By HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
Jordan-Hare Stadium was an absolute party last Saturday night when the hometown Tigers took down the No. 10 Ole Miss Rebels. The LED light show pumped the fans up, the efficiency of the Auburn offense got them on their feet, Derek Mason’s defense kept them engaged and the post-game swag-surfing brought the whole feat together.
For Tiger fans, there were plenty of reasons to celebrate. After all, their team knocked off a top-10 opponent, improved to 6-2 on the season and proved that it was capable of playing with anyone.
All of these components are vital in the building of a culture and a successful program; none of which are as important as what Bryan Harsin’s squad achieved by taking down the Rebels in 2021.
Auburn controls its own destiny. The path to the SEC championship is simple for the Tigers: win out. The team does not need any outside help, nobody has to lose and there will be no need for fans to hope for a miracle. All their squad needs to do is take care of its remaining four opponents, beginning with No. 13 Texas A&M on Saturday.
Here’s how the Tigers escape Aggieland with their championship dreams alive:
1. FEED TANK BIGSBY.
For the first time this season, Tank Bigsby looked like himself for the entirety of a contest against Ole Miss. Granted, the Rebel run defense is shaky at best; nonetheless, the standout sophomore posted 140 yards on 23 carries and posted a touchdown on the ground. It felt like he was back to where most expected him to be as a threat in the ground game. For Mike Bobo’s offense — who will likely try to develop the run game before opening up the pass game — giving Bigsby touches will be crucial. Let the young tailback build upon a confidence-boosting effort in week nine.
2.PLAY LIKE THE AUBURN SECOND-HALF DEFENSE FOR 60 MINUTES.
To this point in 2021, the Auburn defense has developed a tendency to perform significantly better in the second half of contests than it has in the first 30 minutes. This was spotlighted in the week nine victory over Ole Miss, the Tigers allowed just three points in the latter portion of the contest. For fans of the orange and blue, this is both a blessing and a curse going into week 10. The upside? Auburn will likely have the opportunity to secure a win even if it enters halftime trailing by a reasonable margin. The downside? A comeback will be extremely difficult against the No. 28 defense in the country. The best-case scenario for the Tigers is to play 60 minutes of stifling defense.
3.CHEW CLOCK. CONTROL TIME OF POSSESSION.
Auburn did an outstanding job of keeping the ball away from its opponents in last week’s contest with Ole Miss, maintaining possession for 33 minutes via a slew of long, unhurried drives. Granted, the Rebel defense is nowhere near the same caliber as that of Texas A&M; the Tigers should still aim to replicate the results. The longer Auburn’s offense is able to hold on to the ball, the more exhausted the Aggie defense becomes and the shorter the time Jimbo Fisher’s offense has to operate.
4.SET UP FOR HIGH-PERCENTAGE PLAY CALLS.
Texas A&M has developed one of the premier defenses in the SEC. The unit has allowed only 15 touchdowns on the season and just north of 329 yards per contest. If Auburn wants to seize the opportunity to take down the No. 13 team in the land, it will need to be in position to execute high-percentage plays. The Tigers have struggled with plays downfield and will likely need to steer clear from challenging the Aggie secondary as much as possible. Developing steady drives and third-and-short situations will play out in their favor.
5. FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND.
There will certainly be added pressure with the possibility to win out and play for an SEC championship — and vengeance against UGA — in December; the Tigers have at least 240 minutes of football to play before that opportunity shows itself. It is remarkably easy to forget that you have a job to do before you find yourself in the big dance. Harsin’s coaching staff should be employing its squad to block the future out of their minds and enter college station focusing only on taking down the Aggies.