Everybody's expectations have been raised by the 8-0 start and the high rankings in the BCS and polls. With Auburn's strength of schedule, I am not surprised that the Tigers moved up from four to one in the BCS this week. Of course, with the BCS the important thing is to be ranked one or two in December.
For Auburn and everybody else in the ratings there is still a lot of football to be played and that is especially true for Auburn playing in the SEC. Coach Chizik and his staff have got to be very, very focused and not get caught up in the hype and the other stuff going on around the program right now.
Auburn's next test is this Saturday in Oxford vs. Ole Miss. This is the kind of game that will scare you to death as a head coach. Ole Miss is likely to come out and play its best game of the season with a chance to knock off a top-ranked team to turn around its season. I expect the Rebels will come out and play with a lot of emotion and the Tigers will need to match that emotion. Ole Miss shouldn't have better players than Auburn has, but it can be a challenge to win on the road in the SEC.
The other major reason for Auburn to take this week's game very seriously even though Ole Miss isn't having a good season is because of who is coaching the Rebels. Houston Nutt has a history of winning games like this. Particularly after the emotional games the Tigers have had the past couple of weeks, this is going to be another challenge.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt's team is 3-4 this season despite averging 31.4 points per game.
I went by the coaches' office and told them, "This is a coaches game and seniors game this week" because they need to be responsible to making sure their team is ready to play. I have a lot of respect for Coach Chizik and his staff and for the seniors on this team so I won't be surprised if the Tigers are ready to play well this week.
My biggest concern for the team is the Auburn fans. I hope the students and everybody else who has access to the players is talking about what needs to happen this week in Oxford rather than what happened Saturday vs. LSU. That is where everybody's concentration and focus needs to be.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding this team during what so far has been a memorable year. That was the case again last Saturday for the LSU game, which turned about like I expected, but I don't think anybody expected to see Auburn rush for more than 400 yards against that LSU defense.
I did expect it would be a hard-fought and close game like it was. There were a lot of factors that played into it being as close as it was. That punter for LSU had a great game and was responsible for the Auburn offense to start inside its own 10-yard four different times, something that you rarely see in a football game.
It was impressive to watch the Tigers bring the ball off the goal line like they did. Offensively, you have to like what you are seeing from this team. We all know what kind of year Cameron Newton is having at quarterback, but he isn't the only one on offense having a strong season. The line is playing good football and those guards have stepped up and are playing impressively. The running backs are playing well, too, and so are the wide receivers. As a coach I am particularly impressed with the blocks by those receivers on Onterio McCalebb's long run. That is the kind of effort that turns a 15-yard run into a 70-yard touchdown.
Cameron Newton and the Tigers jumped up in the polls again this week.
It looked like the Auburn defense did a better job this week. The Tigers certainly took care of the of the most important assignment when playing LSU--stopping the run.
This is a mature Auburn football team we are watching with a lot of senior leadership. Many of the guys who are playing key roles have been at Auburn for a while and they are hungry to do something special, especially the seniors who realize this is their last chance.
Looking at the SEC going into week nine the East is a scrambled up mess. Although South Carolina is the leader with its two losses, there are a couple of games left on the schedule the Gamecocks could lose so who is going to represent that division in the league championship game in Atlanta is far from settled. Auburn has the lead in the SEC, but has three challenging league games left vs. a dangerous Ole Miss team, improving Georgia team and the regular season finale in Tuscaloosa.
Across the country I watched Oregon played last week and I don't think anybody can argue with the fact they are deserving of being voted very high in the polls. But, at the same time, if Oregon wins out and Auburn wins out, Auburn should be ranked No. 1 because of the strength of schedule.
I will say Oregon is a great football team with excellent speed and they execute at a high level. It would be an intriguing matchup if Auburn and Oregon could play, but both teams have a lot of work to do starting this week with Auburn on the road at Ole Miss and Oregon on the road at Southern Cal. Oregon has a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back (LaMichael James) and the quarterback (Darron Thomas) is playing lights out so that team will have a chance to win every time it lines up. Oregon's game against the Trojans will be one of the big ones this year.
In the Big 12 Conference, I am not too surprised that Missouri, playing at thome, beat previously No. 1 Oklahoma, but I think Missouri will suffer its first loss this week to Nebraska. The game that really surprised me in the Big 12 was Iowa State beating Texas. It is amazing to go back and look at the preseason and compare it to now and see how the ratings have changed. Texas was a Top 10 team, Penn State was highly ranked and Michigan was coming on. In the SEC Georgia and Florida were in the Top 10 and neither one has a winning record as they head into their annual game in Jacksonville on Saturday.
In the Big 10 Conference, Wisconsin had an important win at Iowa, a team that will have to do a great job to get ready for an undefeated Michigan State team this week. The game is at Iowa and that should help the Hawkeyes.
A team that I have been impressed with this season is Utah. The Utes are undefeated and are not getting a lot of attention, but I?think that is a really good football team. The TCU at Utah game on Nov. 6th will be one to watch.
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.)
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