The Auburn Tigers were a completely different team Saturday as they faced a very good Mississippi State team; much different to the team that faced Utah State in week one.
The guys on ESPN’s College GameDay all picked MSU to win the contest, stating that Bulldogs’ QB Chris Relf would, basically, destroy the Auburn Defense, based on Auburn's play against Utah State in the season opener.
I’m paraphrasing, but in essence there was nothing but praise for the Bulldogs, and an, “oh, yeah, Auburn has to play, too” kind of attitude.
But the Tigers came to play, much more so than last week.
The beginning of the game was almost a circus, the Tigers rolling up 14 points in four minutes, 22-seconds, and then the Bulldogs scoring 21 straight points. The Tigers then scored another 14 points in five minutes, 28-seconds.
Then there was the penalties. Between both teams there were eight, totaling 80 yards in just the first four minutes. Auburn's penalties were mostly personal fouls for over celebration, a topic that deserves its own article, since the new rules, and the subjective nature in which the refs apply is sometimes ludicrous.
But, the second half of this matchup settled into a very good offensive contest on both sides, plus there was sporadic spectacular Auburn defensive play. The defense is still in need of some work, but they looked tremendously better than the Utah State game.
The question is, does Auburn tailor its games to the opponent and bring to bear only what is necessary to bring about the win? As ESPN put it, "Auburn has forgotten how to lose", now boasting the countries longest winning streak at 17.
That’s a kind of Voodoo that head coach Gene Chizik must weave, and it seems to be working.
By all traditional indications, the Auburn Tigers should win their next two, one on the road to Clemson, who won today by the barest of margins 35-27 over the Southern Conference’s Wofford; and then another home game with Florida Atlantic. But then, I thought MSU had the better chance to win Saturday, and so did most of my colleagues.
With Auburn, you just never know what you're going to get.
In the two upcoming games, expect the Tigers, the Auburn ones, to bring a custom designed game that manages to win, but only by the thinest of margins.
Can the Auburn Tigers continue to play this way and get to the BCS title game again?
I doubt that, mainly because of the inconsistency of the defense. They played so much better today than last week against Utah State, however, they were still not 100 percent there in a majorly wacky game.
Even the flight of the War Eagle miscued, when the eagle, Spirit, flew into the window of a skybox at Jordan-Hare Stadium, before finally making it to midfield unhurt, in the pregame tradition of the Tigers.
In the game, MSU had 531 total yards of offense with 333 coming on the ground. The Dawgs converted over half of their third-down conversions, wherein the Tigers converted only a third of theirs. Auburn is in dire need of defense to stop this kind of run up by opposing offenses.
Still, the Tigers ended up in the win column because of late-minute circumstances; Auburn back up safety Ryan Smith grabbed a leg tackle, stopping QB Chris Relf, 6'4" and 240 pounds, from going into the end zone for a potential tie, with seconds on the clock; and inches to the goal line and a possible tie, overtime, etc.
Head coach Gene Chizik said, "We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game,"
For the fans at this point, they’ll take it one game at a time along with the team, and somehow the Tigers seem to be able to pull things out. We’ll see next week in Clemson.
After the next two weeks, the month of October will be the telling tale, and determine if there is some Voodoo, in the Hoodoo, that you do, so well, Coach Chizik.
There are five Saturdays in October that prove to be a gauntlet for Auburn.
Some pundits are predicting a 2-6 record by that point in the season, based on that month. See my analysis on that month, which I’ll update as we get closer.
Given the way Coach Chizik and the Auburn Tigers are handily crafting each game to fit their opponents, not only is 2-6 premature, but its too early to tell how they’re doing it; somehow it’s getting done.
This will be an interesting season for football, all the way around on the Plains of Auburn and in the BCS.