Wakeup call or sign of looming trouble?
That question will be answered soon enough, beginning Saturday when Auburn visits LSU. That's followed by a home game against Mississippi State.
Win both and everything will be fine for the Tigers.
But lose both? We might be looking at 2012 all over again.
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That might seem like an overreaction. But that's the reality after Auburn avoided what would have been the most humiliating loss in school history. Instead, the Tigers escaped with their most disconcerting win ever. Forget Gus Malzahn's bravado about the Tigers "finding a way to win." Nonsense. It was Jacksonville State. The Tigers were spared only by Peyton Barber's late touchdown.
"Yeah, but "
Yeah, but nothing. So what if Jacksonville State might win the Football Championship Series. There's a reason that FCS schools are 1-101 against Football Bowl Series teams that were ranked in the Top 10 -- that lone win being Appalachian State's upset of Michigan. They get 22 fewer scholarships to hand out.
Here's the recruiting pecking order:
Power Five conference teams plus Notre Dame and BYU
Lower-level FBS schools, such as Troy State and East Carolina
In other words, Jacksonville State gets Troy's leftovers.
This is not basketball, where Steph Curry or Larry Bird can take four intramural guys and take down big-time programs. Numbers matter in football. Think about it. Even among elite FBS programs, how many of them can compete if the NCAA takes away 22 scholarships?
Maybe the Tigers will get their problems sorted out this week in practice. But right now, it looks troubling for the Tigers.
Jeremy Johnson looks nothing like the quarterback who ripped Arkansas last season for four touchdowns in the first half. He looks unsure of himself and unaware of what he needs to do. He has thrown five interceptions in two games. Not all interceptions are bad throws or bad decisions. Some are the result of the receiver running the wrong route. Some are from balls tipped by the defense or deflected by the receiver. Some are just great defensive plays.
That's not the case with Johnson thus far. He's just making poor decisions and poor throws. He must play better.
But let's not put it all on Johnson.
The defense, after an impressive first half against Louisville, has backslid into one that can't pressure the quarterback and can't cover down field. Much of that is attributed to Carl Lawson being hurt again.
But that in itself is cause for concern. Why hasn't someone else stepped up? Is Lawson the only player on the team capable of putting pressure on quarterbacks? If so, then they're not very good.
The lack of a pass rush still does not justify the secondary's poor play. Busted assignments are far too frequent. Now cornerback Joshua Holsey is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Malzahn said the coaches will work to correct the mistakes. Indeed, the mistakes are correctable. But that's only if the players have the ability to make the corrections. With the possible exception of San Jose State and Idaho, there's not another game on the schedule that looks to be a sure bet.
At Kentucky? Hardly. At Arkansas? Nope. Yes, the Hogs have their own issues, losing to Toledo. But at least Toledo is an FBS school.
That still leaves Ole Miss, at Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.
It's only Week 3, but the Tigers are already playing for their season.
-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org