Tigers growing more confident each weekPublished 9:41am Wednesday, September 18, 2013
By Andy Graham
The Auburn Tigers moved to 3-0 after an exhilarating come-from-behind victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs 24-20 Saturday night in Jordan Hare Stadium.
The win equaled the Tigers victory total all of last year and ended an SEC winless streak of 10 games.
The importance of the MSU game was downplayed by Gus Malzahn, but in actuality it may have been the biggest game of the season.
A loss to the Bulldogs would have been devastating to the 2013 season moving forward.
No one outside of Lee County expects Auburn to beat LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.
I’m certainly not saying they can’t, but the Tigers are going to be considerable underdogs in all four of those games.
The games that are going to determine whether AU has a successful season or not are Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee.
The Razorbacks and Vols are on the road and the Rebels are much improved. That leaves the Bulldogs as the de facto easiest league matchup.
If Nick Marshall doesn’t lead a brilliant 88-yard drive for a touchdown in less than two minutes, the morale of the players and fans takes a nosedive.
It was also critically important to win Saturday night for the sake of confidence.
Victories over Washington State and Arkansas State were nice and important to a lesser degree, but Auburn went 0-8 in the SEC in 2012. They desperately needed to beat an SEC opponent to prove to themselves that the demons from last year have truly been exercised.
After the game, I couldn’t help but think back to 2004 when Jason Campbell led a game-winning drive in the final minutes to beat LSU 10-9. It was also the third game of the season, and that one drive somehow lifted all the frustration and disappointment from 2003.
Campbell and the Auburn team were infused with confidence and went on to go undefeated as SEC Champions.
In all fairness, that ‘04 team was much more talented than the 2013 team, but don’t ever underestimate the power of confidence in college football.
The method of the victory is far less important than the victory itself.
The 2010 national championship-winning team needed a last-second field goal to beat Kentucky. Winning breeds confidence, and confidence breeds winning.
Okay, now’s the portion of our program where I bring you crashing back down to earth.
Auburn is 3-0. I’m happy. You’re happy. We’re all happy.
Unfortunately, playtime is over.
The Tigers will travel to Baton Rouge, La. this week and face a different animal altogether than they’ve seen so far this season.
LSU is the No. 6 ranked team in the country for a reason, and a night game in the Bayou is as tough as it gets.
Auburn hasn’t had very much luck in Death Valley lately. In fact, the Tigers have lost by an average of four touchdowns in their last two visits.
We all know Auburn is a much better football team in 2013, but we’re about to find out how much better.
Oddly enough, LSU was the SEC team Auburn played the toughest in 2012 losing 12-10 in a grudge match.
If the Tigers had lost to Mississippi State Saturday night, I would have given them zero chance of pulling the upset this weekend.
The odds are still stacked against Auburn, but with every win my confidence continues to grow.
Graham is a sports columnist for The Outlook.