I give credit to the coaches for putting their players on a path to getting better each week and they are definitely getting better. The intensity Auburn played with on Saturday was awesome. This team is extremely young, but it has talent and I think that was something everybody could see in that victory over the Gamecocks.
Although the Tigers showed a lot of athletic ability and speed in Columbia, I was more impressed with the mindset of a team that went on the road expecting to win that game despite being considered a major underdog. Anything less than that wouldn't have been good enough.
I think it was a stroke of genius by Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to go into Columbia with a game plan to primarily run the football because it was going to be hard to protect the passer because of the pressure of South Carolina's two outside people along with Melvin Ingram, wherever he lined up.
I am was impressed with Michael Dyer carrying the ball 41 times and running hard time after time, consistently making yards after contact. Dyer's play was needed on a day Barrett Trotter wasn't at his best throwing the football. He threw a couple of interceptions and the Tigers had two more passes intercepted on trick plays with other players throwing the football. That was a sign that the Auburn coaches thought it was going to be tough to score on South Carolina's athletic defense.
Dyer rumbles for yardage vs. South Carolina in Auburn's 16-13 victory.
The most impressive thing this season about the Auburn football team continues to be the special teams play. I was particularly impressed with punter Steven Clark and Cody Parkey keeping the South Carolina offense backed up all day. That was paramount to Auburn winning that football game.
Another SEC West vs. SEC East matchup of interest on Saturday was Alabama traveling to Florida. It looked like that was a potentially dangerous game for Alabama if the Tide wasn't ready to play, but the way it handled early adversity showed Alabama to be a focused and mature football team. After falling behind Alabama went on about its business and grabbed the lead. Then when Florida's quarterback got hurt that ended the offensive threat for the Gators the rest of the game.
Without injured John Brantley at quarterback Florida has real problems. If offensive coordinator Charlie Weis knows anything about the spread offense, you will see a heavy dose of Trey Burton at quarterback when the Gators play at LSU this week. However, no matter what Florida does this week on offense, it is unlikely the Gators will be strong enough to match up with LSU this week.
The Mississippi State at Georgia game also interested me. With Georgia winning and with South Carolina and Florida suffering their first losses, I think that gives Georgia a chance to win the SEC East. I believe the Bulldogs are the most talented team in the division. South Carolina might have a better defense and Florida is probably stronger in some areas, but overall Georgia is at the top in the division.
A non-conference game that interested me was the one in Blacksburg with Clemson going on the road and handling Virginia Tech with room to spare. That added to my belief that Auburn got beat by a pretty good football team over at Clemson a couple of weeks ago. From what I have seen of teams around the country this year Clemson is certainly a Top 10 team. I think it is going to take a real strong opponent to beat them. Georgia Tech may have a chance because Tech has an offense that is really difficult to stop this year with a quarterback who has developed into a passing threat.
Another great looking football team is at Wisconsin. The Badgers have a massive offensive line that is experienced and seasoned. They have two or three good running backs, two really good wide receivers and a great quarterback in Russell Wilson, who is not making mistakes with the football. He is kind of like Cam (Newton) was at Auburn last season. It says a lot about Wilson that he was elected captain of the team.
My opinion is that Wisconsin isn't as athletic as LSU or Alabama, or probably Oklahoma, but the Badgers have raw strength up front with ability at the skill positions. I do think they will be a major player in determining who wins the national championship this year.
(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.)
Editor's Note: This is 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 player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a 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 for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.