Auburn Still a Work in Progress...
There are many optimistic Auburn fans who are prepared to go to Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30th to witness the game which will determine the champion of the Western Division of the SEC, with the winner going to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. This of course depends on three things; Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. The Arkansas thing will be decided on November 2nd in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Tennessee thing will be decided on November 9th in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Georgia thing will be decided in Auburn on November 16th. That's a hill even for a climber!
Now, don't write me off as a non-believer. I may have been the only person in the country to pick Auburn to finish in the "Top Twenty-five" with at least an 8-4 record...and...go to a respectable bowl game. I must admit that I did not see them beating Texas A&M, so the Tigers are even ahead of my schedule. Let's be realistic. Auburn has a good quarterback with an injured shoulder. Nick Marshall also has just recovered from an injured knee. Suspensions and injuries are part of the game of football and by this time of the year are beginning to affect every team in America.
Alabama lost its best defensive back and the captain of the secondary to a knee injury occurring while he was on the kick-off team. The loss of Vinnie Sunseri for the year because he was on the "Kick-Off Team" is only one example of the fact the Coach Nick Saban is no genius. He is the best recruiter in the United States, however. No matter what the situation is on November 30th, Nick Saban will put better football players on Pat Dye Field than will Gus Malzahn. You can ask any football man in the country and he will confirm this fact. The greatest thing about college football is that the best team does not always win (Auburn over Alabama in 2010).
From my standpoint, I think the Auburn-Alabama game this year will be a "duzzie". You know what a duzzie is. It's when the fans in both stands feel as thought they cannot sit down for fear of missing an important play. Alabama will be favored by 12 to 14 points. Coach Saban would take 3 points right now. Coach Gus Malzahn is a better game day coach than Coach Nick Saban! However, that might not be enough. Alabama out-mans Auburn at every position with the possible exception of center, and that's a tie between 6-5, 290 lb. Alabama sophomore, Ryan Kelly and 6-3, 297 lb. Auburn junior Reese Dismukes. Auburn can count on quarterback A. J. McCarron having a good day. The 6-4, 215 lb senior has directed Alabama to two national championships and is approaching three straight. No other quarterback has ever done this.
Auburn will field a potentially great quarterback for Malzahn's offense. Nick Marshall had never donned a practice jersey at Auburn until August of this year. The 6-1, 210 lb. junior has grown in the offense to the point where he is lethal running the zone read option. If he is healthy the Tigers can compete with Alabama. If he can't play, Auburn could be able to compete with Alabama, anyway. Freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson has gone from freshman red-shirt, fourth string to having to play in place of the much injured Marshall. At 6-5, 220 lbs., Johnson has more speed than Marshall although not as quick. He is very strong to have been playing high school football this time last year. Malzahn the "magician" can coach quarterbacks. Both have rockets for arms when it comes to the long ball. They both need to ease up on the short throws.
Auburn's best chance is with Marshall. He has the experience and the toughness to handle the offense. Nobody knows how good Johnson will be in a tight ball game. He may be great, but no coach wants a freshman running his offense unless his name is Manziel.
Alabama should win the game in November, but Gus Malzahn will have a good plan. If it works, look out! Auburn is leading the SEC in rushing and in red-zone defense. That's not too shabby for a team that was 3-9 just 11 months ago. We can't judge Coach Gus Malzahn against Coach Nick Saban at this juncture. Saban has won national championships at two schools and Malzahn has been a college head coach for less than two years.
On November 30th it will be the "rookie" going against the best college football coach we have seen since Paul Bryant, Bud Wilkinson, Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and Knute Rockne.