Back After Statement Win, Here Comes Auburn

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After Statement Win, Here Comes Auburn

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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It's mid-November and both Auburn and Malzahn are suddenly in play.

Auburn's convincing upset of top-ranked Georgia stands as a game-changer. Not only does the win blurry the College Football Playoff picture, but it gives Gus Malzahn, long on the hot seat, a signature triumph ahead of what is likely to be another iconic Iron Bowl at the end of the month. The Tigers absolutely dominated in the trenches, outrushing the Bulldogs 237 yards to 46. The end result, from the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, is a new narrative; it's mid-November and both Auburn and Malzahn are suddenly in play.

When the new rankings are announced, the Tigers, even with two losses, will inch closer towards that famed top four. The Auburn-Alabama showdown now stands as a division title bout, with the winner advancing to the SEC Championship Game for a clash, potentially a rematch, with Georgia. Should the Tigers finish the with victories over the Bulldogs, the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs again, there is a strong chance they will make the College Football Playoff. That scenario is one nobody envisioned after Auburn lost at LSU.

The letdown in Death Valley, a defeat that came after the visiting Tigers held a 23-7 lead, put pressure squarely on Malzahn. Though he led Auburn to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers went just 23-16 in the three years that followed. At 5-2 following the LSU game, Auburn has played with a special resolve since; in wins over Arkansas, Texas A&M and now number one Georgia, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 134-64. Malzahn enters peak season as the coach of one of the nation's hottest teams.

Saturday was an absolute shellacking. An early score from the Bulldogs turned into 30 unanswered points from Auburn. That fast, the Tigers turned into a contender. 

The SEC's leading rusher, Kerryon Johnson did what he does best with 32 carries for 167 yards. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw three touchdown passes. Defensively, Auburn completely shutdown Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who combined for just 48 yards and did not have a singe carry of more than seven. Though Chubb moved past Bo Jackson on the conference's all-time rushing list, his 27 yards were his fewest ever with at least ten attempts. Kicker Daniel Carlson converted all four of his field goal tries, becoming the SEC's all-time leader with 88.

It was a day to remember for the Tigers, beating the nation's top-ranked team by three scores. Already a moment for the history books, Auburn's performance could prove to be even more than that.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports