Posted: 12:50 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, 2013
As I reflect on it, it's kind of a blur, and not because it was soaked in alcohol. It was just a really similar feeling to what happened in the Mississippi State game, as a fan: It was a little unnerving and it was cautious optimism. And it was a win that this team needed so badly. "Experts" had this Auburn team pegged as a six-win team. "Experts" thought that this team would make baby steps toward a hopeful 2014 turnaround, not giant leaps toward a competitive 2013.
That was before Auburn 30, Ole Miss 22.
This season's opponents were distinctively divided into three categories:
The Likely L's: Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M; and Georgia.
The Likely W's: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic.
The Swing Games: MIssissippi State, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.
And now, Malzahn's Tigers have notched 2-of-2 on that final board. More importantly, this victory has practically assured that Auburn's worst entry into November will be at 6-2 and possibly in the top 25, with Arkansas and Tennessee staring back, waiting to define the season.
Carl Lawson -- Welcome, Mr. Lawson. A man who has been one of my favorite Auburn players of all time before ever stepping on the field, he formally introduced himself on Saturday. He was nasty. He had a little skip in his step (literally). And he is going to be a handful for the next two to three years. But even more importantly? The entire defensive line manhandled its Ole Miss counterpart. And largely, the offensive line did the same. Two areas that were glaringly weak last season have come quite some distance, and the only real answer is that Coach Malzahn hired assistants who aren't just great recruiters and pals, they're great leaders of young men.
Hugh Freeze - Hugh Freeze wouldn't take a poncho to a hurricane party. Hugh Freeze never before sampled hot sauce on his burrito without having an ice water nearby. Hugh Freeze walks around the locker room completely naked doing activities that typically involve clothes, like reading a book. Hugh Freeze hits on 21. Hugh Freeze buys lotto tickets then pays for a family vacation to Nepal before the numbers are announced on Tuesday. Hugh Freeze farts in libraries. Hugh Freeze buys the $2,000 fridge at Best Buy and doesn't buy the $50 warranty. Hugh Freeze chews Cinnaburst with the paper on because "it dissolves." Hugh Freeze watched the "LOST" finale and worked his way backwards. Hugh Freeze, Les Miles and Tommy Tuberville walked into a dice-rolling contest and Hugh Freeze unzipped his pants because that's how he thought it worked.
Hugh Freeze pours yesterday's coffee in his cup and takes a full-blown gulp.
Nick Marshall's injury - How bad is it? I'm sure we'll have a real answer by the time this post is read, but I'm also sure that it will be "he's fine." It was clearly nagging. And the clear, hopeful correct answer is, "Get ahead by 21 points and turn it over to Johnathan Wallace next week."
Because if it's serious, you're going to have to pull Jeremy Johnson's redshirt. We're way past "mailing it in" on this season, and you have to give yourself the best chance to win. Let's hope it's not that serious.
Cassanova McKinzy - Cass sat in with us on the old EYES ON AUBURN on terrestrial radio, and I love the kid. Just a terrific person who has fought hard to become a pretty good football player. I'm very hopeful the reports are as encouraging as they lead to believe, and that he gets back on the field soon. I've been rooting for him since meeting him, and I'm eager to see his bright future.
DE-FENSE (CLAP CLAP) - I knew Coach Johnson would know what to do with this team, because he had done it against Arkansas State. But here's the deal, a deal I feel like I'm beginning to be repetitive about, but whatever: Coach Johnson took chicken "you know what" and made it chicken salad. These kids weren't fighters last year. They had no heart. They had given up. And for Coach Johnson, they may make mistakes, but they "make 'em big." This secondary may get burned once or twice a game, but it is also all over opposing receivers, tipping balls and already picking off more than it did in the entirety of last season. This secondary is better than it has been since, possibly, 2008. Or earlier. It was never this good under Chizik, a secondary coach. Its failing under Chizik is one of the mysteries we may never have explained of what "really went down."
Ole Miss - All of that said, and while I am thrilled with the performance and hopeful about what it can mean for the 2013 season, who anointed Ole Miss the "next big thing?" The Rebels were 7-5 last season? They had a couple of good recruiting classes?
I mean, it's still Ole Miss. One of Ole Miss' best seasons ever ended with a Cotton Bowl victory; the best in my lifetime. Why did we decide that this team "was going to be really good?" Was it a media bro assumption? Media bros that think people who aren't in their industry can't have an opinion as mighty as their own?
Because while I thought Ole Miss would be "okay" or "alright," I have never viewed the Rebels as superior to this Auburn team. And that was clearly proven on Saturday.
We have no idea what to make of Tennessee anymore. Or Georgia. It's a wild season in the SEC, right? After Alabama, what do we really know about anyone? I don't think South Carolina or Texas A&M; are that good. Georgia is dealing with injuries and showed that it's vulnerable, but Georgia is always vulnerable.
Auburn's remaining October is predictable. In two weeks, it could shock the college football world, but otherwise, it's easy to have an expectation for how this will go. I'm eager to sit back, enjoy and prepare for November.