Why red-hot Auburn could pose the biggest threat to No. 1 Alabama

WPPROD

With another victory against another ranked opponent, Alabama has now improved to 8-0 on the season.

But while the focus entering their bye game next Saturday is on LSU in two weeks, a new surprising contenderhas  emerged that could actually challenge the mighty Crimson Tide late in the season: Their hated rivals, the Auburn Tigers. We’re not saying Auburn will pull off the upset (because betting against Alabama is like betting against the Harlem Globetrotters at this point) just that it’s something we should watch for down the road.

After being left for dead after two weeks, it turns out this Gus Malzahn guy actually can coach, with Auburn reeling off four straight wins and sitting at 5-2 overall. The biggest and most dominant win came Saturday, 56-3 against Arkansas.

Auburn was as dominant as the final score indicates. They jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back, racking up a silly 632 yards of offense including an even sillier 9.5 yards per carry. Their defense stifled Arkansas all night long, making Austin Allen’s night a living hell, and limiting the Razorbacks’ vaunted run game to an embarrassing 25 total yards on the ground. In their last two SEC games, Auburn has won by a combined score of 94-17.

Woah!

As Auburn enters the final third of their schedule, they’re the proverbial team “no one wants to play” in the SEC, the one that is red-hot and gaining confidence every week. Frankly, they probably were never as bad as we thought — their two losses are to Clemson and Texas A&M, who are a combined 13-1 this season — but there’s no doubt that this is the hottest club in the SEC, if not all of college football.

They’re also a team that could give Alabama trouble when they meet in the Iron Bowl way down the road at the end of November. At this point, it’s absurd to pick anyone to beat the Crimson Tide outright but Auburn could give them trouble.

Auburn’s run-heavy, misdirection-based offense has given the Crimson Tide problems in the past. They put up 34 points and almost 400 yards in the famed “Kick Six” game, and over 600 a year later, in an eventual 55-44 loss in 2014. Only time will tell if this Auburn offense is as good as those are, but they are certainly starting to hit their stride.

Kamryn Pettway has emerged as a real star, rushing for 192 yards on Saturday, after tallying 162 yards against Mississippi State two weeks ago and overall has four 100+ yard rushing games in Auburn’s last five contests. Johnathan Franklin now provides a change-of-pace threat at quarterback (he rushed for 39 yards Saturday) and Sean White is slowly evolving when he’s in the game at quarterback as well. The Auburn defense has been good all year; they ranked in the Top 10 nationally in points allowed entering the day, numbers that will go up after Saturday’s domination.

Add it all up, and it means that Auburn is playing its best football of the year, and could end up on a real roll entering that ‘Bama game. With matchups left against Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Georgia and Alabama A&M, they could be 8-3 and brimming with confidence entering that matchup on the final day of the regular season.

While Alabama’s entire focus is on LSU coming up, they should probably start paying attention to that other team across the state.

They’re red-hot and rolling, and might be the biggest threat to knock off the Tide.