Auburn picked up a very important win on Saturday. It was crucial that they beat Tennessee to keep their SEC hopes alive, and the defense made sure that happened.
Here are my thoughts on the important things to take from Saturday's game.
1) What a defense Auburn has. For the second time in two weeks, the defense willed Auburn towards an important conference win.
Despite great field position for Tennessee on every fourth quarter drive and no offensive production, the defense caused three and outs each time they went on the field. In many cases, one first down would have allowed a Tennessee field goal. Auburn's defense gave up none.
This defense is championship material...whether the offense will ever become decent enough to allow championships is another story.
2) The offense took a step back this week. After playing much better against LSU, the offense as a whole took nearly the entire second half off. Some of the blame lies on Tony Franklin's play calling, and some of the blame lies with the players.
Chris Todd was 10-of-12 before being randomly benched late in the first half. After replacing Kodi Burns (who also did little to spark the offense), Todd was 2-of-11. In my opinion, the only thing inserting Kodi Burns in the game did was reopen the quarterback race and take away the confidence Chris Todd was gaining.
While Kodi Burns has more of an upside and tons of potential, he has done little to nothing with all the opportunities he has been given since he has arrived on the Plains. After getting a couple first downs on his first drive, Burns' only first down was on the last drive of the game.
The real disappointing part of the game was...
3) Auburn students at the game. Being one of the biggest supporters of Auburn athletics and Auburn University, I was greatly frustrated by fans booing Auburn players and coaches, as well as chanting the name of a player (Kodi) who has had little to no success in moving the offense this year.
I hated to see Kodi Burns bringing attention to himself by pumping up the crowd as he lined up for his first play in the fourth quarter, especially after the way he had played up to that point. Focus on playing football and getting a first down (which he didn't do until the last possible moment).
Personally, I will cheer for whoever the Auburn quarterback is, athletic or pocket passer, white or black, accurate or errant. If anyone wants to boo, boo the coaches who are getting paid, not the players who work as hard as they can to win football games.
4) I'm ready for one of the quarterbacks to make plays and take over this job. I thought Chris Todd was on his way to doing that before Kodi Burns made his entrance. I want what's best for this offense and this football team, and I really don't care who steps up. But someone needs to very soon...
The game coming up at Vanderbilt will be a big test for this football team, and it will determine the team's goal from that point on. A win puts them on track to possibly get to the Georgia game with a 9-1 record, while a loss basically eliminates them from SEC West contention.
5) Sophomore Auburn kicker Wes Byrum needs to get it together. He has had a very rough season so far, missing another kick on Saturday afternoon. Tommy Tuberville has said the kicking position will be open to competition now. Watch for walk-on Morgan Hull to push for playing time. He is already handling kickoff duties.
6) Josh Bynes started the first game of his Auburn career on Saturday. He covered up the loss of Tray Blackmon with his 11 tackles from the middle linebacker position.
Coach Tuberville has stacked his defense with athletic players who can run as fast as any in the country. Each position has talented athletes who can step up and play like Bynes did, which is why Auburn's defense is one of the best in the country.
7) I liked some of the different looks of the Auburn offense on Saturday. Moving Mario Fannin around the field at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver worked. Taking some snaps from under center worked. Just a little innovation can be enough to throw off defenses. Hopefully, that kind of creativity will be in the gameplan in weeks to come.
8) Auburn could have made a few more big plays early. On a 3rd-and-16, Chris Todd took the snap from the shotgun and handed it off to Robert Dunn on a wide receiver pass. There was a man wide open, completely behind the defense for an easy touchdown, but he didn't get the ball away and took a loss on the play
There have been opportunities to make plays like that in each game, and the players need to start capitalizing on them.
9) Tennessee is in serious trouble. They had many opportunities to win the game but couldn't capitalize on terrific field position. Phillip Fulmer and offensive coordinator Dave Clawson need to get things turned around fast, or their jobs will be up in the air.
Jonathan Crompton looked rattled for most of the game, and his fumble on a handoff gave Auburn all the points they needed. The Vols now are in the midst of their worst start since 1994 (1-3) and have an easy non-conference game before having to travel to Athens, Georgia in two weeks.
10) I hope Auburn's offense improves this week and finds a quarterback. The defense will keep Auburn in every game that they play. This road trip to Vanderbilt will be a challenge...Vanderbilt hasn't had this much success in decades.
College GameDay will be there for the first time, and they have an opportunity to break into the top 15 and remain undefeated with a win over Auburn. Hopefully, Franklin can find a way to create opportunities to make plays, and the quarterbacks can execute and put points on the board.