GUILBEAU: Auburn in position for title run

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville may not have to campaign for votes during bowl season this year. Two years ago on the day after completing a 13-0 season by winning the Sugar Bowl, Tuberville hopped on an Auburn private plane and flew to Miami to go to the BCS national championship game between USC and Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

He strolled through the pressbox pressing the press flesh.


It didn't work. USC beat Oklahoma and got all the votes to win the national title, though that could be taken away by the NCAA if USC paid for Reggie Bush before the Saints did. But it was a good try and a good idea by the Auburn sports information department, which is the best in the Southeastern Conference along with Georgia.


The day after the BCS national championship game this season on Jan. 8 in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuberville might be able to go hunting in Arkansas and celebrate the national championship he didn't get to play for in that 2004 season.


Auburn (3-0, 2-0 SEC) moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 on Sunday in the Associated Press poll after edging No. 6 LSU, which fell to No. 10, 7-3 here Saturday afternoon. Ohio State remains at No. 1. The table is set for Auburn, which has a relatively light schedule the rest of the way starting with Buffalo next week. (No, not the NFL team.) The first place Tigers' only road games are at South Carolina on Sept. 28, at Buffalo-like Ole Miss on Oct. 28 and the regular season finale on Nov. 18 at Alabama, which has not and does not have the talent Auburn does and has lost four straight to the Tigers. But what motivation it will be for the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl. Not only could it make its season by knocking Auburn out of the national championship game, it could make its decade.


The home games left after Buffalo are Arkansas, Florida, Tulane, Arkansas State and Georgia.


It's all there for Auburn, and this Auburn team is probably not as good as that 2004 team. Quarterback Brandon Cox is no Jason Campbell. Tailback Kenny Irons is no Cadillac Williams. The defense is not as good either, but it still could happen.


"That's a very fine Auburn team," LSU coach Les Miles said. "They played extremely well. They did exactly what they needed to do to win."


Now, all Auburn has to do is win the rest of its games because it won the big one. Auburn had not defeated a higher ranked team in Jordan-Hare Stadium since it beat No. 5 Florida 28-21 in 1983. Auburn may not play a better team than LSU the rest of this season, including the bowl season.


"We beat the number six team in the nation, so that should put us in the national title picture," Auburn linebacker Will Herring said.


"We have a long ways to go," Tuberville said. "If you want to count any of them bigger, other than the Iron Bowl, this was the bigger one because this was the team that consistently knocked us out or we knocked them out of the championship game."


The two best teams in the SEC played Saturday afternoon. Perhaps only Auburn can beat Auburn now.


"It was good to see guys rise to another level," said Tuberville, who was down to a third team cornerback against LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell after injuries to starter Jonathan Wilhite and backup Pat Lee.


Auburn also had defensive coordinator Will Muschamp in his first season with a new team. He manhandled his buddy, LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, and held Fisher to his fewest points since a 31-0 shutout by Alabama in 2002. That was back when Fisher didn't have nearly as talented a quarterback as he has now.


"Coach Muschamp and his coaching staff did a miraculous job against a throwing quarterback like that and guys that were very active in the backfield who can run the ball and receivers that can run," Tuberville said.


Fisher made a serious mistake, though. He kept trying to run in the third and fourth quarters when it was obvious he couldn't. It was like Nick Saban was still the head coach, holding Fisher back. Miles has talked about how he likes to go deep on his spring tours. They didn't try that enough. Russell could have played better, but Fisher's and Miles' play calling let him down. So did more drops in from Dwayne Bowe and Early Doucet and one by Jacob Hester.


Surely, Auburn's players loved it when they saw the dangerous Russell hand off. LSU's longest run from scrimmage was 12 yards ... by Russell. They could breathe a sigh of relief as Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard struggled to get to a hole on the rare occasions one opened up. Charles Scott should have been tried at tailback. In the end, Auburn stifled LSU's average offensive line and slow backs, holding them to a 1.8-yard average per carry.


"It was a very violent game. There was more speed on that field than I have seen in a long time on both sides," said Tuberville, who must have been thinking of LSU's receivers, not its backs.


"It is hard to have a loser in that game," he said. "We are awfully glad that this year we came out on top. Our guys played like champions."


Quit the campaigning Tommy. You might not have to do that this year. You're No. 2.




Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU and the Southeastern Conference for Gannett News Service. Read him at  or in the Shreveport Times, Monroe News-Star, Alexandria Daily Town Talk, Lafayette Advertiser, Opelousas Daily World and occasionally USA Today. You can contact him at

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