BCS Rankings 2011: Is Auburn's No. 20 Ranking a Surprise?

Russ Stanton@overtheedgenowContributor IIIOctober 17, 2011

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 15: Onterio McCalebb #23 of the Auburn Tigers is tackled by Lerentee McCray #34 of the Florida Gators at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Imagine the surprise as Auburn placed higher in the first BCS rankings than most of the fans ever thought it would.

As I'm watching the announcement with a group of people, the first five BCS teams were mentioned, and someone piped up, "Auburn didn't make it." Another person said, "It's just as well."

However, when the list of No. 20 through No. 10 were announced, silence hit the room.

In reality, the Auburn Tigers are exactly where head coach Gene Chizik wants them to be: the most improved college football team in the country.  The BCS rankings have little to do with that.

And what else would you expect from a team that had lost 18 of its starters and many of its high-ticket members to the NFL.

However, it is interesting to note that the only losses Auburn has suffered this year, came at the hands of two teams currently in the BCS top 10, Clemson and Arkansas.

For the most part this year, the starting lineups for Auburn, on both sides of the ball, have been freshmen or inexperienced returns from the BCS Championship team.

With a group of guys that seem to go from game to game learning and gaining more confidence with each one, that is exactly what Auburn’s coaching staff had hoped to accomplish this year.

You could see it most evidently in the Florida game, looking back to an Auburn defense that started out the season giving up 448 yards to Utah State.

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 15: Jeff Driskel #16 of the Florida Gators is sacked by Corey Lemonier #55 and Nosa Eguae #94 of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

In the Florida game, that same defense—or at least an improved version—allowed only 196 yards and held the Gators to six points on two field goals.

Yes, the Florida offense was somewhat diminished with starting QB John Brantley out with an ankle injury, and true freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett picking up the slack.

But, the defense had a new air of confidence that hasn't been seen this season. That should help carry them into the remainder of their schedule, especially this weekend against LSU. 

This is exactly where the staff wants that defense to be: improved.

On offense, there has been much criticism of the quarterback position, but it looks like Chizik has three guys that can alternate to be effective there as well.

The best surprise in the last game with Florida was second-string QB Clint Moseley coming into the game and providing some quality pass offense, going 4-of-7 for 120 yards.

There were no touchdowns for Moseley passing, but he seemed to bring some life and a refreshing change after the starter Barrett Trotter could only muster 33 yards in the passing department.

Moseley’s average was 12.9 yards per pass.

Kiehl Frazier just seems to get better and better with each game he plays, and he is Auburn’s future, not this year, but it’s coming.

The three of them seem to make a great combination on an improved Auburn offense.

In reality, the team and the coaches couldn’t care less about the rankings, whether it is the BCS or the AP prior to that.

As Chizik has always said, the rankings are for the fans and the press.

The Auburn Tigers will just continue to play and improve and the season will be no different whether the Tigers move up or out of the BCS as the weeks roll on.

It’s all about being the most improved team in the country by season’s end.

Considering all that was lost between last year and this one, that is an accomplishment to be proud of.  The rankings will just have to take care of themselves.