We had another great weekend of Southeastern Conference football. It is always special when Auburn and Georgia are playing and the South Carolina at Florida game had major implications in the SEC East.
The Auburn-Georgia game was close for three quarters before the Tigers took charge in the fourth quarter. Auburn’s offense never ceases to amaze me how it can take control of the football and how Coach Malzahn (offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn) can call the right play at the right time and get it executed when the game is on the line. It has been a revelation to me watching Auburn’s offense grow into what it is today.
Georgia came into Auburn ready to play and the Bulldogs were everything I expected as far as the kind of talent they put out on the field. The size, speed and the overall ability of players Georgia has is impressive. Georgia has a good young quarterback in Aaron Murray who is going to be a great one. Wide receiver A.J. Green was everything I expected. He is a top five pick in the NFL?Draft.
However, as they have done for 11 straight weeks, Auburn played well and that was more than enough to win another one of the classic Auburn-Georgia shootouts. I think at the start of the game Auburn was a little too ready to play early and that explains why the Tigers fell behind in the first quarter. The players looked over-hyped and made some mistakes that cost the team in the first quarter, but the Tigers seemed to settle down after that and started to do what they had been doing in previous games.
How well the offense played was easy to see. The Tigers only punted twice in the game and one was after Cameron Newton threw a perfect long pass that could have been a touchdown, but it was dropped by Mario Fannin.
From what I saw Cam was almost flawless at quarterback. He threw 15 passes and completed 12. Two of his passes were dropped and the other one he was throwing out of bounds in a scramble situation. I think he could have hit Onterio McCalebb on the pass, but he was too far gone throwing the ball out of bounds before he saw him come open. His ability to make plays when the game is on the line is a big part of this team’s success.
The defense also played a major role in the win by coming up with stops in the second quarter and the second half that were big. The Tigers are playing extremely well against the run. One thing I would like to see this defense do is create more turnovers and to give the offense good field position. That would be a tremendous thing for the team if the defense could help the offense a little more.
Auburn’s kicking game was tremendous against Georgia. The kickoff coverage against one of the top return men in the country was out of this world. Even the punting was better.
It was an exciting win that put Auburn in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game and kept Auburn’s chances alive to play for the national championship.
I watched South Carolina’s win at Florida and the Gamecocks played like a team possessed to win a spot in the SEC Championship vs. Auburn. They dominated the football game. I am not sure if it was a case of Florida not being ready to play or if South Carolina is that much better than Florida. I wasn’t surprised South Carolina won, but I was surprised how dominant the Gamecocks were.
You have to give credit to the South Carolina players and Coach Steve Spurrier for being so ready to play in a such a big game for their program. Marcus Lattimore had another strong performance running the football and South Carolina’s quarterback, Stephen Garcia, was tuned in, too. When you have those two playing well along with that big receiver (Alshon Jeffery), that is an offense with weapons.
Before the Tigers go to Atlanta to face South Carolina, they will have to play an Alabama team that responded after a tough loss to LSU and played well on Saturday. Talent-wise Alabama has great players like Georgia, LSU and Florida and there are three or four playmakers on offense. You would have to say the running backs (Mark) Ingram and (Trent) Richardson both fit into that category as well as receivers Julio Jones and (Marquis) Maze. Defensively, they have some big strong, fast players and are well coached plus the Tide has a good kicking game.
The Tigers will need to play as well they can play in Tuscaloosa because it is Auburn vs. Alabama and it should be a close, hard-fought game.
Another game of interest in the SEC over the weekend was Tennessee’s big win over Ole Miss. That keeps the Vols alive for a bowl game if they can beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Looking at the top teams around the nation, Oregon won a close game and TCU had a very close one, too, and the other team in the top four, Boise State, won easily. The competition has a lot to do with how a team looks.
In the Big 10 there isn’t much difference in Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. I believe any of those teams could beat each other on any given day.
In the Big 12 Oklahoma State is an interesting team. Their quarterback is playing lights out. That is a very dangerous football team now that it is playing better on defense. In that league Nebraska has a explosive quarterback that could lead the Cornhuskers to the league championship.
In the Pac 10 other than Oregon I have been impressed with Stanford. That team obviously has one of the great quarterbacks in the country in Andrew Luck.
It is a lot of fun to speculate in the spring and summer about what teams have the best chance to play for conference championships and the BCS title. There weren’t a lot of people picking Auburn and South Carolina to be playing in the SEC Championship Game and that is another example of why college football is so much fun to follow.
Coach Gene Chizik, his staff and his players have done a wonderful job so far this year and it has been a lot of fun for me to watch this team’s development. I really enjoy seeing these players having so much fun every week with how their team chemistry has developed. They have been a blessing to the Auburn family.
Editor’s Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Pat Dye’s Crooked Oaks Hunting Preserve and Lodge
Pat Dye’s Quail Hollow Gardens
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