Let it be known that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Bama fan. Hell, I even named my blog based on my love of the Alabama Crimson Tide. But I'm also a realist, and I recognize a threat when I see one. Auburn University is absolutely the most dangerous program in the SEC West for the 2010 football season.
Consider the following:
- Coach Gene Chizik came from Iowa State with a losing record as a head coach, but promptly assembled an impressive staff and went 8-5 in his first year of coaching in the SEC.
- Gus Malzahn is an innovative play-caller and made great strides last year in matching his offense's strengths against his opponent's defenses. It is no freak of nature that Auburn had Alabama on the ropes until the end of the game.
- Chizik has put together two very good recruiting classes, with the 2010 class being one of the best since the Pat Dye years. Easily the best since the 2001-2002 classes Tommy Tuberville assembled with an asterisk (Bama was in the throes of probation, basically giving Tubs the pick of in-state talent).
- JUCO transfer Quarterback Cameron Newton is the real deal. The coaches say he has both the physical and mental skills to play in the SEC.
- The offensive line returns at least three of five starters from last year.
- Auburn's defensive line is smallish and young, but Chizik is a defensive coach and Tracy Rocker is as good a defensive assistant as they come.
- Momentum. Auburn had a decent year last year, but the real momentum comes from the sense of confidence down on the Plains. The program has closed the door on the Tuberville malaise. They think things are looking up, and a program with the fan support, facilities, coaching staff and talent of Auburn is dangerous when they think they can win.
Prediction: The winner of the Iron Bowl plays Florida for the SEC Title.
With Auburn now sitting at #4 in the BCS Standings, the Tigers may have surprised a few people, but not this wizened old football fan. They are the real deal, and Saturday’s marquee matchup between Auburn and LSU is SEC football sweetness. You. Will. Watch.
But what’s up in the SEC East? Florida is as lost without Tim Tebow as the Israelites would have been without Moses. Georgia has lost faith in its coach, and South Carolina can’t win on the road. Even Vanderbilt is mathematically alive. Vandy?
I still think the winner of the Iron Bowl plays someone for the SEC Title. I just don’t know who that someone is gonna be.