Auburn question 1: Saturday may have been the best overall performance by Auburn's defense this year. How has that unit grown from last year, and is the defense good enough to win a championship?If so, the key words will be "good enough." As demonstrated against LSU Saturday, Auburn is entirely capable of being dominant up front to stop the run, but as also demonstrated against Arkansas, the patchwork secondary is just as capable of being torched--repeatedly--by good quarterbacks and receivers.
The comparison with the 2009 defense is apt. Auburn's problem last season was across-the-board lack of depth. Not being able to substitute linemen or linebackers just killed the Tigers late in ball games, particularly against the run. That's been largely corrected this season--but only in the front seven. Behind them, the 2010 secondary has attritted almost as quickly as the '09 version.
The biggest difference, though, is obviously the dominant play of Nick Fairley up front. Auburn arguably hasn't had an interior lineman as disruptive and dangerous as Fairley since the days of his coach and mentor, 1988 Outland and Lombardi Award winner Tracy Rocker. The attention, double-teams and sheer terror generated by Fairley's massive push has opened up a path for linebackers Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens and Daren Bates to smother ball carriers, and helped to take some of the pressure off the beleaguered secondary.
In terms of winning and losing, you have to look at Auburn's defensive improvement in the second half...
Monday, October 25, 2010
Here's a link to my contribution for this week's al.com Blogger roundtable. A sample:
Posted by Will Collier at 10/25/2010