Sep 9, 2013
Auburn’s football team has done what it had to do the first two weekends of the season. It has won the only nonconference games on its schedule that it was in danger of losing.
And now it is show time.
Gus Malzahn’s first Auburn football team plays its first Southeastern Conference game when Mississippi State comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium. It is the first of eight SEC games that will tell the real story of the Tigers of 2013.
Four of Auburn’s eight SEC opponents – No. 1 Alabama, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 8 LSU and No. 9 Georgia are in the top 10 in the polls. Ole Miss is No. 25. The other three – Mississippi State, Arkansas and Tennessee are a combined 5-1 two weeks into the season.
Despite the rantings of jealous coaches from other conferences, there are no easy outs in the SEC.
This Auburn team is significantly better than last season’s 3-9 Auburn team. I’ve seen enough in two games to be convinced of that. But the real work is just beginning.
Auburn coaches are cautious in their praise and quick to point out that much remains to be done. And that is wise. Even for a very good team, facing the teams on Auburn’s schedule would be a daunting task.
Malzahn is in the first year of a building process, but patience is a rare commodity in big-time college football. It’s particularly rare for programs, like Auburn, that are accustomed to being among those ranked teams. It might be reasonable to accept that the climb back from the worst Auburn season in 60 years could be hard, but that’s hard to swallow for those to whom it means so much.
The Tigers are averaging right at 300 yards per game rushing, but can they do it against SEC defenses? They clearly improved between the first game and the second, but can they continue to improve against the bigger, stronger and more athletic foes to come?
Malzahn was well aware of the challenge when he took the job as Auburn’s head coach last December. Over the next 12 weeks, only two open dates and games against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic will provide any semblance of relief.
Could Auburn be good enough to compete week and week out? It could. Will it? That’s a question that can be answered only on the field.
And the first answer will come Saturday night.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: