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Two brief thoughts before Kentucky

This was fun. But let's not get carried away. (Unlike Kolton Browning, heh heh heh.)

1. This is the sort of thing that would have been a lot more useful to post immediately in the wake of the UL-Monroe massacre, and apologies to anyone out there who’s already made the comparison if I’ve missed it. But when considering how much stock to put in the performance of Heavy SEC Favorite X against Bodybag Opponent Y, it’ll do to remember the following comparison:

In Week 1, Auburn faced Arkansas State. The game remained competitive late into the third quarter and finished as a 52-26 Tiger win. Auburn fans universally agreed the defensive performance was badly lacking and that their team had to make major strides to compete against the better teams on the upcoming schedule.

In Week 1, Georgia faced the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. They controlled every facet of the game from start to finish in winning 55-7. Georgia fans universally agreed that the Dawgs’ level of domination was superior even to their usual level against opponents like this, and that their new-look defense and offensive balance had them well-prepared against the better teams on the upcoming schedule.

And in Week 2, Louisiana defeated Arkansas St. 31-24.

But here we are in Week 6. Auburn is 5-0 and sitting in the top 10. Georgia is 1-4, with back-to-back losses to inferior competition, and their head coach is in imminent danger of getting the ax at season’s end.

You get the point: the ULM beatdown was nice. But it means just as much as Georgia’s beatdown of the Ragin’ Cajuns did, i.e., virtually nothing.

2. I haven’t done too much reading during my absence–more pressing matters, and all–but I’ve tried to keep up as best I can, and checking in at TeamSpeedKills I found this interesting post from Year2 on where Auburn stands after five weeks in 2010 vs. where they stood after five weeks in 2009.

It’s the sort of post I want to violently disagree with, not least because of one glaring error (Auburn most certainly did not “struggle” with Tennessee a year ago; that was a comfortable win in both the box score and the scoreboard until the Vols’ meaningless score on the final play of the game) and the general “they’re not there yet” vibe.

But the truth is … Year2 is right. The win at a charged-up Mississippi St. was solid, but it wasn’t any more impressive than bossing the Vols in Knoxville in 2009. Surviving Clemson was a big notch in the mental toughness (and “win”) column, but in the end it won’t count for a whole lot more for the resume than beating West Virginia did a year ago. Auburn didn’t have a win like South Carolina at this stage last season, but the Ole Miss victory is a workable comparsion and frankly, Auburn doesn’t yet have the kind of overpowering win over a decent opponent like the 2009 Week 2 demolition of Mississippi St.

The point: we all assume this year is different from last year because of the immense potential we see in this team. Newton at quarterback. Fairley and Co. dominating the middle of the defensive line. New weapons at receiver and running back. The same ol’-same ol’ from players like Bynes and Carter and the Big Four on the offensive line.

But Auburn hasn’t yet proven that this year is different. They haven’t done anything yet they didn’t do last season. It’s all still potential, promise, hope.

This week, of course, is the time to change that. Last year Auburn lost to Kentucky. Last year Auburn didn’t win a second SEC road game. Last year Auburn started 5-0 and lost three games in a row.

The ranking and hype and fawning Newton and Fairley praise is all very nice. But beating the ‘Cats–on the road–will be the first hard, concrete, indisputable evidence that no, this is not last year. This Auburn is not that Auburn. We think that’s the case. But it’s time to know it.

Photo by Van Emst.

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