The longer this season goes, the more interesting it gets for the Auburn Tigers, the 2014 Southeastern Conference race and college football in general. I think the competitions to earn spots in the league championship game and the national championship playoff Final Four are going to go right down to the wire.
I am anxious to see the Tigers play on Saturday against South Carolina. I know the Gamecocks have had their problems this season, but they have also had extra time to work on those issues having a bye week followed by a game vs. a I-AA opponent last Saturday they were going to win regardless of how little time they prepared for Furman.
The schedule has given Coach Steve Spurrier plenty of time to correct mistakes in hopes of playing better football in the second half of the season.
The Gamecocks have not beaten Auburn since joining the SEC and I can promise you that Coach Spurrier will do everything humanly possible to have his football team at a peak when they arrive at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday evening. Because of that I think the Tigers need to be ready to play better than they did in the first half of the season to make sure they win this game despite South Carolina’s less than impressive record. The Gamecocks showed their potential by being the only team that has won a game vs. Georgia.
Next week the new championship committee will come out with its first ranking. It is sure not clear to me who the top four teams are in the country. I am certain that Florida State will be one of them, but my take is there are four teams in the Southeastern Conference playing better football than the Seminoles.
I am not sure Auburn has played well enough to be one of the top four teams in the country at this point of the season. I will have a better idea about whether or not the Tigers deserve that kind of ranking after the South Carolina game.
If the Tigers handle South Carolina and follow that with a win at Ole Miss there won’t be any doubt they are worthy of serious consideration for a spot in the playoff. In Auburn’s case the schedule is so demanding with road games left to be played at Georgia and Alabama in addition to Ole Miss, the Tigers will certainly have multiple opportunities to lose a second game or make a strong case they belong in the Final Four.
Around the SEC it looks like Georgia is making a strong move and the Bulldogs have looked very strong even without their star player, Todd Gurley, available the past two games. Alabama played by far its best game of the season in a rout of Texas A&M, which looked as bad as Alabama looked good. Ole Miss continues to play outstanding defense and make key plays offensively as it heads to Baton Rouge for what should be an interesting SEC West showdown on Saturday night.
Here is a look at this week’s SEC games:
UAB at Arkansas--The Razorbacks really need a win and the visiting Blazers should be the type of opponent that will allow that to happen.
Mississippi State at Kentucky--After a disappointing performance in a lopsided loss to LSU the Wildcats will likely struggle with this physical Mississippi State that should return home to Starkville still undefeated.
Vanderbilt at Missouri--Despite Missouri’s surprising blowout road win at Florida the 2014 Tigers have a lot of questions, however, having the ability to beat an opponent playing as poorly as Vandy isn’t one of them.
Ole Miss at LSU--I think the game is going to be a lot closer than some people may assume if they are just looking at the rankings and previous results. I think LSU is getting better. Combine that with homefield advantage in a rivalry game and this could be a good game to watch. I think Ole Miss will get out of town with a victory because LSU probably won’t be able to score enough points to win.
Alabama at Tennessee--The Vols aren’t strong enough at the line of scrimmage to pull off an upset against this type of opponent.
South Carolina at Auburn--The Tigers have the better team and homefield advantage so Auburn should win on Saturday night as long as they don’t beat themselves with costly turnovers. It will be interesting to see if the offense looks sharper than it did vs. Mississippi State two weeks earlier and if the defense is more aggressive following a bye week.
Season Record: 53-16.