Sunday, October 24, 2010

A lot of Auburn talk, and the top twenty

Auburn's win over LSU on Saturday was noteworthy for all the reasons the pundits are saying, and some the pundits are missing.

Of course it is impressive that Auburn ran for 440 yards against the SEC's top defense, but the more you look at the numbers, the more impressive they get. They ran for all those yards while throwing for fewer than 90, which means they did it without forcing LSU to choose between focusing on defending the run and focusing on defending the pass. And while no player this season had run for 100 or more yards against LSU, two Auburn players did it in the same game on Saturday.

For the first time all year, Auburn's defense looked like the kind of confident, take-no-prisoners unit you can depend on in the clutch. The front seven was ferocious, especially DT Nick Fairley, but even the previously soft secondary looked strong. In the second half, several of Auburn's sacks and QB pressures came after the QB had time to survey the field, which means they can be credited to the secondary preventing LSU's receivers from getting open.

That Auburn won a game like this despite starting most of their possessions deep in their own territory, including twice at their own one in the second half -- and despite giving up a momentum-killing turnover in the third quarter -- and despite failing to convert a 4th-and-6 with the game tied in the fourth quarter -- and despite giving up a tying TD right before halftime, then another one early in the fourth quarter -- and despite being flagged for costly penalties at several crucial moments -- and despite missing a field goal -- speaks to their resolve and resiliency.

From week to week, the whole team is improving and becoming more and more of a team; i.e., this is not just the Cam Newton show, it is a football team to be taken seriously. There are certainly reasons to doubt they can finish undefeated, and I must admit it is not entirely clear that they are even the best team in their own state, but they are "for real" and Auburn fans should be excited.

Now it is time to turn my football mind away from its focus on my alma matter, and objectively consider the entire college football scene. Having done that, here is the Stanton's Space Top Twenty.

1. Oregon

2. Michigan State

3. Auburn

4. Boise State

5. TCU

6. Utah

7. Missouri

8. Wisconsin

9. Alabama

10. Ohio State

11. Stanford

12. Oklahoma

13. LSU

14. Iowa

15. Arkansas

16. Florida State

17. Nebraska

18. South Carolina

19. Virginia Tech

20. Mississippi State

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