Around the state these days, it's common to hear Alabama fans say Auburn's football team would be nothing without Cam Newton. If we had a nickel for each time one of them said it, we could all afford to fly to Glendale, Arizona in early January. Of course, what's flawed in that statement is that Auburn does have Newton. Just like Georgia had Herschel and Texas had Vince Young.
The scary thing for Auburn's final three opponents is that this team is becoming more than just the Heisman front-runner. Others have emerged at just the right time. In many ways, Saturday's 51-31 win over Ole Miss was the most impressive of the season.
It didn't have the glamour of South Carolina, Arkansas or LSU; but more importantly, it was a team win, not one that came on the shoulders of just Newton and Nick Fairley. The offensive line had its best performance of the year; Onterio McCalebb established himself as a big play threat for the second consecutive week; and Michael Dyer showed the nation why he was the top prep player in America.
The vogue pick last week was to go against Auburn. Everyone from ESPN's Colin Cowherd to the guys at the barber shop said Auburn had run out of gas and a letdown was imminent. Three top teams in a row had fallen; it was only a matter of time for the Tigers.
The Ole Miss faithful sensed it. Privately, Auburn's coaching staff worried all week.
The Rebels wheeled out everyone to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium including Archie and Eli Manning and The Blind Side star Michael Oher. Surely the confederate gray uniforms would do the trick. At any moment, I expected to see Robert E. Lee's great-great grandson come riding in on the shoulders of Smokey the Bear. It was a night to pull out all the stops.
Instead, Auburn pulled together as a team.
Now it's come down to Amen Corner. Can you believe it? With Ole Miss in the rear-view mirror, Auburn's national championship run feels real. They actually have a legitimate shot. With a chance to rest their starters Saturday, Gene Chizik's team should be ready for Georgia.
Ole Miss put together the perfect game plan to stop Newton. It just didn't have the personnel to do it. As you look to Georgia and Alabama, they appear to be in the same boat. How do you stop a quarterback who runs like Bo Jackson and throws like John Elway? And might I add, catches like Terry Beasley.
Nothing is a given in the SEC. Both rivals are capable of beating these Tigers. But now you start to get the feeling this team is one of destiny. It's hard to describe. We felt it six years ago. It feels stronger this season.
The slate is set. Everyday feels like Christmas Eve. We've reached Amen Corner unblemished. Let's enjoy it. Who knows if or when it will come again. This football team is not perfect, but it's incredibly special. They know it and the rest of the country is learning it.
See you at Homecoming!