Oct. 1, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Maybe No. 10 Auburn will need less than 59 minutes to put a team away for a change.
The Tigers have ridden three straight nailbiting victories into the Top 10, but figure to have a bit of stress relief when heavy underdog Louisiana-Monroe visits on Saturday.
Quarterback Cam Newton's playmaking has sparked a 4-0 start for Auburn along with some Heisman Trophy talk. But if this game goes as expected, he won't have to carry the ball 20 times or more, as he has been doing.
Newton insists that his team isn't expecting a breather, though. There's a little more incentive for the Tigers to perform well against ULM (1-2) with the climb up the rankings.
"We can't overlook anyone," Newton said. "There are plenty of examples of people overlooking in the past, and especially this season. We don't want to ever get too complacent or too comfortable with the position we're in ... you can't ever take your foot off the gas."
Auburn has been more stop-and-start the past few weeks. The Tigers have rallied from double-digit deficits to win the past two games against Clemson and South Carolina, and that came after a three-point victory over Mississippi State that also went down to the wire.
The Warhawks, meanwhile, are 3-34-1 all-time against Southeastern Conference members and have lost all 18 meetings against Top 25 teams.
At least their defensive strength aligns with Auburn's offensive forte. The Tigers have the SEC's top running team, while Louisiana-Monroe leads the Sun Belt Conference in rush defense.
"It can get quite challenging because of the way they do their (defensive) fronts," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "It's a three-down front and they're moving everywhere and different blitzes from all directions.
"It's going to be a tough battle."
Auburn has already met one Sun Belt team this season, opening with a 52-26 win over Arkansas State despite allowing 323 passing yards. That's the only time Newton's backup, Barrett Trotter, has seen action in a college game.
The Tigers have won all 15 games against Sun Belt opponents.
ULM is coming off its first win, 21-20 over Southeastern Louisiana. The Warhawks have already faced Ryan Mallett and Arkansas in the season opener, losing 31-7. Newton presents a much different kind of challenge from the dropback passer.
"He's going to try to beat you a little differently than Mallett did," ULM coach Todd Berry said. "This guy can throw the football but one of the worst things that can happen is if this guy breaks out of the pocket. He can run it."
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton is leading the SEC with 485 yards rushing. He went over 150 yards both running and passing while accounting for five touchdowns last weekend to lead Auburn past the Gamecocks.
"Cam Newton's throwing the ball well," Berry said. "He's running the ball well.
"He's a very, very aggressive runner. Instead of trying to run out of bounds, he's going to try to run over you. That's unique in college football right now."
ULM has a running threat at quarterback, too. Kolton Browning has passed for 590 yards and run for 183 and ranks third in the Sun Belt in total offense.
The offensive comparisons don't end there. Both spread the ball out and have designed quarterback runs, so defenders on both sides have at least some idea of what to expect.
"The similarities in offensive schemes are scary, almost," Berry said. "We're so similar in what we do. Our defensive players should have a lot of confidence."