Marshall: Big Win Puts Tigers Back on Track

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the importance of Auburn's victory over the Florida Gators.

The toilet paper has been washed away from Toomer's Corner. The echo of maybe the noisiest crowd I've heard at Jordan-Hare Stadium since Alabama visited for the first time in 1989 has faded away.

Auburn's 27-17 victory over then-No. 2 Florida will take its rightful place among cherished victories in a school's proud football history.

A season that could have gone awry after a 27-10 loss to Arkansas at a much quieter, much less intimidating Jordan-Hare is back on track.

And head coach Tommy Tuberville showed he still has a magic touch in the biggest of games.

Three top five teams have visited Jordan-Hare in Tuberville's tenure. All have gone home losers. He's won a remarkable eight of his last nine against top 10 teams.

Along the way, Tuberville has built the most consistent program in the SEC.

The Tigers have won 21 of their last 23 against SEC opponents. They have finished first or tied for first in the West in five of the past six seasons. They are the only SEC team to have a perfect season in the 21st century.

Another memorable win is in the books, but the story of Tuberville's eighth Auburn season remains to be told.

As of today, Auburn would be favored in every game remaining on its schedule--Tulane at home, at Ole Miss, Arkansas State at home, Georgia at home and at Alabama. Win them all, and who knows what could happen?

Arkansas could prove me wrong, but I believe an 11-1 Auburn team would go to Atlanta to play for the SEC championship, probably in a rematch with Florida but maybe against Tennessee.

A 12-1 Auburn team could at least be in the argument when it comes time to select the two teams to play for the BCS championship. That depends, of course, on what happens with the remaining unbeaten teams.

If Southern Cal and the Ohio State-Michigan winner run the table, then there is no argument. They'll play for the championship. But if that doesn't happen, all bets are off. A once-beaten SEC champion, be it Auburn, Tennessee or Florida, would be more deserving than an unbeaten West Virginia or Louisville.

Would it be more deserving than a once-beaten Texas or a once-beaten Notre Dame or a once-beaten California or a once-beaten USC? That's another question, and it's one that can't be answered six weeks before the end of the season.

Auburn, for now, has plenty of work to do to make those questions matter.

Georgia looks bad at the moment, but the history of the Auburn-Georgia series screams that the Bulldogs will not go quietly from Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 11. The crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 18 might be the most motivated and hostile any Auburn team has ever faced. Even a road trip to Ole Miss on Oct. 28 can't be taken for granted. The Rebels seem to be improving each week.

As the home stretch looms, Auburn's most cherished goals are still within reach. Considering the key players who finished their careers last season and a difficult schedule, that's all anyone could realistically have expected.

The Gators came into Saturday night's game as the SEC's final unbeaten team. They went home grumbling and wondering how things could have gone so wrong.

Urban Meyer

Having watched Urban Meyer's spread offense live for the first time, I say the same thing today I've said from the time he took the job. It's a gimmick that will not stand the test of time in the SEC.

Oh, Meyer will win at Florida. I could win at Florida. The speed and talent the Gators put on the field Saturday night was breathtaking. But, unless he decides to give up his guru status and coach SEC football, he won't win like he could.

Florida's offense moved at will in the first half, not because it was physically winning the battle but because Auburn's defense was confused. Challenged by an angry Tuberville at halftime, their approach simplified, the Tigers took the fight to the Gators in the second half.

You know the results. Three turnovers. No points.

And suddenly, Meyer didn't look like such a guru.


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