Cam Newton has taken Auburn and the SEC by storm so far in 2010. The Auburn offense is much more productive deep into games under his leadership.
But the real story of Auburn's undefeated start is the ability of the Auburn defense to make big plays when it has been absolutely necessary.
They haven't been great statistically, but they probably never will be with Gus Malzahn's offense scoring and moving quickly. At points, they have even looked sub-par. But when their backs have been up against the wall, they've been impressive. Remember the last three games?
After an average performance against Arkansas State in the opener, the Auburn defense held Mississippi State to 14 points in Starkville. And seven of those were set up by a Quindarius Carr muffed punt. They managed to hold the Bulldogs scoreless for the last 24 minutes of the game while the offense was unable to score.
With College Gameday in town, Ted Roof's defense adjusted extremely well against a talented Clemson team. They managed to hold Clemson to 17 in the first half despite being on the field for over 20 minutes of it.
Then they held Clemson to seven points the rest of the way.
They put tons of pressure on Kyle Parker, and certainly affected his play. Late in the game and in overtime, when they had to have a stop, they managed to hold up.
This past weekend, an explosive South Carolina team came to Jordan Hare. Auburn's defense held stud freshman running back Marcus Lattimore to 33 yards on 14 carries. Again, they adjusted well in the second half.
After giving up 20 points in the first two quarters, they only gave up one more touchdown. They forced two Stephen Garcia fumbles, then took advantage of young Connor Shaw by picking him off twice in the fourth quarter.
No one is confusing this 2010 Auburn defense for some of the dominant ones that were around under Tommy Tuberville or Pat Dye. However, when their backs have been against the wall (for three consecutive weeks), they've gotten the job done.
In each of the last two games, Cam Newton's skill set and Auburn's furious comebacks wouldn't have made a difference if the defense hadn't held up there end of the bargain. At Mississippi State, the offense couldn't score, so they simply didn't allow State to.
Obviously, Coach Chizik would love for quicker starts on both sides of the ball. Maybe Ted Roof and the defensive staff can do a better job of being ready for the opposing team's strategy. But they've done what it takes to win and have made great adjustments each week.
Don't get me wrong: Cam Newton and the rest of Auburn's rushing attack have set the tone for the 2010 season. But Auburn's defense has been impressive as well—especially when the game is on the line.