Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Auburn
By ESPN.com staff
Record: 4-2 (2-1 SEC)
The Tigers had a couple of streaks going prior to their 38-14 loss Saturday at Arkansas. They’d won 11 straight games against SEC teams and eight in a row against nationally-ranked opponents. The Hogs pulled away in the second half to win easily, but it’s still hard to give the Tigers anything lower than a solid “B” for the first half of the season. They’re one of the youngest teams in the league, but have continually found ways to win. The defense was the problem to start the season, as Auburn gave up 110 points and more than 1,600 total yards in narrow wins over Utah State and Mississippi State and then a 38-24 loss to Clemson on the road. But defensive coordinator Ted Roof believes his guys have made steady improvement since that Clemson game, and there’s reason to believe they will only get better. Of the 11 defensive starters last week against Arkansas, eight were sophomores or younger. The Tigers need to figure out the quarterback situation the rest of the way. Junior Barrett Trotter has hit a slump, and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn isn’t quite ready to turn it over full time to true freshman Kiehl Frazier. Auburn faces the third leg (and probably the most important leg) of a grueling October stretch this Saturday when Florida comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s the only home game of the four, as Auburn travels to LSU the following week. Beating the Gators could easily be the difference in the Tigers having a chance to win eight games or more this season and finishing .500 or worse.
Offensive MVP: RB Michael Dyer. As Auburn’s passing game has gone south, Dyer’s workload has increased. It sounds like the Tigers will continue to lean on him. He’s carried the ball 62 times in his past two games, including 41 times in the 16-13 win over South Carolina two weeks ago. Dyer is third in the SEC in rushing, trailing only Marcus Lattimore and Trent Richardson, and has 679 yards in six games.
Defensive MVP: DE Corey Lemonier. Cornerback Chris Davis also deserves some mention here, but he’s missed two games. Lemonier was prone to overrun plays earlier in the season, but he’s settled down and has been a big factor in the Tigers’ overall defensive improvement. He leads the team with seven tackles for loss, including four sacks, which ties him for second in the SEC. Lemonier has also forced two fumbles.