Phillip Marshall: Words of caution and encouragement

Sept. 30, 2013

A word of caution to those who choose to fret and worry about a game that is supposed to be fun.

Auburn does not have a great football team.

A word of encouragement for those who choose to fret and worry about a game that is supposed to be fun.

Auburn has a good football team.

Problem is, Auburn has at least five games remaining against other football teams that are good, some of them even better than good. Some of those teams are more beatable than others, but none of them are unbeatable.

Auburn might beat Ole Miss on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It might not. And, outside of nonconference games against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, so it will be Saturday after Saturday until the season’s end.

At the end of last season, Auburn was arguably the worst team in the Southeastern Conference and one of the worst in any BCS Conference. That led to a 3-9 record in which the Tigers were outscored by the startling margin of 150-21 in their last three conference games.

This team, Gus Malzahn’s first as head coach, is far better than that one. But this team is not good enough for anyone to assume it is certain to win any conference game. Saturday’s game against Ole Miss is a tossup. A road game at Arkansas will likely be a tossup. Auburn should be favored at Tennessee. It will be a definite underdog at Texas A&M and against Georgia and Alabama at home.

I said before the season that I thought Auburn’s season could be broken down into three segments – four nonconference games, four tossup games and four games in which it would be a distinct underdog.

So far, Auburn is 2-0 in nonconference games and all but certain to be 4-0. It is 1-0 in tossup games after a 24-20 win over Mississippi State. And it is 0-1 as a significant underdog after a 35-21 loss at LSU.


 

 

If this Auburn team wins the nonconference games, wins two or three of the tossup games and competes like crazy in the other games, it will have taken a dramatic step forward from where it was last season.

I won’t be surprised if Auburn loses to Ole Miss and I won’t be surprised if Auburn beats Ole Miss. It’s an even game that will probably be won by the team that makes the fewest mistakes.

I won’t be surprised if Auburn wins one of the games it’s not supposed to win and I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t. It will be very difficult for this Auburn team to dominate a good team. And it will be very difficult for a good team to dominate this Auburn team.

It’s going to be a fascinating ride, one that still will have its share of high and lows. No one game will be the defining moment in this season. Auburn might beat Ole Miss and struggle against others. It might lose to Ole Miss and pull a shocking upset when it is a substantial underdog later in the season.

That’s the reality of this Auburn football team.

The reality of Auburn’s football program is that Malzahn and his staff have injected new enthusiasm and new belief where there was little of either at the end of last season.

 For the future of Auburn football, that was perhaps his most important job.

 
       

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: