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How Far Can This Auburn Team Go?

By on October 7th, 2013 in Football 26 Comments »
auburn defense

Care to do a little day dreaming? How far can this Auburn football team go? With the temperature still warm and your two marquee wins coming against schools in Mississippi, it’s hardly time to start making New Year’s Day reservations.

But considering those wins came against opponents that few gave you a chance against back in August, you have to feel pretty good if your name is Gus. So far, this has been a best case scenario for Auburn football.

All but guaranteed to be sitting at 5-1 when they head to College Station in two weeks, it’s time to reassess how good this team can be heading into the second half of the year. Make no mistake; Auburn’s remaining SEC schedule is not for sissies. Critics will argue that the season is only now beginning.

After this Saturday’s tune-up against Western Carolina, who’s every bit as bad as advertised, Auburn goes on the road to Texas A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee in three of the next four weeks. To go from good to great, they’ll need to win two of those road games.

Find a way to do that, and Auburn’s looking down the barrel of an eight win season with Georgia coming to town Nov. 16. Is it possible? Absolutely. Right now, I’d put even money on it.

There are a lot of intangibles that make you love this football team, especially on defense. Make no mistake; things must vastly improve for Auburn to have a chance on the road in the SEC.

It’s hard not to buy into Ellis Johnson’s squad, regardless of what the stat book says. Not since Wayne Hall ran the Tiger defense back in the 1980’s have so many players rotated in and out during a game.

Bend but don’t break doesn’t start to describe this unit. Ranked ninth in the SEC and 71st nationally in rushing defense, Auburn responded when it had to against Ole Miss, giving up only 44 yards on the ground in the second half, including four sacks in the final 30 minutes.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen play out weekly. Auburn ranks second in the SEC in red-zone defense and fifth in third-down conversions. They may horrify you at mid-field, but something changes in them when things get serious.

Looking for a place to worry? With Johnny Football on the horizon, Auburn sits next to last in passing defense in the SEC, giving up a whopping 280 yards a game through the air. Overall, Johnson’s unit ranks 97th nationally in total defense.

Stats only tell part of the story. Gabe Wright is becoming one of the top pass rushers in the conference. Carl Lawson is showing why he was one of the most sought after players in the country. Robenson Therezie is not too shabby either.

How about Anthony Swain? He started the week as the third-team weakside linebacker and finished Saturday’s game as the leading tackler after stepping in for Cassanova McKinzy following his scary neck injury.

Tell me something like that would have happened a year ago.

What makes the upside so bankable for this Auburn defense is that they now believe. Gone are the horrors from last season. As the Auburn slogan says, It’s a New Day. We know now that it’s more than just a marketing campaign.

Auburn Football is fun again.

26 Comments

  1. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    Tennessee looked terrible all season until the Georgia game. Georgia lost most of its offense and it was up to Murray to carry the team forward. He played magnificently and showed tremendous leadership. The Vols were a different team last Saturday. But just as they have improved, so has Auburn. Our defense has become pretty stout. And we can put pressure on a quarterback to dusrupt his passing ability. Our passing game is not great, but that plays our weakness against Tenn’s strength. We can run the ball, which plays against Tenn’s weakness. Therein lies the key elements of our game with them. As long as we can move the ball on the ground, our strength overcomes their weakness. So don’t criticize Gus’ gameplan if/when we run a lot and don’t pass much. We are maximizing our strengths while minimizing our weakness. We can beat Tennessee.

    So far this season, Arkansas has shown moments of brilliance scattered among stretches of ineptitude. But even a blind squirrel… They traditionally manage to present difficulties for Auburn. But our defense really found some mojo on Saturday and just may be the deciding factor in minimizing the Razorbacks ability to move the ball. As long as Marshall has his wheels, we can win this game.

    I can’t stress enough how significant our second half physical conditioniong has contributed to the team’s success late in the game. This was quite evident when we played LSU. Their guys were exhausted. Even Todd Blackledge commented during the fourth quarter that, “Auburn is playing with greater energy on offense and defense than LSU right now.” This will carry forth in all of our games and will contribute to increased zeal from our players. When the other guys are tuckered out, winning those individual battles makes all the difference. With the way these guys are playing now, we have a chance in all of our games.

    Auburn fans, be not afraid. An army of men filled with fear is easy to defeat, and can often be driven from their homes by mere show of force. But our guys are not afraid. They believe they can win. And that matters.

