I like what I see in this Auburn football team. The most important thing a football team has to do is play hard and this team is doing that. That is life in the Southeastern Conference if you are going to be at the top.
The Tigers have proven they will play hard in their last three ball games and they did what they had to do on offense to win. In all three of those games the defense had to make late stops when the game was on the line and they did. It was something the defense didn't do last year and that has to be a result of the number of players Auburn is using and the depth that is being created by playing the younger guys throughout the game. Auburn is a much, much fresher football team than it was a year ago and it is showing.
Offensively, I think the Tigers are still trying to find their identity a little bit, but you would have to be blind not to see what the quarterback means to this football team. Cameron Newton just takes over a football game and does what he has to do--running, throwing and executing--to win a game. He had as fine a football game as you would want a quarterback to have on Saturday night and I think the whole offense stepped up a notch over the way it played against Clemson. I think that started with the offensive line.
The thing that I see with this Auburn team is it has a chance to be a really, really good, and maybe even a great team, if they can stop making mistakes. If you go back and look at the penalties and the turnovers in the last three games that have been hard-fought wins and eliminate those, none of those three would have been close games. That is where the team is now.
Demond Washington is a threat on kickoff returns.
The kids are playing hard. The speciality teams are doing a great job of covering kicks. They are so much better doing that than they were last year it is not even close. Of course, the team missed a field goal on Saturday night, but I think the kicking game is solid. There hasn't been a great punt return, but the kickoff returns have been good and I wouldn't be surprised if Demond Washington doesn't come out of there with one this season.
I like this Auburn team.
Around the conference the Alabama at Arkansas game turned out to be close like I thought it would. It was kind of typical in a fourth quarter of a game when the team that runs the football well takes control vs. the one that relies on throwing it. Alabama came from two touchdowns down to win and that is a sign of a championship football team and a testament to the type of physical team they are.
It looked like Florida made a big jump on the offensive side of the ball in its win over Kentucky. The Gators have been a good defensive team with great team speed. I believe it will be a great game between Florida and Alabama in Tuscaloosa because Florida is going to play defense.
If Florida can make some first downs and control the ball a little bit, not be dominated by Alabama's defense, I think this game will be close although I think Alabama will win.
LSU is playing Tennessee, which is really struggling, and LSU is struggling on offense. You have got to believe LSU?is going to beat Tennessee in Baton Rouge. It is going to be interesting see how LSU matures as the season goes along because they are having some major problems on offense, particularly at quarterback. Tennessee's personnel is down.
Kentucky is playing at Ole Miss and we still don't know about Kentucky yet although I think that is good team. How good we don't know, but I think Kentucky will beat Ole Miss even though they are playing in Oxford.
Ole Miss showed some turn-around against Fresno State. Fresno State is certainly not a Southeastern Conference type of school, but they have some football tradition and they are normally a pretty good team. Ole Miss beat them badly.
I think South Carolina is a good football team. They have the week off before they play Alabama. I thought going into the Auburn game that South Carolina had some issues at quarterback. That didn't surface until the fourth quarter on Saturday night when they turned the ball over four times. That was the difference in the game.
Mississippi State made mistakes, but at home they beat a Georgia team that I am sure was not at the top of its game. This week Georgia will travel to Colorado and that will be a week off from SEC play.
Around the country this week we have the Texas-Oklahoma game. Those are two perennial powers, but I don't think either team is as good this year as they have been. They don't have the quarterback power they had.
I think over the last four years they have depended so much on the passing game they have lost their toughness in playing against the run on defense and running the football on offense. Until they get that corrected I don't think they are going to be as good as they can be because you know they have got great players.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is having a big season.
We have Stanford playing at Oregon this week and I really like this Stanford team. Oregon has got the great team speed, but I am going to go with power over speed in this one. Stanford has Andrew Luck, who is a great quarterback.
Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)