How Far Can This Auburn Team Go?
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.