This game is going to be a real challenge for an Auburn team that is facing a talented and confident opponent that has a lot of experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Playing the game at home should help the Tigers against what I think is a great football team, but the Auburn's challenge is a major one.
I am very impressed with Alabama's defense. I am also impressed with how effectively that team runs the football. Although A.J. McCarron may have a great day on Saturday, in my opinion the only thing Alabama doesn't have is a great quarterback. As strong as that team is running the football with the play-action passing game, the quarterback has not had to play great. He has been effective though and that is a major reason Alabama has lost just one game.
It is going to be interesting to see how this Auburn team handles the assignment it is facing on Saturday and whether or not it will go out and fight and compete with the intensity Auburn teams traditionally play with in this rivalry game.
There are other good rivalry contests on the SEC schedule this week. Over in Atlanta the Georgia Bulldogs will be playing at Georgia Tech. That will be a good football game and Georgia will have to play well to win against the Yellow Jackets, who are very good at running the ball.
South Carolina and Clemson also have an intra-state rivalry showdown on Saturday. Midway through the season I didn't think the Gamecocks would really have a chance in this game the way the two teams were playing then, but the way Clemson is playing now I think that South Carolina is going to win in Columbia. Both teams are 9-2 so this has the potential to be a good game.
With the teams involved not having good years, the Florida vs. Florida State and Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss rivalry games are mainly of interest to fans of those teams, but the first game on the SEC schedule this week will draw attention from college football fans around the nation.
On Friday in Baton Rouge TV viewers will be tuning in to see how Arkansas plays at LSU. I don't know how the Razorbacks are going to react to the death of one of their players, but I think it will have an effect on Arkansas. That is one of the big unknown factors about this game.
What is known is that both teams are playing very well at this stage of the season. LSU's Jordan Jefferson has taken over as the main quarterback for Coach Les Miles and is coming off a very strong performance at Ole Miss, although Ole Miss is not very good. Overall, considering the kicking game, offense and defense, LSU is probably playing better football than any college football team in the country right now. However, I wouldn't count Arkansas out of that game.
With Tyler Wilson at quarterback and with the Razorbacks having so many talented receivers, Arkansas can score a lot of points in a hurry. This is a dangerous opponent for anybody. The Razorbacks aren't going to be intimidated a bit by LSU's ability in the secondary so this has the potential to be an exciting game and it certainly will have a bearing on the SEC and national championships.
If Arkansas wins a close one on Friday, it's still possible that SEC teams could be ranked one-two-three again next week in the BCS ratings. If that happens it could lead to a three-way tie in the division with interesting scenarios for choosing the SEC West representative to play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in addition to selecting the teams for the BCS Championship Game. Of course, Auburn could simplify things tremendously by pulling off the upset and beating Alabama on Saturday, which would be a great way for the Tigers to close the regular season.
(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.