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Rarified Air For Auburn and Newton

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Auburn's Cam Newton is now firmly the leader in the Heisman Trophy race.
Auburn's Cam Newton is now firmly the leader in the Heisman Trophy race.

How appropriate that Bo Jackson led Auburn onto Pat Dye Field Saturday to face Arkansas. By day's end, 25 years after leaving Auburn, the Tigers crowned his successor. With apologies to Brent Fullwood, Dameyune Craig, Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, Auburn fans are witnessing the greatest performance at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a quarter century.

My nine-year-old son asked whether Cam Newton was better than Pat Sullivan. Truthfully, Newton may be the best college quarterback to ever play the game - period. And that's no hyperbole.

Whether Newton eventually wins the Heisman Trophy or not, the eyes know what they see. This kid is not only the best in America this season; he may be the best to play the college game at any position in more than 10 years.

Many are comparing this team to the 2004 undefeated Tigers. That's not even close. Only a handful could have started on that team. They more closely resemble the 1993 undefeated team, but even that's like comparing apples to oranges.

No player in recent memory has carried a team to greater heights than Newton. The results have given him rock star status on campus. Witness Newton running to the student section after Saturday's win. Close your eyes and you would have sworn John, Paul, George and Ringo were getting off the plane in the United States for the first time.

There is a flip side to all of this madness. Take Newton out of the equation and this is not a great Auburn football team. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof woke up Sunday morning with Bobby Petrino's foot still firmly planted in his ass. You never assume anything with this team, but it's unlikely they win out if they continue playing defensively the way they have for the past six quarters.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik knows things must get better. "I can't say enough about the job he's (Newton) done for us," he said. "The players around him need to elevate their play to meet him."

Righting the ship defensively may prove as elusive as tackling Newton on third and short. An already thin and weak Auburn secondary suffered more losses Saturday. Senior Aairon Savage looks to be done after being carted off the field late in the game. Mike McNeil and T'Sharvan Bell also are questionable for Saturday. The loss of Savage is devastating for the man and the team.

"It breaks my heart," Chizik told The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. "When I went out on the field and he is laying there and he is crying and he has tears in his eyes, that hurts me. This guy has done everything we've asked him to do to come back and be a football player at Auburn because he loves Auburn and he loves football, and that hurts."

Now the Tigers turn their attention to LSU, a team that seems to do nothing right but win. On paper, Auburn looks to maybe catch a break. They finally face a team that has trouble throwing the football. In an ugly 32-10 win Saturday over McNeese State, LSU managed only 103 passing yards and no touchdowns through the air.

But everyone knows better than to take Les Miles for granted. This Saturday, something has to give for the two most exciting teams in the SEC. Odds say it's an Auburn win. Destiny so far, says neither team will lose. Here we go again.

Rest up this week. Drink plenty of fluids. Once again, Saturday is likely to be the toughest day of the week. Has there ever been a more exciting season at Auburn than this one?

So far, no way.