Can Anyone Stop Cam Newton And The Auburn Tiger Offensive Arsenal?
The Auburn Tigers are now 9-0 and ranked #2 in the BCS. The team has accomplished some success with sound defense but let's face it, the offensive arsenal behind quarterback, Cam Newton, is the reason the team is entertaining a possible shot at a national championship.
Many teams have tried to stop the offensive onslaught of the Auburn Tigers but each one has failed. The latest victim, the Ole Miss Rebels, were subjected to Auburn's offensive power and defeated 51-31.
Prior to the big game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this past Saturday, the Right Reverend, Houston Nutt, did a little preaching to his team on the practice field. The Ole Miss head coach taught from the Book of Defense, chapter: stop the run and verse; Auburn quarterback, Cam Newton.
Ladies and gentleman, that preaching worked pretty good too!
Newton was held to a meager 45 yards on 11 carries and was denied a rushing touchdown for the first time in three weeks.
Unfortunately for the Ole Miss Rebels, the Right Reverend was long-winded on the one verse regarding Newton, and the Auburn Tigers went to the air to put up 31 points in the first half and 20 more in the second half.
On the second play of the game, Ole Miss running back Rodney Grant ran 83 yards for a touchdown, and for just a moment it appeared that Auburn might fall into Mississippi's Black Bear trap after all. Excuse me, I meant to say Mississippi's Rebel trap.
With one of the best defensive lines in the Southeastern Conference, the Ole Miss Rebels were certainly intent on keeping the Auburn quarterback from running the ball. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn recognized it immediately and turned to the arm of Newton and the legs of Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb.
Those three verses were left out of the Right Reverend's sermon, and the Auburn Tigers racked up 28 first downs, 343 yards on the ground and 229 yards in the air.
That's right—572 of total offense! Can I get an amen on that one?
Newton showed NFL scouts everywhere that he can throw as well as run by finishing the night with 18 completions on 24 attempts, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
On Auburn's first drive of the game, Kodi Burns threw a touchdown pass from the "Wildcat Formation" to none other than Cam Newton.
With help from the offensive line, freshman running back Mike Dyer had a career-best 180 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown. Dyer showed the American football nation that he has grown up in nine games and will continue to be a positive factor in Auburn's offense for years to come.
The "little man that can," Onterio McCalebb, broke another long run Saturday, going for a 68-yard touchdown against Ole Miss in the first quarter. Not only did the long scamper by McCalebb bring back memories of his go-ahead score against LSU a weekend earlier, it also put Auburn up by a touchdown at a time when momentum was being fought for in earnest.
Ole Miss would fight hard for a quarter, but the second and third quarters belonged to Auburn. The Tigers would score three touchdowns and three field goals to take a commanding 44-17 lead. From that point forward, Auburn coaches had the opportunity to play reserves and rest the starters.
Before the game at Ole Miss, the Auburn defense had given up an average of 24 points per game. When all was said and done in Oxford, that is exactly how many points the starters allowed against Ole Miss on Saturday night.
The Rebs scored late in the fourth quarter against second and third string players from the defensive depth chart. Even though Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was able to lead the Rebs for a late score, Auburn's defensive backups made it very difficult. Ole Miss had to work for that last touchdown, and it was certainly worth the experience gained by the guys that will lead the team on defense in the future.
Masoli was, at times, a large threat against Auburn's defense, and he certainly caused the Tigers more trouble than they wanted. Masoli threw for 189 yards, completing 20 passes out of 31 attempts. He threw one interception and one touchdown. In the past, Masoli has been known to hurt teams with his ability to run; however, the Auburn defense held him to a very modest 29 yards on 11 carries and no touchdowns.
Rodney Scott led the Ole Miss ground game with 134 yards on just nine carries and one touchdown. Junior running back Brandon Bolden was the workhorse in the red zone, scoring two touchdowns on just six carries with 32 yards.
In the end, Auburn simply had more offensive weapons, a sounder defense and yes, much better special teams than did the Ole Miss Rebels.
Kickoff return specialist Demond Washington returned a kick for a touchdown and ended the day with 176 return yards on five tries. I would certainly like to see the kickoff coverage halt returns at or around the 20-yard line. Ole Miss averaged returns at or around the 30-yard line, but overall special teams played well and contributed to the win.
After the game, on the ESPN show College Football Final, Newton was asked if he thought he could be stopped. After letting the audience know that he did not intend to be arrogant, Newton explained that he could be slowed down a little but not stopped.
How can anyone dispute what he says? No one has stopped him all year long. In my opinion, Mississippi State had the best chance because of Newton's fondness for Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen, and it was also only the second game of the year.
Once Newton found a way to rally his team from the deficit they faced against Clemson, he turned it up another notch or two and has simply been...well...unstoppable.
Will Newton continue to be unstoppable? Maybe it should be asked in this way: As long as Cam Newton remains injury-free, will he continue to be unstoppable? I have to believe, from what I have seen thus far, that he will continue to put up good numbers for the rest of the season.
Does anyone have a chance to stop Newton? Alabama certainly has a chance, but then again, LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina and Ole Miss had a chance and failed.
Against Ole Miss on Saturday, two minutes and 50 seconds remained in the third quarter when Auburn punted for the first time. The Tigers put up 572 yards of offense, 343 of it on the ground. It is the fifth straight SEC game in which Auburn has rushed for more than 300 yards collectively as a team.
The Auburn Tigers are a team, not a one-man show. Opposing teams should know by now that Auburn has plenty of weapons and it is very difficult to stop them all. Perhaps the only team that can stop Auburn is Auburn.
Against Ole Miss this past weekend, the Auburn Tigers turned the ball over only once. The most impressive fact about the game was the lack of major penalties. Gene Chizik's team was penalized only four times for 36 yards.
Those are the stats that must continue to improve so that Auburn doesn't end up beating itself because of turnovers and/or costly penalties.
The undefeated Auburn Tigers dropped to No. 2 in the BCS standings, but it is certainly through no fault of their own. The Missouri Tigers and the Michigan State Spartans suffered their first losses on Saturday, and this helped Oregon in the polls.
In my opinion, the No. 2 ranking is much better than the No. 1 ranking. There is a smaller target on your back and less hype.
The team ranked No. 2 in the BCS will play the No. 1-ranked team for a national championship. As long as the Auburn Tigers can survive the three remaining games on their schedule and then a very tough game in the SEC Championship, they will play for it all.
Is there a team that can knock Auburn out of it? What if Alabama loses at LSU and then beats Auburn in Tuscaloosa? Auburn would still be the SEC West Champion as long as the Tigers beat Georgia first. Would Auburn play for the national championship in this scenario? Would they jump ahead of Boise State and/or TCU if both of those teams remain undefeated?
There are many scenarios and what ifs. The simple facts are...well...simple.
The Auburn Tigers may be the only team capable of stopping themselves. If they continue to play well enough to prevent that from happening, then we may very well see them playing for it all in January.
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