TAKES: SECOND EDITION, VOLUME 2

Michael Chang

THERE IS HOPE ON THE PLAINS.

You know what was a terrible idea for my ability to gain a clear understanding of Saturday's game? Agreeing to participate in the live chat at AL.com AND agreeing to live-tweet from @WarEagleRadio. My head was on a swivel, I spent the duration of the game reacting to things I wasn't invested in and it may have sabotaged them all. Or maybe I fooled you and you enjoyed the multi-layered Playmaker experience. I dunno. I had fun doing all of those things, but I don't know how much super-great analysis I can provide because I feel like I was trying to entertain. It's like when you have 20 folks over to your house and you get great catered hors d'oeuvres and you never eat because you are just worried about everyone else having a good time. That was this game for me. I'll do both things again, and simultaneously, if asked, because all of the folks I was asked by are good folks doing good things.

It all just might make TAKES suffer. But I'm going to by God try.

Nick Marshall: The first thing that stood out to me was Marshall's improvement between Game 1 and Game 2. It wasn't without mistakes, but one moment that I recall, in particular, was that touchdown pass to Marcus Davis early on. The way he stood in the pocket tall and threw that arc -- well, it reminded me of Jason Campbell. Jason had that beautiful lift on his throws, and I couldn't help but see that in some of Saturday's passes by Nick. Yep. One week after I complained about hating comparisons. But at least this one is deserved. Maybe he's Jason Campbell with escapability? I'll keep revisiting these comparisons until I land on one I like.

DE-FENSE [clap clap]: I never thought that the thing I would be most impressed about after Week 2 would be defense. Especially when the Ellis Johnson hire seemed forced, and it came after a miserable 2012 for both Auburn's defense and Johnson, independently. It didn't scream, "This problem will be fixed in 2013."

And maybe it isn't. But this defense hasn't given up a touchdown to two pretty talented offenses in six quarters. This defense has young guys contributing in big ways. It looks like, after two games, this defense is pretty damn good against the run, and it will bend but not break against the pass. Johnson seems really good at making adjustments, dare I say "Roof-esque." While Roof was hated at the end, he still won a national championship, and the man was a great halftime coach.

Cam Payne: Well, maybe not just Cameron, but all of the running backs. Hell, all of the team. Look, I am about to hit you with the hottest take in this piece right now. It's sweltering. If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen:

Someone new is going to be the "star" every week. Someone new is going to be the person you are talking about at the water cooler with your colleagues on Monday morning. And why?

It's the thing that Gus Malzahn does that is the most "high school" of him: He wants to see every single one of his players on the field. He threw Jonathan Wallace in for seemingly no reason, for Pete's sake. Whatever hand is hot, Gus is going to play it. And it's the reason we're talking about folks like Kris Frost and Cam Payne this week when we were talking about Montravius Adams and Corey Grant last week. It's going to require a lot of guys to check their egos at the door for the good of the team. But it's also going to keep everyone fresh. I love it.

Mississippi State: Not that you needed to be reminded, but the Mississippi State game is massive. Auburn should be able to win this game right now. Las Vegas agrees. If Auburn can deliver a performance as thorough next Saturday as it did on this one, Auburn will be a 3-0 team heading to Baton Rouge.

Which brings me to ...

The Big Four: I said it before the season and my faith in it has strengthened: Auburn will beat one of the four teams that is has no business beating this year. That is probably LSU or Georgia, but who knows?

Look, I know there's a glimmer of hope right now in the Auburn fanbase, and I know that this was "only Arkansas State." But Auburn wouldn't have had a chance against that team last year. And when you see Washington State defeating a top-25 team over on the West Coast? Well, it's nice to have hope again. It was discussed on Twitter a lot -- was this the biggest day for Auburn since Jan. 10, 2011? There was a win against a top-10 South Carolina during an up-and-down 2011 season, I believe. But when that happened, it didn't feel impossible. After 2012, performances as good as Saturday's felt impossible. And Auburn did it. And learned that maybe Washington State was a decent win, too.

Auburn isn't going to beat Alabama. It isn't going to the SEC Championship Game. It probably isn't beating Texas A&M. But if these Tigers return every week, Auburn has a real shot at exceeding every expectation that any reasonable fan, blogger or journalist could have had for them. And I'll take it.

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