By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Three weeks into the college football season, and Auburn’s “New Day” campaign certainly seems to have merit.
At least, on the outside.
The Tigers are indeed off to a 3-0 start and seem to be riding high behind a new coaching staff and winning attitude that was glaringly absent during the 2012 campaign.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Auburn’s wins so far.
Against Washington State, the Tiger D made two late fourth-quarter stands to eke out a 31-24 victory in its season opener.
No, that’s not a typo. Yes, Auburn’s defense — a unit that was so lost a year ago, it seemed to make more appearances on America’s Funniest Home Videos than on the football field — came up with two crucial stops when it was pushed to the limit and asked to handle adversity.
The following weekend, the Orange and Blue routed a very formidable opponent in Arkansas State, a team that would have likely given last year’s Tigers all they could handle and then some.
That brings us all to Saturday’s matchup against Mississippi State. Auburn’s script was set up like so many games from a season ago. Whether it was Clemson, LSU, Ole Miss or even Vanderbilt, the Tigers were given several chances to steal a game or two, but were time and time again unable to make the critical plays late in the game to garner a victory.
However, that wasn’t the case on Saturday. Auburn, led by quarterback Nick Marshall, marched 88 yards in just less than two minutes before a C.J. Uzomah 11-yard touchdown catch put the Tigers in front of the Bulldogs, sealing a 24-20 victory.
Again, you aren’t misreading the text. An Orange and Blue signal-caller kept his cool, made big-time plays and, most importantly, snatched a game out of the jaws of defeat.
The win was Auburn’s first over an SEC opponent since a 41-23 home triumph over Ole Miss back during the 2011 season.
For those counting at home, that’s a span of 686 days — almost two whole years — and 10 contests.
So, while the victory may not bring a lot of national attention to the Plains just yet, it’s certainly a win of a large magnitude for a program that hasn’t had many of them very recently.
Now, a 3-0 start is certainly nice. The Tigers didn’t pick up their third victory last season until Week 12 — a rousing triumph over Alabama A&M.
However, what many fans and followers of Auburn are hoping to find out is how their team will play against the likes of LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.
The past seven games against those opponents have yielded some rather, ahem, embarrassing results for the Tigers.
The Orange and Blue have been outscored by a whopping 222 points — 32 points per game — during their current 0-7 stretch to the SEC’s best.
Malzahn will finally get to see just how far his team has come when it travels to Baton Rouge on Saturday to take on the Bayou Bengals in their first road matchup of the season.
Auburn has picked up just one victory — a 24-17 slugfest in 2010 — over LSU since the 2007 season.
It’s not so much important for the Tigers to pull off the upset over their SEC rival, but rather, to just keep it competitive and continue showing signs of improvement. A victory would simply be a bonus for Malzahn and company.
With 25 percent of the regular season already in the books, the Tigers are a remarkably more polished item than they were this time last season.
For Malzahn and the Tiger faithful, they can only cross their fingers that this upward trend continues well into November.