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First of all, my wife and I will be at the game Saturday night and we're optimistic that we will get that 8th win. I say that because this is not meant to be a negative post, just a reality check as to where we are now and where we want to be consistently as a program in the future.
No doubt that last year was incredibly special year for the AU Family and we attended every home game and both championship games. I have been thrilled with our recruiting, overall, since CGC came on board and I think we are well on our way to another solid recruiting class in 2012. I have full faith in JJ and CGC to make the hires necessary to get the best coaches available to bring AU's offense and defense up to the levels necessary to be competitive in every game, every year and continue to recruit the best players available. I don't expect AU to win them all every year. I do think it's possible for us to develop the program so that we are competitive no matter who we are playing.
It's important that all on board know where we stand in the present, what our goals are for the future and how we are going to get there. Looking at our current schedule (I know schedules are about to change to incorporate the 2 new members) right now, I think all would agree that we play 4 games every year which are the most important to gauge our overall success relative to our conference competitors. Those games are against AL, LSU, Ark, and GA. We'll probably be adding TAMU to that list as well but for right now let's just talk about our present yearly schedule. It also goes without saying that we have to continue to beat OM and MSU consistently in order to maintain our place in the pecking order in the West, as well.
With regard to the 4 most important games every year I mentioned above, it's true we swept them in '10 in our MNC run. It's also true that in the last 4 years we are 4-12 against those teams, so 1-3 against all 4 teams. In other words, we were swept by them in 3 of the last 4 years. In the last 10 years we are 7-3 against AL, 5-5 against Ark, 4-6 against LSU and 3-7 against GA (1-5 in the last 6 years). IMHO, gauging the success of any season should start with how we did against our 4 major rivals. Remember that with 12 regular season games and a bowl win we could end up with a 9-4 record and ranked in the top 25 but still be swept by those 4 teams. IMHO that is not a successful season in spite of how the record looks on paper. (I'm not talking about this year which I agree was about the best we could have hoped for with the loss of 36 players off of the '10 MNC team). In the last 10 years against those teams we finished 4-0 twice, 3-1 once, 2-2 four times and 0-4 three times ('08' '09 and '11). I think we have to split, at a minimum, with those 4 teams in order to continue to build our program to where we are consistent contenders.
I know, we just won the MNC last year. Believe me, I enjoyed every minute of it having waited 50 years as a dyed in the wool AU fan to experience it and have I relished and celebrated many seasons before 2010. I'm not trying to be a pessimist here. Every year during the summer the discussion starts about how many games the team is going to win this year. I just think the discussion should start with those 4 games. No doubt all 4 teams are currently performing at a high level, are well coached and show no signs of deterioration. If anything, AL, LSU and Ark are maybe as strong as they've ever been, and GA is showing signs of re-entry to the perennial top 10 discussion with the improvement of their defense. That is just the way it is. We are going to have to find ways to compete and win against these teams or accept our new role as a second tier program in the conference.
This is why the new DC hire is so critical for us. If we can get back to playing what we all remember to be "AU defense" it will keep us in many games and help us to win consistently against our major rivals. Traditionally, our defense has helped us stay among the "top 6" SEC football programs, the only non-"state school" that has achieved that distinction. We're going to have to get back to playing tough, stingy defense every year to stay in that top group and remain one of the top 15 programs in the country, which is what we've been able to achieve historically.
Was 2010 a fluke season for AU or a sign of things to come? Only time, and decisions made by our leaders, will tell..
"Brick by brick, my citizens. Brick by brick"
Good post. In some preseason polls that have already been released for the 2012 season, we will play 5 of the top 10. Our future is playing very capable & competitive teams. T Hall.
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