The Auburn football team heads into the second half of the regular season as a more confident group and they should be because they have made steady improvement both offensively and defensively since opening night vs. Washington State.
The Tigers have a very tough assignment this week playing against a talented Texas A&M team on the road while having to face Johnny Manziel, a quarterback who can beat teams with both his arm and legs. It should be a football game that Auburn’s kids are looking forward to playing because it looks like Gus Malzahn has a lot of players who are up for a challenge.
The 2013 Tigers look like they are developing a little swagger based on what they have been able to do this season. It is not surprising that Texas A&M is the big favorite to win this game, but there is no reason for the Tigers to head to College Station not believing they have a chance to come home a winner.
This is a great opportunity for the Tigers to perform well vs. a Top 10 opponent with the spotlight on them. The game at Kyle Field is the 2:30 p.m. CBS national telecast that a lot of people across the country will be watching. When this one is in the books on Saturday evening we should know a lot more about this Auburn team because this will be 60 minutes of football that is going to test the Tigers.
It wasn’t a surprise Auburn was able to win on Homecoming without any drama. Western Carolina didn’t have the players to stay with Auburn so the one-sided result was no surprise.
The really good thing I saw last Saturday was that the Tigers didnt go out there and slop around, something football teams can easily do when they know they are playing an inferior opponent.
This looks like a team that is serious about getting better every week. It looks like a group that is buying in to what the coaches are trying to get them to do.
The starters played like guys who wanted to take control of the game early and give the backups a chance for their moment in the sun, which was exactly what happened and great for team morale.
Homecoming weekend was also good in that it enabled the coaches to hold out key players who needed a game off to give them more time to get healthy. One of those was quarterback Nick Marshall, who was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Jeremy Johnson, who was playing in a college game for the first time.
Not only did that decision help get Marshall well, if the number one quarterback gets hurt in the second half of the season the odds of Johnson coming off the bench and being successful are much greater now that he has a college start under his belt.
If the freshman quarterback has to play this week vs. Texas A&M he will be a lot better equipped to do that after having success this past Saturday so the decision to pull his redshirt and put him in the lineup makes plenty of sense to me.
(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.)
Editor’s Note: This is 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 player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming.
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