Tuberville’s boys are No. 1 in total defense and No. 2 in total offense. MY PICK? Texas Tech, 36-24.
No. 12 TEXAS (3-0) at OKLAHOMA STATE (2-1), 7:50 p.m. (FOX) – The Longhorns have had two weeks to prep for OSU after scoring 66 points against Ole Miss so you gotta’ think they are better than a 3-point pick over the Cowboys. OSU – also idle last week -- got toasted by Arizona in a 59-38 slugfest several weeks ago so it’s like UT defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat says, "The goal is to win the conference. You want to win the conference? This is the first step." MY PICK? Texas, 39-24.
WISCONSIN at No. 22 NEBRASKA, 8:30 P.M. (ABC-TV) – UW sensational Montee Ball, who scored 4 TDs in this one last year, is “doubtful” with a concussion so let’s listen to Nebraska’s big lineman, Jeremiah Sirles, “We owe these guys one. We all know it. We all know we need to play our best to beat these guys. We enter big-time play now, Big Ten play." Huskers are favored by 13 and a big win would be a Godsend before next week’s visit to Ohio State. MY PICK? Nebraska, 31-14.
OLE MISS (3-1) at No. 1 ALABAMA (4-0, 1-0 SEC), 9:15 p.m. (ESPN) – There is no need to stay up and watch this because Alabama will be so eager to overcome the late start they’ll come out of the chute just like you’d expect from the No. 1 team in the country. Ole Miss gave up 66 points to Texas. Add the fact Bama has allowed an average of just 5.2 points and yielded only 185 yards in defense per game and suddenly the fact UA is favored by 31 ain’t all that funny. MY PICK? Alabama, 48-7.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
MISSOURI (2-2, 0-2 SEC) at CENTRAL FLORIDA (2-1), 12 Noon, (FSN) – Ole Mizzou has lost two games to teams still undefeated and in the Top 10 so I’m thinking the fact UM is a 3 ½ point underdog to Central Florida is a great bet. Carolina’s Steve Spurrier believes the same thing. “I think time will tell. I don’t want to make any predictions, and they’ve got a tough game this week. Are they underdogs going down to Central Florida? UCF is a good team down there, but I think we’ve all got to play the season out. Some teams get better as the season goes along, and some teams get worse.” MY PICK? Missouri 28-15.
TOWSON (2-1) at No. 3 LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC), 7:00 P.M. – Oh, please. Games like this are absolutely boring so you won’t see this one on TV. I’m thinking LSU will romp after last week’s Auburn scare. The Tiger defense is fourth in the country, giving up around 10 points per game, and the offense, embarrassed after the team dropped to No. 3 in the polls, is eager to regain respect. MY PICK? LSU, 60-7.
No. 6 SOUTH CAROLINA (4-0, 2-0 SEC) at KENTUCKY (1-3, 0-1 SEC), 7:00 P.M. – Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, his team picked by 20, summed it up well: “I think we are better than them. But if we don’t play better than them, they can certainly beat us. Personnel-wise, they might be a little below some of the SEC teams, but they are a well-coached bunch. We know that upsets happen, and we know why they happen, usually when a team is not ready to play. Simple as that…” Suits me, too. MY PICK? South Carolina, 41-10.
SEC TEAMS IDLE TOMORROW
* -- AUBURN (1-3, 0-2 SEC) will host Arkansas next Saturday at 12 Noon. (ESPN)
* -- No. 11 FLORIDA (4-0, 3-0 SEC) will host LSU next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
* --- No. 21 MISS. STATE (4-0, 1-0 SEC) will play at Kentucky next Saturday, 12:21 (SEC Network)
* -- VANDERBILT (1-3, 0-2 SEC) will play at Missouri next Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
AND ONE MORE …
CHATTANOOGA (1-3) at THE CITADEL (3-1), 6:00 p.m. – My stars, if last year’s Citadel comeback isn’t enough to inspire the Mocs, the fact they could upset the SouCon leader should provide more dynamite in Charleston since Fort Sumter. UTC is a good football team, despite the 34-17 loss to Appy State last week. The Citadel took a bruising 54-14 loss at N.C. State at the same time so injuries could give the Mocs a little boost. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 31-24.