The Home Stretch
Here’s where we stand. Nine SEC Games left. Only 3 Non-Conference Games to go. Auburn sits at 23-21 (9-12) and this isn’t being overly dramatic, but the season will come down to these next three weeks. Here’s the salient bullet points as we proceed:
This, really to put it bluntly, is the biggest issue. When Auburn pitching is good, then we can compete with anyone (see Friday night’s loss to Carolina). When it’s bad then we are in for long nights. The problem is that Auburn has no clue what it’s going to get from week to week. Jon Luke Jacobs was inefficient against Ole Miss, yet last weekend he had his best outing. From injuries to arm soreness, to God knows what, it always seems like if it’s not one thing it’s another for the staff. I can’t even begin to speculate who the rotation will be against Georgia. I’m sure Jon Luke Jacobs will be in the mix. Andrew Morris? Got blitzed by Samford last Tuesday. Derek Varnadore? Couldn’t locate anything on Saturday. Cory Luckie? Had Zero control on Sunday. Slade Smith? Great against Ole Miss, put in to tough spots last weekend. Our rotation is a complete crapshoot and stays as one of the most frustrating aspects for this team.
I would have title this bit “the infield” but right now Auburn is dealing with two big injuries. Hopefully, with a full week off, Auburn can start the UGA series completely healthy. Bobby Andrews was finding his way as the lead off man and was providing an adequate spark at the top of the lineup. His position at the top allowed Fradejas to bat 2nd and move him over and Auburn could jump out to early leads. He was that sparkplug. Now? He’s out. Fradejas has been filling in, and doing a solid job but having Bobby Andrew back would give Pawlowski so many more options. Also, Dan Gamache, who left Saturday’s game with hamstring tightness, desperately needs to be back in the lineup and needs to be back at 3rd Base. Gamache had been playing the field more and more and it freed up the DH spot for Gilmer/Beisner/Wacker and allowed it to be more fluid for situational hitting. Also, having Gamache at 3rd gives Auburn our best defensive infield. Gamache/McElroy/Hargett/Patterson is that best option for Auburn to win. The communication is better, the offense is where it needs to be, it’s just the best option for Auburn to win.
You’re going to hear this more and more over the coming weeks. “Well, Auburn may make the SEC Tournament, but you have to have a winning record overall to make the NCAA”. Yes, that’s true, but Auburn isn’t going to make one without making the other. In my opinion, Auburn needs to win 2 of the next three series to make Hoover. Let’s say they do that, but don’t sweep anyone. That’s four wins and two losses. That makes Auburn 27-24 (13-14). If Auburn gets swept in that other series? 27-27 (13-17) meaning Auburn would need to win their three midweek games (Alabama State, Samford, South Alabama). I would be tough, but manageable. Again, this is all complete speculation at this point. Auburn has three series left. Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee. It’s really this weekend that’s the most important. Georgia is there with it’s winning record in the SEC and barely above .500 overall record. If Auburn can take this series, this VERY important series, then it can pull back in to the middle of the back.
Ok, here’s where it can get interesting. Auburn is in a run with Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, hell, the entire SEC West. So what’s going to happen? Here’s the remaining SEC schedules, along with my predictions:
|Arkansas||10-11||UF, SC, UM||4-5||14-16|
|Alabama||10-11||LSU, AU, SC||3-6||13-17|
|Auburn||9-12||UGa, UA, UT||6-3||15-15|
|Ole Miss||9-12||SC, MSU, Ark||3-6||12-18|
|MSU||8-13||UT, UM, LSU||5-4||13-17|
I really don’t think Tennesse will win another SEC game. The Vols got absolutely blasted and just look lost. LSU has the easiest chance to crawl back up in to the rankings and for Auburn the job is actually kind of simple. To reach our magical 15-15 mark (and hypothetically be SEC West Champions) all we need to do is take one of the series against Alabama or Georgia (which are both at home) and then Sweep Tennessee. What could kill Auburn would be if we drop a game to Vols, or get swept by UGa or Alabama. I’ve watched 98% of every Auburn game and I don’t think that’s too farfetched. Still, I might be looking through Orange and Blue Glasses.