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      Any offense that has even a minimal pulse is going to give UGA trouble.

      • CapnVegetto says:

        On top of that, after watching our defense get better every week, (ESPECIALLY THE DL and even the LB’s), I am no longer convinced that Gurley will shread us up the middle. We can stop him.

        • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

          Will Gurley even be healthy enough to be a force come game time?

    • Eagle1 says:

      Does any one know the status on Marshall? If this team can keep the “Gus Bus” fueled and between the ditches, look out for a couple of surprise victories in the last part of the season.
      WAR EAGLE!

  2. DBAU81 says:

    Yes, the games are definitely fun again. So far, this season has met or exceeded my expectations. Now things get really tough after the semi-off week against a bad Western Carolina team. The matchup against A&M looks more intriguing now than before the season started, mainly due to the fact that their defense is abysmal and we should be able to score on them. As much as I like the improvement with our own defense, I don’t see us containing Johnny Football & Co. So, maybe the strategy is to keep him off the field by slowing things down a bit on offense and grinding out scores with our running game. If we can shorten the game and keep it within striking distance going into the fourth quarter, then we may have a shot. It’s absolutely critical, though, that we avoid a bad start like we had at LSU. Here’s to hoping that the experience in Baton Rouge will pay dividends with a better performance in our next road test.

  3. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    While i enjoy the taste of kool-aide as much as the next person i would just point out that Tennessee has an excellent coach. Out gunned against Georgia, yet when UGA couldn’t deliver the knock out blow UT made the game competitive. Fast forward a few week…. that could happen against auburn. This team may believe, which is important, but it is wildly inconsistent.

    How well does auburn perform in Little Rock?

    And A&M traumatized auburn so badly you expect auburn to do what again?

    I say focus on Western Carolina. Work on whats broke…and improve whats working. Let those games happen when they do. If its meant to be…. it will. If not, it won’t. Sun still rises…

    WDE

  4. CapnVegetto says:

    We will never beat anybody good as long as Malzhan is coaching and calling plays the way he is.

    We have a predictable, one dimensional offense and have beaten nobody good.

    Defense is the best part and has carried the team all year.

    Lots of homers here, but I tend to be more realistic. We have ZERO passing threat right now and any decent defense will kill us. Gus is still calling a chicken ball offense and refuses to take any risks.

    We can beat bad/mediocre teams, but we can’t beat good teams.

    • War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

      Lots of homers here, but I tend to be more realistic.

      HaHaHa……..monday morning quarterbacking? Glad you’re not the coach.

      I had fun Saturday night. Bet the boys did too. There is a W on the board. That’s pretty real.

      • CapnVegetto says:

        Case and point, this post right here.

        Head in the sand, can’t see the big picture.

        • War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

          HahaHa…. the all knowing captain…..

          Love having my head in the sand….

          Enjoy your Monday!

          • CapnVegetto says:

            We might disagree, but you enjoy yours as well.

            I know I am an a$$hole, but I just want to see us get better.

    • GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

      “Lots of homers?” — I plead guilty to the charge.
      It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!

    • AuburnMisfit AuburnMisfit says:

      Respectfully, I can understand what you mean by a 1 dimensional offense. The offense barely gets the passing game going to enable the running game. Issues have been noted all around about the shortcomings on this lack of effective passing game. I don’t think I would call it chicken ball tho. IMO, CGM wants to sell this scheme to the players and gain their trust first. If he allows NM to open it up at the expense of turnovers, this is going to kill momentum and put the team in a hole (see 1st half of the LSU game).

      Also, I think you fail to mention the special teams play which has been very good. In fact you can say the special teams is what help beat WSU.

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..I would not be surprised to see a game plan of all passes for Nick Marshall against Western Carolina; much like the Auburn/Louisiana Monroe game in 2010 where Cam was not allowed to run. Cam worked on his passing, made some boo-boos, but got a good amount of work in. Same thing in the 2010 Chattanooga game. This paid dividends when Auburn had to pass to beat Bama, South Carolina and Oregon down the stretch.

        …..We’ve got the Catamounts and Florida Atlantic in the next three weeks, and I think we’ll see a good many Nick Marshall throws in both of those game.

        • mikeautiger says:

          That was my first thoughts after the game sat night. NM wil have a chance to finally get his passing game on which could be a real key as we play to win against GA & Bama.

