5-0. Who woulda thunk it? Auburn is unbeaten in the SEC, blasted into the top 25 this week, and are one win away from bowl eligibility. Most of us were thinking 6, 7, maybe 8 wins this year if we are extremely lucky. Well, we're already at 5! Plus, we still have at least 3 'should win' games left (Arkansas, Furman, and Kentucky). We win those 3 games, we're an 8 win team. And that is if we LOSE to LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama!
Things are looking pretty damn rosy. Especially after last year's mess. Auburn has one of the top offenses in the country, and it was validated Saturday night against a VERY GOOD Tennessee defense. Auburn burned them for 459 total yards, 224 rushing and 235 passing. Chris Todd had another mistake free game, completing 59% of his passes for 218 yards, 1 touchdown, and NO INTERCEPTIONS. He made very few bad plays all night, and seems to grow more confident each week. He is playing with a LOT of confidence and trust in his teammates right now. The most amazing part, I think, is the incredible balance. Look at the numbers again: 224 rushing and 235 passing. That is DANGEROUS for any team. Line up to stop the run? Fine, we'll throw it for 350 yards. Drop back to stop the pass? Fine, We'll hand the ball off to Tate and McCalebb all night. Just TRY to stop us. In order to stop Auburn, you have to stop both, and that is a hard thing to do. Auburn is leading the country in total offense. Let me say that again: AUBURN, WHILE PLAYING IN THE SEC, IS LEADING THE COUNTRY IN TOTAL OFFENSE. It's not a video game WAC team, or MAC team that never faces a decent defense, it is an SEC team. That is special.
A lot of people were waiting for this game to see if Auburn's offense is, in fact, for real. That question was answered Saturday night with an emphatic YES. Tennessee is no slouch on defense. Eric Berry is one of the best linebackers in the country. Probably a 1st round NFL draft choice. Monte Kiffen is a brilliant defensive coordinator. But, Auburn was just simply too much. There were several plays where Kiffen had the right defense called, at that right time, and Auburn's skill players just flat out beat them. The two plays that come to mind was the Ben Tate option play towards the end of the game. Kiffen read the play, called a defense that stacked the option side, and Ben Tate reversed the field after the pitch, broke 3 or 4 tackles, and got 9 yards out of absolutely NOTHING. Another play: 3rd quarter, 3rd and long. A screen is called. Kiffen guesses right, calls a blitz on McCalebb's side, Todd dumps the ball accurately to a double-covered Ontarrio McCalebb, he breaks 2 tackles and beats the defense for 17 yards and a first down. The only thing Auburn didn't do Saturday that they did in all 4 previous games was finish. They pretty much moved the ball at will all night, but once they got in the red zone, it was field goal city. First time this year that has happened. You have to credit that great Tennessee defense for that, because they did the same thing to Florida. But overall, Auburn and Coach Malzhan systematically dismantled a very good defense Saturday night. After watching that game, I feel like Auburn can play offense against anybody in the country.
Now for the defense. I don't suppose that it's acceptable to make a 'barf' noise while writing a blog, and quite frankly I don't know how to put it into words, but that is the best description of our defense. 'Wait!', you say. 'Jonathan Crompton was held to 2 of 9 passing in the first half! That's good defense!' Well, that was clearly not the case. Auburn COMPLETELY sold out to the run. Tennessee's receivers were open all night. Crompton was just that bad. He threw the ball behind the receivers. The receivers dropped every pass that was on target. Auburn's defense didn't stop anybody. Tennessee stopped themselves. The crossing route over the middle was open all night, (even though Tennessee was running an illegal pick that was never called), and had Crompton not been so horrible, the score would have looked a lot different.
I have one big question for Ted Roof: WHY DON'T WE EVER BLITZ? Every play we rush 4 and drop back into zone coverage. Why are we doing this? It is lack of personnel? Maybe. Roof has said a few times this year, "My first 11 guys are pretty good, but after that, we don't have much.' Most of the recruiting this year will be focused on defense. The LB corps REALLY needs to improve. Are we not blitzing because Roof is afraid of getting somebody hurt? Or is this just how he plays defense? I REALLY hope that the latter is the case, because this defensive scheme is horrible. We NEVER pressure the quarterback. We gave up over 20 points to Ball State. We gave up 22 points to Tennessee. We are winning games this year because our offense is carrying the team right now. The defense has scared me up to this point in the season, but Saturday night, I saw the scariest thing I've seen all year:
I saw Jonathan Crompton completely pick apart Auburn's defense on Tennessee's last 3 possesions.
JONATHAN FREAKING CROMPTON.
If that doesn't cause you concern, you must be made of steel. It scares the Bejesus out of me. Now, the last series you could maybe call a 'joke' series, with a 'joke' touchdown at the end, but still.......it's BAD. They converted 3 4th downs. They scored 17 points. Crompton somehow gained some confidence, and finally started making the throws that were there the whole game. What if that had been a GOOD quarterback, like say, Ryan Mallett?
We have Arkansas this week. We SHOULD win. But......I can't say we WILL win, after what I saw Saturday. How do you beat Arkansas? You BLITZ. Arkansas is completely one-dimensional on offense. They have almost no running game, and a GREAT passing game. Alabama beat them by blitzing the hell out of Ryan Mallett and forcing him to make mistakes. Auburn has shown in 5 games this year that they rarely blitz. If we drop back in zone coverage like we did against Tennessee, Mallett will stand back there, with all day to throw, and pick us apart. We CAN'T allow this. Arkansas has a passing game as good as anybody in the country. They just don't have anything else. They have no running game, and no defense. Our offense could easily score 50 against them. Problem is, their offense could easily score 50 on us if we don't play the right type of defense.
This should be a high scoring shootout. A 55-45 type game. It'll look like a PAC-10 game. If we win this week, we become bowl eligible. This is a big game! We are in the hunt for the SEC West. There's a lot of games to be played, but we are right there in the mix. We match up well against ANY team in the west. I think we have a legitimate shot to be there at the end. But we REALLY need to start playing defense. This week will be a good indication, just like last week, of what Auburn is really capable of. Either we're going to lose our first game, our offense will outscore their offense and we'll win, or our defense will finally wake up and start playing the kind of defense we are used to on the plains. Which will it be?
War Eagle everyone!!!!