Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Ole Miss Review: Learnin' to Fly
How many times last week did I hear that Auburn was not ready to take the next step? How many times did I hear that Auburn "upset" Ole Miss in the national media?
Make no mistake. This was not an upset. And Auburn is ready to take the next step.
With the win coming this Saturday over Western Carolina, Auburn will be 5-1 heading to College Station. Barring catastrophe, Auburn will head to November at worst 6-2. Road games at Arkansas and Tennessee loom large, but let's be honest. At this point those are games that Auburn should win. What a difference a year makes.
What Gus Malzahn and his staff have done with this team through game 5 is nothing short of astonishing. That was culminated with a 30-22 win that really wasn't that close last Saturday night. I felt pretty confident at halftime of this game, although the last few minutes gave me some heartburn. Two Auburn turnovers in Ole Miss territory kept this one from being a route.
I have to say, that after seeing Ole Miss in person, I have no idea how they were perceived as a top 25 team coming into the game. They were soft up front on both sides of the ball. Auburn's offensive and defensive lines flat out controlled the game. The Rebs did hit two big plays in the second half to keep it interesting, but for the most part, they were stymied.
Is Auburn's offense a work in progress? Absolutely. Nick Marshall still lacks confidence in his throws and it shows. He "babied" passes throughout the game rather than throwing crisp passes. This was especially evident on his wheel route miss to Brandon Fulse. Even his deep ball to Coates looked more aimed than thrown. These are all things that come with time. I don't expecta guy who was an SEC defensive back two years ago to turn into Peyton Manning overnight. I really think Nick will become a big time name in the next year, if not sooner.
Does the defense give up too many yards? For sure. But consider that the Tigers are 3rd in the league in scoring defense and second in tackles for loss. Now consider that Adams, Daniel, and Lawson have been college students for about 2 months, and you see that the Auburn defense has a pretty high ceiling in the near future.
Make no mistake. This Auburn bunch is gaining confidence by the second, and by the end of the year, may be right back in the upper tier of the SEC.
Other random thoughts from the weekend...
-I picked on Gabe Wright in the preview to Ole Miss. I like my crow with a nice Chianti. He dominated the line of scrimmage Saturday night, culminated by a jailbreak through the line and a shove down of Bo Wallace.
-Anthony Swain played free safety in high school.(!) I saw him play a couple times. I am absolutely amazed at how well he performed at linebacker filling in for the injured Cass McKenzie Saturday night on the big stage, leading his team in tackles no less. Linebacker play has improved over the last few weeks.
-Carl Lawson outplayed Nkimdieche. Did I spell that right? Regardless, Lawson is going to be a a draft pick after his junior year if he wants to be. Can you imagine a high school tackle trying to block this guy last year??
-Fumbles have to stop. Have. To. Although both turnovers are hard to put on the backs. Payne had the ball wrapped up tight and still got stripped. Mason's fumble was a bust in run blocking by the offensive line. Still, if we hang on to the ball one of those times the game gets out of hand for Ole Miss.
-You cannot beat Auburn for a home game. Jordan-Hare is one of the toughest places to play in the country. I took my kids to this one, and could barely hear them yelling in my ear for more cotton candy.
Auburn is now 4-1. Four. And. One. Think about how bleak last year was and tell me your are not happy with that Auburn fans. This young team continues to improve. That feeling you have again inside of you is hope, Auburn fans. Savor the flavor.