From smack dab on the 50-yard line, just 18 rows from the green grass of Pat Dye Field, I witnessed the best football game the Auburn Tigers have executed in a very long time.
In case you didn't know it already, there is something very special going on in the loveliest village on the plains!
Shortly after the Auburn Tigers ended their Sunday evening practice, whispers began to mingle among the players regarding a No. 1 rank in the BCS standings.
If there was not a target on the backs of the Auburn players before this past weekend, there will most likely be one now.
Since the modern era began and the BCS was developed, Auburn has never been ranked as high as No. 1. This season, Auburn has beaten three highly ranked opponents, and that is the key factor the BCS computers favor the most about the Tigers.
Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 in the BCS last week, and after losing to Missouri on Saturday, many believed Oregon would move into the top spot. It was not to be. Although Oregon had a very convincing win against UCLA on Thursday night, its strength of schedule and quality wins do not equal those of Auburn.
The AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches' Poll do have Oregon at No. 1. Auburn comes in at No. 3 in both the AP and the Coaches Poll.
With a record of 8-0 and a BCS rank of No. 1, there is no doubt that the Auburn Tigers control their own destiny. As long as the Tigers come out each week and play as they have been playing, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.
Before Auburn can win any championships, it must concentrate on winning a tough road game against the Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebs did not start the season as well as they would have liked, but lately their play has been much better. If Auburn goes to Oxford unprepared, the BCS rank of No. 1 will not last long.
Just two seasons ago, several of Auburn's current players experienced what it is like to win only five games and lose seven. Now, those same players are experiencing something else.
"It means a lot, especially for the guys who have been here for the five-win season," senior linebacker Craig Stevens said. "Coach says we can't concentrate on that (the No. 1 ranking), because once you start to do that, that's when the team starts to backslide because you think you are more ready than you really are."
Offensive lineman Ryan Pugh is another Auburn Tiger who is taking the No. 1 rank with a light heart. "It's an honor, but it goes back to improving and getting ourselves ready for the upcoming game because we've got a lot of improvements to make after watching film," Pugh said. "It's part of the grind you play in the SEC. There are days when it is tough to get out of bed, but that's what good teams do.
"Championship teams find a way to get better each day, whether it's easy or not."
I certainly like Pugh's confidence and optimism, but the Auburn Tigers have a long way to go yet before they can be deemed a championship team.
Special teams played very well against Arkansas a week ago; however, that style of play was once again missing this past week.
The one bright spot for special teams came by way of a 42-yard Wes Byrum field goal in the second quarter. The senior placekicker finished the game with six points and became the most prolific kicker in Auburn history with a total of 315 points. The top spot had been held by Byrum's predecessor and friend, John Vaughn.
The Auburn Tigers are getting ready to play their ninth straight game without a break. It will take every bit of fortitude and will from the players to remain undefeated. With an offense that is one of the best in the nation and a defense that is certainly getting the job done when it must, the Tigers are certainly very capable of keeping the No. 1 spot in the BCS for themselves.
"As a team, we don't even think about it," Zac Etheridge said. "That's something to get our fans excited. There's just a No. 1 in front of Auburn when it's on TV. And that's how we look at it."
Sounds to me as if the players are getting some very good advice from somewhere. It is not too hard to figure out that the excellent advice is coming from head coach Gene Chizik.
"We just had a team meeting and we talked about being very grounded and understanding that every week is another new week and another opportunity," Chizik reported on Sunday night.
So far, the players have done well at taking the advice of the coaches. With a No. 1 rank in the BCS, it will now be much harder for the players to keep their emotions in check. Should they be able to remain humble, they should continue to play well enough to win.
The Auburn Tigers beat the LSU Tigers on Saturday at their own game of defense. A week ago, they beat Arkansas at their own game of offense.
Look for the Auburn Tigers to continue their winning ways by taking what the opposing team gives and then beating them at their own game. A good running game and a sound defense has always spelled success for Auburn in the past. It should continue to spell success for the Tigers in the future.
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