Auburn fan, I know what you are feeling...."Oh no!! Now that we're number one we will have a target on our back and everyone will try that much harder to beat us!!.....We won't handle the pressure!!!" I have been there and felt that....but this team feels way different than other great Auburn teams I have seen. The '83 team, the '93 team, the '04 team....hell all the great Auburn teams have been great because of defense and a solid if not spectacular running attack. Eventually they were felled by a good defense paired with a good offense. The 2004 team was the best Auburn team I had ever seen, but even then Coach Tuberville would play ultra conservative and make our wins seem somewhat underwhelming. As good as they were, they never wowed the pollsters.
This group of tigers on the other hand has got the sizzle to sell the steak. Thank Gus Malzahn, but mostly thank Cam Newton. Cam is electrifying and has got the whole country talking about him and Auburn. Controversy creates cash and the media loves a team that is talented but also has flaws. Our defense drives folks crazy and the critics hate it but the media loves Cam and the offense. Cue the "Do they deserve to be #1" stories.
The media will be decending on Auburn in force now and Coach Chizik has his work cut out for him keeping the guys focused on the task at hand ....the Ole Miss Rebels. This will definitely be the biggest challenge the rest of the way because we finally put a great overall performance together against LSU....it was the greatest TEAM performance I can remember since the '04 UGA game. Our Offensive line and WR's blocked fantastically and were the REAL reason we put 440 yards on the best defense in the SEC. Simply spectacular.
This team is growing, evolving, seeing an opportunity and sense of purpose that seldom presents itself in life....a REAL chance at a Championship. I think the guys know that Cam is a special, once in a generation player, and offers them a chance to do things that they probably couldn't do without him and they are doing whatever it takes to win. I gotta tell you, that is what makes me believe.
This isn't just about Cam or the defense. Every facet of the team is getting better as the year goes on....save the punting game....and I have to commend Coach Chizik for that. He is fomenting real camraderie and chemistry on this team....a special bond that links players to one another. As they are constituted now its hard to see anyone beating us. I don't say that boastfully, I just beleive in the hearts of our players and their will to win and win for each other. These guys are different.
Most of you here know I can be very critical, but I think I am fair in my criticism. But one thing I haven't been overly critical on this year is our much maligned defense. Yes they have been gashed and gored for scores of yards but I wish everyone would take it easy on the guys. They are playing hard and I think they are actually playing pretty well. I won't say there isn't enormous need for improvement but we don't have a lot of depth and our talent pool is not as deep on the defensive side as it is on the offensive side.
Nick Fairley is our best player and the kid played one year of high school, redshirted two years in JUCO before starting a couple of games for us last year. Long story short....nobody knew he would be anything close to the beast he has morphed into. He is a great allegory of our team in general.....raw talent that worked their way into the chance to be Champions.
Our defense is improving but be fair....they have played some very talented offensive competition that had quarterbacks play about as good as you can play. Garcia, Hartline and WIlson would have trouble duplicating their efforts in practice much less in a game. Our guys got burned but they were seldom out of position or negligent of their coverage responsibilities. The other guy just played better. Our guys are getting better too and I think the defense will be the guys that enable us to reach that hallowed territory we all seek. Yes, Cam makes it all possible, but the defense is going to play a huge part as well.
I am excited about how this team is transforming and I hope they keep it together with all the attention they are going to be getting. But I hope they bear this in mind, with all the kudos they are receiving, almost all of the pundits are expecting Alabama to dispatch us on November 26th. After all, its the Auburn way to choke under pressure, to not be able to handle prosperity or the role of the favorite. WE CAN"T FINISH!!! Until we lay that beast to rest, I hope the guys realize there is no reason to talk of special season or Championships.....and I am quite confident that they aren't. I think Ole Miss is in trouble.