Saturday's game against LSU in Tiger Stadium is one of those games from which legends are made. It's the kind of game that makes college football wildly popular. "You live to play in games like this, and you live to coach in games like this," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. If you are a reporter who writes about college football, you live to cover games like this.
If the Tigers can win, they will probably need only a win over Ole Miss on Nov. 8 to clinch the Southeastern Conference West Division championship. If they lose, they certainly won't be out of the race, but they'll need some help to get to Atlanta for the championship game. There will be plenty of superior athletes, plenty of future NFL players, on the field, Saturday night. The atmosphere will be electric in Tiger Stadium. On the field, it is certain to be a bruising test of wills.
Led by noseguard Demarco McNeil, the Tigers swarm running back Jerious Norwood for no gain as the AU defense kept Mississippi State in control most of the day during a 45-13 victory.
Auburn has built its five-game winning streak on rock-hard defense and the running game. LSU leads the nation in rushing defense. Both teams will show up determined to run and stop the run. The one that has the most success in those endeavors will probably be the one celebrating when it's over. It is almost a must win for LSU.
If the Bayou Bengals lose, they will have two SEC losses and will need more help than they probably can get to win the West. Auburn could lose and still stand a good chance of going to Atlanta if it wins the rest of its games. But the championship race aside, it is an opportunity for the Tigers to say once and for all that they are the kind of team they were predicted to be before the season. The chances of having that opportunity didn't seem very good in the aftermath of an embarrassing 17-3 loss to Georgia Tech on Sept. 6. From the outside, Auburn seemed a team in disarray, a team that was on the verge of coming unraveled. But in that unhappy locker room at Grant Field, the seeds of a comeback were planted. Auburn players renewed their commitment to each other. Coaches, shocked and disappointed by an 0-2 record, went to work on figuring out why a team with so much going for it seemed to be going nowhere.
The turnaround started a week later with a 45-7 win over Vanderbilt and has picked up speed ever since. Auburn might not win in Baton Rouge on Saturday, but you can be assured players will go there expecting to win. They will not be afraid.
Football Notes: After gaining 496 yards rushing in the last three games, tailback Carnell "Cadillac" Williams is on the verge of putting himself strongly in the race for the Heisman Trophy. If he has a big game at LSU, look out. With no clear frontrunner out there, Williams could make a big move. Even if he doesn't win it this season, he could establish himself as the favorite for next season...Is there a receiver in the SEC who is better after the catch than Jeris McIntyre? If there is, I haven't seen him… Auburn's unsung hero? It's fullback Brandon Johnson. There is not a more devastating blocker in college football…I don't recall ever seeing a less impressive Mississippi State team than the one that visited Auburn last Saturday. The odds are better than 50-50 that Mississippi State will hire the first African-American head coach in the SEC to replace Jackie Sherrill…If Florida can beat Georgia on Nov. 1, it will need only wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina and one more loss by Tennessee to earn a trip to the SEC Championship Game…The SEC West has an 8-4 record against the East so far this season…Auburn has won on two of its last three trips to Baton Rouge… Tommy Tuberville is 3-1 against LSU as Auburn's coach and 5-3 against LSU at Auburn and Ole Miss. He is 2-2 in his career at Tiger Stadium.
Until next time…