The common theme as of late is, Auburn should be crushing the likes of South Carolina and won't stand a chance against Florida's spread offense. After being left out of the 2004 college football beauty pageant, many Auburn fans are concerned about the "style" points needed to play in the BCS national Championship game. Though "style" points could become an issue for the 2006 Auburn Tigers some fans have forgotten the joy of just winning and winning consistently.
Over the last 2 1/2 years the Auburn football program is winning like no other Auburn team has during the modern era of college football. You know your team has arrived when winning isn't enough any more and fans become consumed with winning "big." Auburn coach Tuberville realizes the number one priority for his team is to win for in the end. Auburn cannot control the voting in the polls.
During Pat Dye's 12 years on the Plains, Auburn accumulated 99 victories and four conference titles. Most Auburn fans consider Dye as the most successful Auburn football coach in terms of win percentage and success on the field. Auburn's three-year run from 1987-1989 when Auburn won or shared three consecutive Southeastern Conference titles is the most successful in the post World War II Era.
During that magnificent three-year period, the Auburn Tigers compiled a 29-5-2 record, including a 17-2-1 conference record. Dye's Tigers were the most dominant team in the conference during the late 1980s. The legacy those teams left behind will forever be the benchmark all Auburn teams will be judged by in the future.
Tuberville's moment in the sun finally arrived in 2004 and the Tigers are winning at a pace surpassing the success of Dye's teams from the late 1980's. With all the recent talk of style points and the need to win "big," Auburn fans have become oblivious to what the Auburn Tigers have accomplished during the past three seasons.
From 1987-1989 the Tigers were 29-5-2 (.833) under Dye. From 1993-1995 Auburn was 28-5-1 (.838) under Coach Terry Bowden. From 2004-2006 Auburn is currently 27-3-0 (.900) under Tuberville. Despite playing against a tougher schedule than the 1987-1989 (.553) and 1993-1995 (.528) Auburn teams, the current Auburn Tigers (.556) under Tommy Tuberville have posted the higher win percentage.
During Dye's best three-year run, Auburn's average scoring margin was 26-10. Under Bowden, Auburn's average score was 34-20 from 1993-1995. From 2004-2006, Auburn's average score has been 32-12.
From 1987-1989, the Auburn Tigers were 17-2-1 in conference play and 19-4-1 from 1993-1995. Tuberville's teams from 2004-2006 have compiled a 19-1-0 conference record. The average score in conference play from 1987-1989 was 22-9 and 31-22 from 1993-1995. The average score under Tuberville in the last three seasons is 31-13.
Coach Dye's teams from 1987-1989 were 3-2-1 against Top 10 ranked opponents while Bowden went 2-2 from 1993-1995. Auburn is 7-1-0 against Top 10 ranked opponents from 2004-2006. There should be no doubt Auburn is in the midst of the most successful three-year run in school history since becoming a member of the Southeastern Conference.
The 2006 Tigers are good enough to win their remaining seven regular season games, but it will not come easy. Going undefeated in the Southeastern Conference has never been easy for any football program. The 1983 (11-1) and 2004 (13-0) Tigers were "great" teams and the 1993 (11-0) squad played great as a team. The 2006 squad would fall under the label of playing great as a team, which makes a slip up along the way more likely.
By defeating LSU, Auburn might have won a game they shouldn't have and by holding off South Carolina, Auburn barley won a game they should have dominated. This is very similar to the 1993 team, which defeated Florida and nearly lost to Vanderbilt.
If any comparison should be made to previous Auburn teams, the 2006 squad has performed more like the 1993 Auburn Tigers rather than the 2004 Auburn team.
Next up for Auburn is the Arkansas Razorbacks, who are 3-1 on the year. Once again, there is talk of not just beating Arkansas, but the need to beat them convincingly. First of all, Auburn is the better team, but Arkansas is good enough to pull off the upset. For the season, Auburn's offense is averaging only 10 offensive possessions per game, which is the lowest number of possessions over the past 15 years.
Senior Will Herring has been a starter throughout Auburn's current hot streak.
With this year's rule changes regarding the game clock, it's become easier to play "keep away." Buffalo accomplished this for one half and South Carolina did it for nearly three quarters. Auburn has actually been very successful on offense, but has been limited in its number of offensive possessions.
Top-five TD Pct over the last 15 years:
1995: 39.4 percent
2006: 34.0 percent
2005: 33.6 percent
2004: 33.1 percent
2002: 30.5 percent
The 2006 offense is currently averaging 2.86 points per possession, which is second best in the last 15 seasons behind the 1995 offense that averaged 3.09 points per possession. The 2005 offense averaged 2.76 points per possession, which was better than the 2004 unit that averaged 2.66 points.
The 2006 offense is currently the third most productive AU offensive unit over the past 20 seasons. This is based on yards per rush, yards per pass attempt, total average per play, big-play average, turnover percentage and touchdown ratio. Of the six categories mentioned, the 2006 offense finished in the top five in four of the categories.
By keeping the offense off the field, future opponents might not be able to stop the "quality" of Auburn's offense, but they can limit the quantity, which is why Auburn was held to just 24 points against South Carolina. Arkansas is capable of winning the time of possession battle though the Razorbacks might not score enough to win in the end. Except for Tulane and Arkansas State, every opponent left on the schedule may be capable of playing "keep-away" from Auburn.
On the other side of the ball, the Auburn defense is allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 9.8 percent of their possessions, which is the best over the last 15 years at Auburn. As long as the Tiger offense and defense can maintain their current efficiency ratings, the opportunity of going 12-0 during the regular season is still there. Overall, this Auburn team is as good or better than any team in the conference, but how well they perform on game day will decide the outcome of several key matchups.
With Auburn's recent success over the past three seasons, every team the Tigers face will give it their best shot to knock off the SEC's hottest team. The Tigers are no longer the hunters but the hunted with a rather large targets on their backs. The injury list is beginning to expand on the roster, which could become a major issue as Auburn makes its stretch run. The odds are not in favor of Auburn going undefeated this year, which would make "style" points a moot topic if the Tigers were to lose one or more games along the way.
The focus at this point should be about winning and winning only. Should the Tigers execute to their maximum ability, the "blowout" victories will surface. Enjoy the victories no matter how they come because there was a time not too long ago they were not as frequent. Sometimes winning can raise the expectation level too high, but it's good to know Tuberville is fighting hard to keep his team grounded and focused each week.