Q&A With College and Magnolia

USA TODAY Sports

We sat down with the Auburn guys to see what they thought about this Saturday's big game.

GBH: Who's wife if crazier - Malzahn or Chizik?
C&M: Tough call. Chizik's wife went off on "Mama grizzly defending my husband and his work" on Facebook, and while it was a little bizarre, it was pretty standard for coache's wife-type stuff. Malzahn's wife was the star of a YouTube video, that was grossly edited out of context by an Alabama fan -- an Alabama fan who helped get illicit benefits to D.J. Fluker and was involved in the Johnny Manziel autograph scandal! -- so it's hard to tell how much of that was authentic crazy. Now, speaking of crazy ...


GBH: I think we can all agree that Auburn was a trainwreck in 2012. What have been the biggest improvements you've seen from this team in 2013?
C&M: The offense is obviously much better than the SEC-worst version from a year ago, but everyone knew that would be the case under Gus Malzahn. The bigger surprise is the better play on defense. Yes, Auburn gives up a bunch of yards per game, but the Tigers are clamping down in the red zone and making some big plays. A few surprising stats: Auburn is third in the SEC in scoring defense (18.8 points per game), first in tackles for loss (49), third in opponent third-down conversion percentage (33.3), fifth in interceptions (7), tied for second in red zone defense (opponents score 70 percent of the time) and tied for third in red zone touchdown defense (50 percent).
Aside from Florida and probably Alabama, the SEC is currently a league full of average-at-best defenses. Right now, Auburn is sort of the best of the average.


GBH: Seriously, what's the deal with the eagle?
C&M: Auburn is home to the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center, a part of the school's fine veterinary program, and since "War Eagle" is our battle cry -- there are various explanations for this -- it's always been a nice match to have an Eagle mascot. And if you think there's anything more badass than a damn eagle flying around a stadium and landing at midfield before a game, you're wrong.

GBH: Who finishes at the bottom of the SEC in total defense/yards allowed this year, you or us?
C&M: I have to go with y'all on this one. Right now, Auburn gives up 399 per game, and A&M is at 474. So even if both teams continue giving up yardage in chunks, that's a pretty decent gap to make up. I haven't watched a ton of Aggie football this year, but from what I can tell, the main issue is with tackling, and that's pretty hard to fix over the course of half a season -- having watched Auburn defense in recent years, I speak from experience. Auburn actually seems to be improving on that side of the ball, and I'm not sure that's the case for A&M right now.

GBH: You have 4 different receivers all sitting between 10 & 15 receptions on the season. Do you believe this has to do with offensive balance, or the lack of a legitimate threat down field?


C&M: Auburn has some capable guys, but the equal distribution is definitely more of a "no one is stepping up as the go-to receiver" situation. Marshall has had some accuracy issues -- he's completing less than 60 percent of his passes -- and the wideouts have had their fair share of drops. Sammie Coates is the deep threat who could really be a game changer, but due to drops and overthrows, he and Marshall have had a hard time hooking up. Though, when they do connect, Coates averages 24.5 yards per catch. Unfortunately, he's only hauled in 13 receptions so far.


GBH: What is the Chizik legacy in Auburn circles? I mean, he did win a MNC.
C&M: Chizik is a bit of a complicated subject, but because Auburn seems to be on the right track, and quicker than expected, under Malzahn, the former head coach gets a little bit of a break. Make no mistake, last season was awful. It was the first time in 62 years that the Tigers failed to win an SEC game. But, Chizik recruited well and didn't really leave the cupboard barren, and that national title, Auburn's second and first since '57, is a big deal. Also, most Auburn fans really like how Chizik stood up against the various allegations in recent years, especially when he continued to do so after he was fired.
Pretty much everyone is happy that he's out and Gus is in, but Auburn fans will always be thankful for the championship.

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