By Michael McCoy
September sure has been fun on the Plains. We had four straight games at Jordan-Hare, all wins. This year's offense is on pace to outscore last year's offense before we even make it to mid-season. The defense has stepped up when it's had to. The special teams...well, have you seen the offense? They're something, huh? All things considered, a veritable Era of Good Feelings has descended upon the Plains as we round off September, and why shouldn't Auburn fans enjoy it after a tumultuous 2008 and the widely panned hiring of Coach Chizik? While we've yet to be truly tested against top opposition, only Ball State is a game that was never in dobut before it began. Louisiana Tech may well prove to be the fly in the ointment of Boise State's BCS-busting charge when the Broncos visit Ruston in early November for a nationally televised Friday night game. A little over two weeks ago, Auburn rushed for almost 400 yards and gained nearly 600 yards of total offense on its way to 49 points against Mississippi State. A few days ago, LSU rushed for 30 yards and made just 12 first downs against that same defense. West Virginia will be a player in the Big East this season. The point is that it's not as if Auburn has accomplished what it has without facing some quality teams.
So yeah, the September experience in Auburn has been wonderful, but October will bring a different set of challenges, beginning with Saturday's prime time visit to Knoxville for a showdown with the Vols. Don't be fooled by Tennessee's record or Lane Kiffin's facade, his team will be ready to play on Saturday. It's their SEC home opener, it's a night game, and Neyland Stadium will be rocking. With the poise and confidence Auburn has shown thus far despite trailing in each game they've played, I would be surprised if we got rattled by the atmosphere, but you never know, especially with some young guys playing their first SEC road game. A bigger issue will be the players lining up across way. Eric Berry needs no introduction and with defensive guru extraordinaire Monte Kiffin pulling the strings, this will easily be the stiffest challenge our offense has faced. On the other side of the ball, the temptation may be to look at Crompton and laugh about Tennessee's offensive punch, but if they can run the ball with some success against a deep, talented Florida defense in the Swamp, there's no reason to think they can't do the same against our more limited defensive resources.
There's still no reason to view this game or the month of October with any heightened sense of trepidation. Yes, with five SEC games (three of them away) coming up, there's bound to be some disappointment, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of taking this show on the road. I've been discouraged by some things I've seen from our team in September (special teams anyone?), but the fight and perseverance our guys have shown up to this point has given me a sense of hope for the bleakest of scenarios that may lie ahead. We'll probably lose some battles, but we'll win a few too and there's no reason that the Era of Good Feelings that September brought can't still permeate throughout the East Alabama air come late November and early December. Let's see if the September experience translates in October and November, all the while enjoying the ride this team will take us on.