A Look At The Football Tigers After Three Games

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn and Southeastern Conference football.

I'll admit it. I was wrong. I wrote in this space a week ago that Georgia Tech was a bad football team. Clearly, Georgia Tech is not a bad football team. The Yellow Jackets should have beaten Florida State in Tallahassee on Saturday night. While that might make a 17-3 loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta a little easier to swallow for some, it doesn't change anything for Auburn. The real question today is what does a 45-7 rout of Vanderbilt say about Auburn?

It says Auburn's players were bigger, faster, stronger and just better than Vanderbilt's players. At the same time, this was generally thought to be Vanderbilt's best team in several years. Did Auburn regain the form that made it the No. 6 team in the nation going into the season or is Vanderbilt just a weak football team? The answer is probably somewhere in between.

The Auburn defense, led by linebackers Karlos Dansby (11) and Dontarrious Thomas (54), kept Vandy's offense in check throughout much of Auburn's 45-7 victory in Nashville.

There is an opportunity now for the Tigers to take a hard look at themselves and make any needed changes. With an open date and a game with Division I-AA Western Kentucky the next two weeks they should be at the top of their game when Tennessee comes calling on Oct. 4. That is when we will get a good indication of whether this team will struggle to the finish line or make a real run at the Southeastern Conference championship it was picked to win in the preseason. Even if the Tigers were 3-0 and ranked in the top five, road games at Arkansas, LSU and Georgia would be ominous. To get to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, they probably need to win at least two of those three and maybe all three. That would be a tall, tall order for any team in the country.

Thoughts and impressions from Nashville and elsewhere:

*Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Sullivan was impressive in his college debut. He was poised, in control and knew where to go with the ball. He looks to have a bright future, but it must be remembered that he was playing against a beaten down defense. His time will come, but it's not here yet.

*How impressive was Michigan's 38-0 demolition of Notre Dame? From what I've seen, if I had a vote this year, I would have the Wolverines No. 1. They have great balance on offense and a dominating defense.

*The most impressive SEC team to this point would have to be Georgia. I thought the Bulldogs would struggle after losing tailback Musa Smith and their entire offensive line, but they don't seem to have missed a beat. They have a terrific defense and the best quarterback in the league in David Greene. It's funny how things work out. Jason Campbell was headed to Georgia and changed his mind. Had he gone to Georgia, Greene would be somewhere else, maybe even at Auburn.

*Campbell also was impressive Saturday. He took a lot of heat for the first two games, most of it undeserved. I still believe he will be remembered as a great one when all is said and done.

*Junior Auburn tailback Brandon Jacobs was too much of a load for Vanderbilt's tired defense in his coming out party Saturday, but his playing time is still going to be limited in close games. As good as he is, he is not as good as Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams.

*As bad as the first two games were for Auburn, just think of what it must be like at Wisconsin today. The Badgers, supposedly Big Ten contenders, were shut down 23-5 Saturday by UNLV.

*Saturday should be a great day for couch potatoes. Georgia's visit to LSU and Tennessee's visit to Florida will be shown back to back by CBS, We'll know a lot more about all four of those teams after those games.

*It's much too early to say who is best in the West, but it's pretty clear which two teams are worst. Ole Miss and Mississippi State seem headed for long seasons. The Rebels had to have two field goals of 50-plus yards to beat Vanderbilt and gave up 44 points in losing to Memphis. Mississippi State lost to Oregon at home and then to Conference USA also-ran Tulane on the road. You have to wonder where Ole Miss' program is headed when senior quarterback Eli Manning finishes his career. Both Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill and Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe could be seeking other employment at the end of this season.

Until next time...


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