Two weeks ago I mentioned how much fun it was to watch a half like Auburn played against Mississippi State. Last night, it was fun to watch the entire game.
I can't remember the last time I had that much fun in the stands of Jordan-Hare Stadium. I've seen plenty of blowout victories for the Tigers in the stands, but to see a complete destruction of an SEC team - and a RANKED SEC team at that - on that level was just, well, borderline erotic.
Auburn may be played better football than most any other team in the nation, right now. The defense is amazing. The offense is putting up numbers I never would have imagined four weeks ago. This team is so much fun to watch right now, and I could see it getting even better.
So, let's get to the general observations.
1) This Defense Is Good. Damn Good. Coming into tonight, Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III led the SEC in rushing. The Tigers held him to 22 yards on 13 carries. Auburn needed to make Arkansas one dimensional, and they did exactly that. The defense absolutely destroyed Arkansas' offensive line and their running game, dominated the line of scrimmage, and made it impossible for the Razorbacks to get anything going. The only time Arkansas even remotely threatened to do anything on offense was their drive for the field goal to end the first half.
2) The Defensive Line May Be One Of The Best In The Nation. I get it, Arkansas' line has had issues with pass protection and the 4 sacks Auburn recorded are about the average Arkansas gives up. However, that combined with the domination in the running game against a very good running back shows just how powerful the Tigers are up front. To be fair, it's not just the line. The linebackers have been amazing. Tre Williams led the team in tackles, tonight.
3) We've Found The Offensive Line We Need. The offensive line of James, Kozan, Golson, Smith, and Leff has proven to be quite the combination in the running game. Yes, Arkansas was known to have a bad run defense going into this one, but three straight weeks of dominating performances - two of them against SEC teams - is enough for us to know we've got it right. Arkansas' run defense was bad, but Auburn made it historically bad by running for more yards than any other team has ever run on the Razorbacks.
4) What Running Back Depth Issues? Seriously, back before the season if I told you that Kerryon Johnson would miss most of two SEC games and Auburn's ground game wouldn't miss a beat, would you have believed me? Kamryn Pettway has shown that he should never have left the running back slot two years ago, and Stanton Truitt is growing more and more into the running back role and looking like a natural. Then there's Kam Martin to just add insult to injury. When Kerryon does come back healthy, the running back unit is going to be one of the best on the team.
5) Rhett Lashlee Calls A Great Game. I defended Lashlee last year amid a lot of criticism but I'll freely admit I never would have predicted the Tigers' offense rolling the way that it has since he took over as the play caller. He's done an amazing job seeing what is working best for the Tigers and calling plays to take advantage of it. It makes those two losses hurt all the more when we think what might have been, but right now I'm just going to enjoy one of the most fun and complete Auburn teams I've seen in a while.
6) The Future Is So Bright. How many players who scored points last night were freshmen or sophomores? Answer: All of them. It wasn't the same names as before, either. Tonight, Stanton Truitt showed why he excited so many people when he was recruited. Eli Stove was fantastic on the sweep and should be a threat going forward. Nate Craig-Myers had a fantastic catch. Kam Martin's 51 yard tight-rope run was spectacular. Kyle Davis didn't even record a stat, tonight, and we didn't need him to. This offense - as long as they keep a great line in front of them - is going to be a lot of fun to watch in the years to come.
7) Oh, Hey, The Defense Has Youngsters, Too. Marlon Davidson is a beast. Javaris Davis had another interception. Jeff Holland picked up a great sack. Byron Cowart apparently reads AL.com and was pissed off and had his best game as a Tiger. Richard McBryde got in on the action with a great stuff late in the game. What Kevin Steele has done with this unit is simply amazing. You still have to credit last year's staff for bringing in a good bit of the talent out there, but Steele & Company's coaching of them has been fantastic.
8) The Last View From 52. On a different note, and one a bit sad for me, last night was my last Auburn home game this season. Next week, my wife and I are moving from Auburn to San Antonio, Texas. I'll be back next year for the Georgia Southern game (like I'd miss THAT one), but I'm moving on after 4.5 years of living in Auburn. I'll have more on my goodbye to the Plains, later this week.
9) Auburn Football Is So Much Fun, Right Now. To end on a higher note, this Auburn team is beyond fun to watch, right now. They're without a doubt the most improved team in the SEC since Week 1 and may be the most improved team in the nation. A tough road test - only the second one this year - awaits against Ole Miss who will be coming off two tough losses next week, but this team is well prepared for that one. From the doldrums of the Texas A&M game, we're now at a point where pretty much every game looks winnable if the chips fall right.
War Eagle! Let's do this again next week!