My evaluation of Auburn is that the Tigers really got better last week, which is hard to do against an opponent that is heavily outmanned. A game like that, if you are ready to play as the heavily-favored team, turns out like what we watched on Saturday. If the heavily-favored team is not ready the final score ends up something like 35-14 or 35-20.
Because Auburn's kids performed so well early on Saturday the coaches were able to play a lot of young folks, which is something they have needed to do, but because three of the four games had been so tight they had not been able to do it. Resting the starters who had been playing almost every snap in the last three games was really good for the team.
Nothing really surprised me about the Florida at Alabama game. Florida was inefficient at trying to run the football. The Gators are struggling right now offensively and they still haven't got their center-quarterback exchange problem solved.
Florida lost to an Alabama team that is free-wheeling. On offense, defense and in the kicking game, Alabama is good. You look at that team and you don't see any weaknesses. They are young in the secondary, but they are very talented there and are still the team to beat in the conference and in the country.
I watched the end of the LSU-Tennessee game and that was crazy, but it wasn't the first time LSU has been in those situations. It looks like to me when it comes down to the end of close games LSU finds a way to screw it up and then finds a way to win. I was on the conference call with the Legends Coaches Poll group and I told them that Les Miles must have a private line to the Lord who is looking after him. The ending of that game was not only crazy, LSU had crazy luck.
Coach Les Miles
You can't be too critical of Tennessee though because LSU ran 15 seconds off the clock before the coaches decided to make substitutions. That left Tennessee having to make a very hurried decision about getting their right personnel in the game. When you are substituting on the goal line it is not like substituting near midfield. The players have to run nearly 50 yards to get to the line of scrimmage so it isn't as easy to get players on and off the field in that situation. As a result of that Tennessee ended up with 13 players on the field giving LSU another play to win the game.
Despite another loss, you have to give Tennessee credit for continuing to plug away. Georgia and Tennessee play this week and that will be an interesting football game. Georgia struggled again on Saturday night losing at Colorado. It seems like LSU finds a way to win games at the end while Georgia is the opposite of that and finds a way to lose. The football has a funny shape and that is how it bounces sometimes, but you can bet that Georgia has plenty of players and is capable of beating anybody on its schedule.
Normally Georgia-Tennessee would be a big matchup in the SEC this week, but with those teams struggling the big games are Alabama at South Carolina and LSU at Florida.
South Carolina has a good enough team to beat Alabama if Alabama isn't ready to play, but I don't expect that to happen. South Carolina's quarterback, Stephen Garcia, is unpredictable, but he can be pretty good. He played a great football game against Auburn for about three quarters. It might not be easy for Alabama because winning on the road in the SEC is often a challenge.
LSU at Florida will be an interesting matchup, too. I?think Florida will win this one. These teams are similar defensively although I believe LSU's defense is a little better. Florida is a little better offensively than LSU even though the Gators are struggling to move the football. Simply because they are playing in Gainesville this week I think Florida will win.
Auburn has a matchup at Kentucky this week, a team that I thought was one of the better ones in the conference, but the Wildcats struggled the last two weeks on the road vs. Florida and Mississippi. Although Auburn is favored I have seen some strange things happen in Lexington on a Saturday night. Coach Rocker (Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker) was telling me about the six-overtime game he coached in up there. He didn't get out of the stadium until about 2 a.m.
Kentucky has two of the most exciting players in the conference in Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb. There are a lot of good players in the conference, but I think Cobb is one of the best of the best and is in the class of A.J. Green at Georgia as a playmaker. I think Cobb and Locke will handle the ball about 60 percent of the time vs. Auburn and that gives Kentucky an explosive offense with those two guys plus a senior quarterback, Mike Hartline, who is not making many mistakes. In five ball games the Wildcats have just five turnovers, which is a sign of a good offensive team. Auburn is going to have to play well defensively to stop this team.
Randall Cobb plays receiver and quarterback plus he returns punts and kickoffs for Kentucky.
Talking to the retired coaches on the Legends Poll teleconference the big talk wasn't about whether Alabama should be number one. The discussion was about Oregon's explosive offense and its comeback win against Stanford and how No. 2 Ohio State struggled against Illinois. There was a lot of talk about Boise State, a team that has only played two quality opponents. Boise State will get a challenge when it plays Nevada, but playing in its league isn't like playing the type of opponents SEC teams face throughout season.
We also talked about the "what if" scenario if there are four or five teams that finish the regular season unbeaten. If Oregon wins out, if Ohio State wins out, if TCU wins out, if Boise State wins out, if Alabama wins out or one of the other undefeated teams wins out the coaches think that those undefeated teams need to at least have an opportunity to compete for the national title. There are still more than a dozen unbeaten teams out there so it is kind of cloudy trying to figure out who the top teams are.
Everybody thought Alabama was going to beat Utah, but they didn't. Everybody thought Oklahoma was going to beat Boise State, but they couldn't. Boise State and some of the others from the non-BCS leagues have good football teams.
Looking at Auburn as the Tigers prepare for their sixth game, I?think this team will continue to get better both offensively and defensively. I wouldn't call the team a real smooth operation just yet with three close wins over good teams, but not great teams. However, you have to like a team that is 5-0.
Another thing I like about Auburn is that Cameron Newton has only played five games at quarterback for the Tigers and I think he is going to continue to play better as his experience grows. Like I mentioned before in one of my columns, to have a championship team you need to have a championship quarterback, a player everyone has confidence in. Auburn's guy is playing lights out right now and a quarterback can take a good football team and make a great one out of it, and he can take a great team and make it a champion.
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.)