  5. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    J.C., I like your last sentence, “Auburn football is fun again!” All the naysayers can get lost. I will NEVER take off my orange and blue glasses! We’re all Auburn Tigers and need to support these guys. Last year is gone and this year is just beginning. I think the best improvement is in attitude. These guys believe they can win and that’s a big step in the right direction.

    And, Never forget: IT’S GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!!

    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

    • CapnVegetto says:

      This is one thing I damn sure agree on, though. The team, right now, BELIEVES in themselves, the coaching staff, and goes out there every game KNOWING they have a chance to win. This is one thing this coaching staff has done VERY well, and something I am quite proud of. It;’s good to see our team disciplined and playing hard.

      Question, how many penalties were there Saturday? Not many. That is a sign of good coaching and GREAT discipline.

  6. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    As I make this entry, I’ll say that I have not read the comments yet. So this is unfiltered.

    The games we have played in we have seen tremendous effort, and spirit from this team. That is something we have not seen entirely from an AU football team in a while. So, we have a chance to run the table, because of that. I don’t think we will, but I hope we do. That is something I did not have, hope that is, after the first game of the season last year.
    I tried to maintain my up beat outlook, but it was a clowns disguise to cover up my tears. All of that is in the past.

    This Auburn team is about to be tested in the most severe way. After our Homecoming game we face our next three conference teams on the road, that is where Champions excel. They win on the road in the SEC. Can we win all three? Yes, yes we can! That is something none of us could say with any confidence the past two seasons. Now, we find out if our Tigers have the ability to pass these tests soon enough. I already know they believe they can. That’s half the battle.

    Great read this am, Jay.

    WAR EAGLE!

  7. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    Think about what Alabama did to TAMU, they played ineffective defense (gave up about a million yards and tons of points) and still outscored TAMU. I’d like to think that if our defense plays at least as effectivly (or ineffectivly) as Bamas that we can pull this one off. I doubt we will, but since our offense is better (IMO) than Bamas we have a punchers chance. With the vast improvements on our D-Line, and the ball hawking of our DBs we might be able to catch a gift or two from Manziel. We will have to have points off turnovers to win this game. It could happen. War Eagle!

  8. AuburnEdS says:

    I’m still thinking 7-5. No way we beat TAMU. We will beat Arkansas or Tennessee (but not both)

  9. restless6 says:

    What happened to Wallace?

    I haven’t seen him on the field at all. He beat Frazier out for QB, right?

    If Auburn plays backups Saturday, who will QB the Tigers?

    Also, Marshall is not progressing as a passer. That will catch up to the team soon.

    • sparkey sparkey says:

      How about something positive Restless6? If I have wrongly deemed you someone that is trolling us, I honestly apologize. At 5-1, there has to be some positives that you’ve seen from our team. What are they? I’m not being in your face here I just want to know what positives you see? I haven’t read one single positive post from you. If I’m out of bounds, I apologize. What are the good things Auburn is doing?

      Oh, and don’t think I’m a Sunshine Pumper with my head in the sand. Todd92, TOTM, Col. Angus and many others will shout you down on that one. I am the resident “Chicken Little” or “Negative Nancy.” The thing is, I simply believe that much in Gus’s ability. He’s won everywhere he’s been and I don’t expect his stint at Auburn will be any different. There have been plethora of positives. What have you seen that’s good from our boys? If I judged you wrong earlier, I deeply apologize.

  10. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    I agree we have not completely turned the corner yet on being a really good team but football is the only game around that is not played with a round ball. It is oblong and bounces funny sometimes. Of course it would be kind of hard to throw a spiral with a round ball.
    That being said we might not, but we can beat Arky, Tenn, and UGA and we will beat the cupcakes. With a couple of those aforementioned funny bounces who knows what could happen with TAMU and UAT.

    • mvhcpa says:

      “…football is the only game around that is not played with a round ball…”

      Just to be a smart alec, there is rugby (well, that is a form of football) and the English game of bowls (which is like bocce ball but uses a cone-shaped thing to roll)–but we all know what you mean–and I agree one-hunnert percent!

      Michael Val
      (who would love to see those bounces go AU’s way for a change!)

  11. sparkey sparkey says:

    SO, who on here said weeks and weeks ago that Auburn had a great chance against Georgia? Who was that crazy dude?