Dye-Gest: An Opportunity For Malzahn's Tigers

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the Auburn football team in this edition of his Dye-Gest column.

Coach Hugh Freeze (above) will bring his 6-2 Rebels to Auburn for a Saturday football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

I had kind of a sick feeling after Auburn’s football game on Saturday at Fayetteville because it was a game the Tigers could have won. I believe all Auburn fans felt the same way because the Tigers did so many good things and were so close.

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The Mississippi State and Kentucky games were close, too, and it won’t surprise me if it is that way again this week with Mississippi. When games are as close as those were just one more good play or one less mistake can be the difference between winning and losing.

I am sure the players felt sick about losing the way they did vs. Arkansas, but there is no time to feel sorry for themselves with a good opponent coming to Auburn this weekend. The Tigers are an underdog in this game and that makes sense based on what we have seen so far.

In Auburn’s case there are signs of progress. In addition to coming from behind three times in regulation to force overtime at Arkansas, what really stood out to me was the play of quarterback Sean White. If he keeps improving like he has during his four collegiate games the redshirt freshman is going to give his Tigers a chance to be competitive vs. anybody left on the schedule.

Elsewhere on offense it looks like the young H-backs are improving. You couldn’t ask much more out of Peyton Barber at running back, but there is still plenty of room for improvement on that side of the ball, especially when it comes to catching passes. When you drop eight of them in one game it is very difficult to sustain drives and the lack of consistency from the receivers was the team’s big issue vs. Arkansas.

On the defensive side of the football the Tigers continues to have problems getting off the field on third downs. Until they get that issue solved this team will have a tough time winning games against strong competition.

Something that was encouraging for the Tigers in Fayetteville was they did a better job defending the run than in most games this season. The longest run for one of the Razorbacks’ running backs was 13 yards, which is not too bad vs. a team that is good at running the football. They didn’t just line up and shove the ball down the Tigers’ throat, which is a sign Auburn’s defensive line played better than it has in previous games, especially competing against a big, physical offensive line that some people believe is the best in the SEC. The Tigers gave up just 357 yards in four quarters and that wasn’t too bad considering it is well under what Arkansas was averaging on offense coming into the game. The Tigers needed to follow up with one more good defensive play at the right moment in overtime and they would have come home a winner.

Auburn is getting ready to face an Ole Miss team that has played lights out against Alabama and Texas A&M, but didn’t look real good in losses against Florida and Memphis. The Rebels also had some blowout wins early in the year, but those were against weak competition. Although I think this is going to be a challenge for Auburn, it certainly is a game the Tigers have a chance to win. Ole Miss plays a fast and aggressive style of football, but I don’t see the Rebels being any better than Auburn is at the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball.

If the Tigers go out there and compete for four quarters and keep their mistakes to a minimum, I think they will have a solid chance to win even though Ole Miss is a highly-ranked opponent.

I think playing at home should be an advantage. Somebody asked me if having to play at 11 a.m. would be a problem because the players and fans prefer the atmosphere at games played later in the day or at night. I said if I was playing on Saturday, I wouldn’t care if the game kicked off at midnight--I would just want to get back on the field and prove to everybody that I could win. I would especially be excited about the opportunity to play against a ranked opponent. When the game is played shouldn’t make any difference to an Auburn team that really needs to win this game.

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