picture via i.usatoday.net)
Following Auburn's ugly 30-14 win over Florida Atlantic to end September, the "October from Hell" was prepared to swallow Gene Chizik's young Tiger squad whole. Games against ranked South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and LSU awaited in the month of October. Even the Ole Miss game was considered dangerous.
Most Auburn fans felt that the Tigers could go 1-4 or even 0-5 in October. However, while the "October from Hell" wasn't the "October from Heaven", it wasn't that bad of a month. The Tigers went 3-2 in October (losing to #10 Arkansas and #1 LSU). Overall, the Tigers sit at 6-3 (4-2 SEC). With an almost guaranteed win against the Pat Sullivan-led Samford Bulldogs, Auburn's regular season will end with at least seven wins. Not bad considering the preseason predictions.
Now the Tigers begin November with a bye week as the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry looms large. The Tigers can rest and begin preparation for arguably the best team in the SEC East.
With no Auburn football on tap for this weekend, now is a time to evaluate the team's performance thus far and discuss a variety of topics.
I guess Gene Chizik can coach, after all.
Gene Chizik was 22-5 as Auburn head coach entering the 2011 season, but most people still weren't sold. They believed Gene Chizik rode Cam Newton and Nick Fairley to the title... which is already an uneducated statement, seeing as the Tigers had the best offensive and defensive lines in the SEC last season. This year, with more pressure on him than ever, Chizik has led this young, inexperienced, depth-lacking, Newtonless team to a 6-3 record heading into November. He may have gone 5-19 at Iowa State... but he's 28-8 at Auburn. Let's not fool ourselves any longer; Gene Chizik is a good football coach.
Can we get a read on Auburn's defense?
Auburn started off the 2011 season giving up 110 points in the first three games. Since then, the defense has shown much improvement, shutting down FAU, South Carolina, Florida and (in the second half) Ole Miss. The defense was still torched by LSU and Arkansas, two of the top three offenses Auburn has faced this year. This defense continues to mature and play as a cohesive unit. 2012 will feature a more experienced and talented defense that should be Auburn's best since 2008.
Where does the football team stand?
The Tigers should beat Samford, so the Tigers at worst will be 7-5 this season. Considering all the issues Auburn has to face this year, that is a success. If the Tigers can get a win at Sanford Stadium against Georgia, Auburn will enter the Iron Bowl 8-3. Who would have predicted that after September? Overall, you can go ahead and say the 2011 season will go down as a success. No repeat title run, obviously, but the Tigers have been resilient this season. If Auburn does the unthinkable and upsets both Georgia and Alabama, that will be a 9-3 finish and a bowl win could give Auburn 10 wins. This scenario is unlikely (have you SEEN Alabama this year?) but technically, it is not impossible.
How about that basketball team?
The 2011-2012 Auburn basketball team won their exhibition game against Payne College, 86-60. An encouraging sign is that, even though it was a game that doesn't count for anything, the Tigers scored 86 points. Last year's Tiger squad had a hard time scoring last year despite playing some of the SEC's most consistent defense. This year's squad could be a sleeper in the SEC, as the Tigers return stars from last year such as Earnest Ross, Kenny Gabriel and and Rob Chubb. The "team leader", Frankie Sullivan, returns. Auburn also landed some big transfers (Noel Johnson from Clemson and Varez Ward from Texas). Tony Barbee did an impressive job last year with an awful team. This year's team could be interesting to watch.