Auburn QB Nick Marshall (14) and RB Tre Mason (21)
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@BarrettSallee do you think in a year or two that Auburn will be in the race for the National Championship?— AU FANatic (@AuburnInsider) September 19, 2013
Well, it won't be this year. As stated in the video below, LSU is going to continue its hot start with a big win over Auburn in Baton Rouge on Saturday.
In 2014? I could certainly see Auburn contending if quarterback Nick Marshall continues his progression. Marshall has only been on campus for six weeks, and he and head coach Gus Malzahn are still learning about each other.
In just his third game as an FBS quarterback, Marshall led the Tigers on a sensational game-winning, 12-play, 88-yard touchdown drive in a 24-20 win over Mississippi State. He showed the poise and composure of a seasoned veteran on that drive, giving Auburn plenty of hope for the future.
Auburn only has one senior on its two-deep depth chart on offense—senior H-Back Jay Prosch. Through the first three games of this season, the offense has looked more functional each time the Tigers have taken the field. Imagine what it will look like after another offseason with essentially the same pieces.
Defensively, it's more of the same. The Tigers have four senior starters on the two-deep, but one of those is linebacker Jake Holland—who has sophomore Kris Frost on his heels.
Year 2 is when the rubber meets the road. That's when Auburn won a title in 2010 under former head coach Gene Chizik. Alabama entered the 2008 SEC Championship Game in Nick Saban's second year with an unblemished record, and Florida won it all in 2006 in Urban Meyer's second season.
Auburn has the pieces in place to make a title run in 2014 if it continues to develop at the pace we've seen thus far. That shouldn't be the expectation, though. Malzahn needs to get the Tigers into the division title discussion in 2014, and then go from there.
@BarrettSallee with the big 3 in the East all having a loss, and the A&M and Bama D looking so-so, will an SEC team go 12-0?— Josh Wilkins (@Jrwilkins20) September 19, 2013
No, I don't think so.
The SEC has cannabalized itself in each of the last two seasons, and judging from what we've seen so far, most the remaining undefeated teams in the conference have weaknesses.
Alabama's issues at cornerback were exposed by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans on Saturday, and the Crimson Tide offensive line struggled in the first game of the season against Virginia Tech. Head coach Nick Saban's crew hasn't played a complete game yet, and that could jump up and bite them if it continues.
Ole Miss has a very dynamic offense with running back Jeff Scott, quarterback Bo Wallace and wide receivers Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell; but I don't fully trust that defense yet. Sure, the Rebels rank fourth in the SEC in total defense, giving up just 332.7 yards per game. But can you count on that continuing? I'm just not sold quite yet.
Arkansas (3-0), Auburn (3-0) and Missouri (2-0) have all been good, but their unblemished records are more a product of easy early-season schedules than anything else.
LSU is interesting. The offensive woes have been solved, thanks to the addition of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and his connection with senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Granted, LSU opponents Kent State and UAB were cupcakes and TCU has disappointed. But through three games, it certainly appears that all of LSU's offseason issues have been addressed.
As the two-time defending BCS National Champions, Alabama is on a pedestal. But it's not much higher than the one on which the rest of the SEC's contenders stand.
That should make for an interesting season—one in which no SEC team will go undefeated.
Just like old times.
@BarrettSallee With Ole Miss ranking smack in middle of SEC West, will 2013 see them climbing to 3 teams ahead or falling to 3 teams behind?— TBrumbeloe (@TomBrumbeloe) September 19, 2013
I picked Ole Miss to tie with Texas A&M for third in the SEC West prior to the season and hold the tiebreaker over the Aggies for the third spot, thanks to a head-to-head win. Nothing I've seen during the first three weeks of the season has made me change that opinion.
Running back Jeff Scott went off last week with 244 total yards and two touchdowns against Texas, but he's just one piece of the puzzle. Next time out, it could be Donte Moncrief or Laquon Treadwell or Bo Wallace who steps up with the big game.
The offense is so diverse that it can keep the Rebels in virtually every game. Considering what we saw (or didn't see) from Texas A&M's defense versus Alabama last week, the Rebels are certainly capable of exploiting those holes and toppling the Aggies. That may be enough for the Rebels to break through that glass ceiling and into the top three in the SEC West.
Even if that doesn't happen, they'll be in virtually every game they play. At that point, all they'll need is a few breaks to go their way to spring an upset along the way.
Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @BarrettSallee or at firstname.lastname@example.org.