It is so easy to go backwards against a lesser opponent or during an open date so it is important that the Tigers use this week of practice and this game on Saturday to get better to improve their chances of beating both Georgia and Alabama to close the regular season. With the maturity I am seeing from this Auburn team, I am sure the coaches and players are aware of that.
The Tigers did what they had to do win on the road at Mississippi. Auburn stopped quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Ole Miss got the long run for a touchdown early in the game, which is uncharacteristic for this defense which had not given up a long run all year long, but the defense re-grouped, kept its poise and kept Masoli from making big plays while scrambling, something he had hurt other teams with this year.
While the defense was re-grouping, Auburn's offense kept the pressure on the Rebels for four quarters. When the Tigers got the football they scored every time except for one turnover and one punt. As that statistic shows, Auburn is doing a lot of good things on offense that are very difficult for opposing defensive coordinators to figure out how to stop, something I will write about in detail in my Dye-Gest column this week.
For me the shocker in the SEC on Saturday was the Florida-Georgia game. Florida really surprised me. I wasn't so much surprised that the Gators changed what they were doing offensively, but I was surprised how well they executed after making the changes. Plus, I?thought Florida played much harder and more aggressively than I had seen in previous games.
With the win over Georgia, Florida now controls its destiny for reaching the SEC Championship Game. If the Gators win their games the next two Saturdays vs. Vanderbilt and South Carolina, they will be back in Atlanta competing for the league championship despite their less than impressive start to the season.
For Auburn the path to the SEC Championship Game looks more challenging with the rivalry games vs. Georgia and Alabama still to be played. Despite the record, I think that Georgia is a very talented and dangerous team. If you look at the talent at Georgia and Florida, it is not significantly different than it is at Alabama, LSU and Auburn. Georgia self-destructed early in the season which probably had to do with playing a young quarterback and not having its star player, wide receiver A.J. Green, available for the first four games.
Senior center Ryan Pugh is having a strong season for his team, which is 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the SEC.
In Auburn's division, the SEC West, there are five good teams. I would say Ole Miss is kind of down, but Mississippi State, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn are all strong football teams that would give almost any team in the country problems.
Across the country, I don't see anybody on their schedule beating the Oregon Ducks unless they beat themselves by playing poorly. I would say probably the same thing is true with Boise State. The two other undefeated teams, TCU and Utah, will play each other this weekend so that leaves Oregon, Boise State and the winner of the Utah-TCU game each having a chance to go undefeated. Of course, Auburn is the only team in the SEC that has a chance to win them all.
Early in the season there was a lot of discussion that this was a strong year for the Big 10, but I don't see a team that league that should be in the mix for the BCS Championship Game. Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State are good football teams with great coaches and schemes, but when I watch them play I don't see the type of team speed that I see in the SEC and at Oregon, and probably with other teams in the Pac 12, too. None of the other BCS conferences have teams in the hunt for the national title.
There is still a lot of football to be played. Auburn is three-fourths of the way done with the regular season and for a chance to play for the national championship it comes down to Amen Corner in the month of November, which has been an exciting part of the season for so many Auburn teams over the years. Even though the Tigers lost Florida as a regular on the Amen Corner schedule from when I was coaching, if Auburn plays well enough to win its final two SEC regular season games there is a real possibility of facing the Gators in Atlanta at the SEC Championship Game.
However, before that could happen Auburn has a major challenge to defeat both Georgia and Alabama, but what is exciting about Coach (Gene) Chizik's team is how it is continuing to improve.
It is hard to get any better at quarterback than the way Cameron Newton has been playing, but elsewhere this team is getting better on offense, defense and special teams. The wide receivers, the running backs and even the secondary, which is dealing with injuries, are all really improving. Auburn's offensive line is playing great football so is exciting to see what this team can do in its final three games of the regular season.
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.)