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Bruised and Battered Auburn Looks To South Carolina

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton will have to do more passing and less running if the Tigers are to be successful in the SEC.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton will have to do more passing and less running if the Tigers are to be successful in the SEC.

Heading toward the locker room at the end of the first half, Clemson wide receiver Jamie Harper did his best Joe Namath impression, raising his left index finger high in the air for the visiting Clemson faithful to see. Tiger coach Dabo Swinney could be seen smiling and backslapping one of his assistant coaches.

Make no mistake, Clemson had come to play a half of football. No one told them it takes 60 minutes and some change to win in the SEC. How appropriate that two of the South's most historic programs played throwback football Saturday night. If the sun had been shining, it's certain fans would have seen Shug Jordan smiling from the sky.

We still don't know how good these two programs are today. But make no mistake; Saturday's contest was one of the hardest hitting games in the history of venerable Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Chizik asked his players and fans to be, "All In" as the national spotlight shined on Auburn. Today, you have to wonder what's left. History doesn't smile favorably on football teams' coming off emotional overtime wins. Getting healed and ready to play against an even tougher opponent this week will be no easy task.

Who would have dreamed a month into the season, there would be more questions on offense than defense? An offensive line that was thought to be among the best in the country, looked slow and helpless in the first half. It was clearly the worst display of offensive football since Chizik arrived on campus.

Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn is widely considered one of the father's of the modern day spread offense. Today his unit has an identity crisis. Its fast paced offense has been replaced with the three-headed running attack of quarterback Cam Newton and running backs Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. That dog won't hunt when the better teams in the SEC come calling.

With the exception of the third quarter Saturday, this is an offense that looks nothing like it did a year ago. Unquestionably, the loss of Mario Fannin hurts. While he's as much a tailback as I am, his ability to get open on short passes and move the chains was missed badly.

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor is known for his hyperbole. But now, two years in, the act is starting to get old. Last year he promised big things from newcomers Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton. This year, it was Trevon Reed.

For all the talk, he still has not been able to develop a third wide receiver who contributes weekly. Coming out of fall camp, you would have thought Reed was the second coming of Terry Beasley. Now with a quarter of the season gone, we've only seen Reed line up in the wildcat formation. For Auburn to be successful, one of these guys must take the pressure off Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery.

As Auburn gets ready for South Carolina, you have to wonder whether this team is like the 2008 group that started 3-0 or others that have gone on to build something special. Saturday night shows there's lots of work to be done. Still, there were plenty of positives that can carry this team a long ways. Overcoming a miserable first half, to outscore your opponent 24-7 in the second half is something to hang your hat on this week.

Chizik faces his toughest assignment yet, getting this team ready to go for South Carolina. Auburn is a club that's beat up, hurt and a little unsure of itself. It's also an undefeated team with everything still to play for as we reach late September.

I'll look for you Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium. I'll be wearing orange - thank goodness!