Saturday, September 19, 2009

Game preview, Billings leaves team

This was a note from yesterday's paper, in case you didn't see it:

WR Montez Billings will not return to the Auburn football program when he is eligible to return from his four-game suspension.

Auburn released a statement late Friday saying the senior receiver had left the program for personal reasons.

Billings graduated in May, but the NCAA suspended him for four games because of an academic issue.

“Montez has his degree and has decided to leave the Auburn football team to pursue other opportunities,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “We appreciate what he gave to the football program during his career and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Billings finished his career with 55 catches for 645 yards and one touchdown in 34 career games. When interviewed in August, Billings said, “I graduated in may, so everything will be all right.” That was a few weeks before the NCAA handed down the suspension.

Now here's my preview for today's game:

Between West Virginia RB Noel Devine and QB Jarrett Brown, Chizik knows the Mountaineers are tough to stop.

Fortunately for the Tigers, they have been equally difficult to defend through the first two weeks.

That led WVU coach Bill Stewart to predict a high-scoring affair when the two teams square off on Saturday.

“I see a track meet. It is going to be very difficult to contain the Auburn Tigers,” Stewart said. “They are fourth overall in total offense and second in rushing. That tells me they go and they make a lot of plays. They are a fast team and they are playing very well right now. It is going to be a tremendous challenge for our guys.”

Chizik is equally impressed by the Mountaineers’ attack. During his Sunday afternoon teleconference, Chizik likened choosing to focus on either Brown or Devine to choosing to cut off your nose or gouge out your eyes.

In other words, trying to focus on one instead of both doesn’t seem like a good idea.

However, Chizik is pleased with the way his team has progressed over the first two weeks and is prepared for the biggest challenge to date.

“It’s really just as the way the schedule would unfold, it’s really interesting,” Chizik said Tuesday. “It’s a building block every week for a better team or a team that, you know, gives you different issues. Not necessarily that one is better than the other, this is a really good football team that we’re playing. They are different in the fact that their speed element and what they do offensively, and things of that matter, challenges you in different ways than the first two.

“I really love this because this is a great challenge for us and a great way to see where we are at. It comes at a great time. We are ready to play this type of game right now. I don’t know if we would open with them. I think it is time for us to play a team that is this good and just see where we are Sunday morning. I think it will be a great challenge for us.”

It’s not just the Auburn defense that faces a unique challenge this weekend.

West Virginia runs a stack 3-3-5 – an unusual alignment defensive alignment the Mountaineers have run for years. By now, WVU has become very good at executing the defense and it boasts a strong run-stopping unit.

Part of the challenge is to get the offensive linemen to block the right linebackers and handle the defensive linemen effectively. Getting to the next level will be key for the run game’s success.

“Schematically, they’re just trying basically take up two blockers with one guy – the nose take up the center and guard – allowing the linebackers to roam and make plays,” left guard Mike Berry said. “Basically what you have to do is get up to the linebackers and get on those guys.”

The Tigers know this game carries national significance. If they win, they will throw themselves emerge even more into the national media spotlight.

Linebacker Josh Bynes, however, said that is not the real motivation.

“We ain’t worried about that,” Bynes said. “They didn’t want to talk about us so now I don’t really care.”

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