Originally posted on Talkin' College Football  |  Last updated 11/29/10

Following Auburn’s torrid comeback from a 24-point deficit at Alabama last Friday, there is no doubt the Tigers’ offense is national championship-worthy.  But the question throughout all of the 2010 season has been can Auburn’s defense hold up enough to give their offense a chance to win it.

As much as the huge comeback win over Alabama was attributed to the offense putting up 28  points to ‘Bama’s 3,  the defense showed up in the second half, too.

Nick Fairley is a bona fide All-America candidate at defensive tackle.  He disrupted things in the middle and ended the day posting two solo sacks and two tackles for loss, for a total of minus-30 yards (15 via sack, 15 via TFLs).  The defensive front, which includes the linebackers, too, can be solid overall and they can also pressure the passer.  Pass coverage has been the Tigers Achilles heel, and that’s where Alabama made the most of their opportunities in the first half.  Fortunately for Auburn, the defense as a whole, and the pass defense in particular, pulled it together in the second half.

Alabama’s passing game put up astronomical numbers in the first half en route to a 24-0 lead.  QB Greg McElroy was 19 out of 23 for 335 yards.  That’s a great GAME for most people.  In order to do that someone had to catch those passes.  All-America WR Julio Jones was outrageous–seven receptions for 174 yards–again, a tremendous game total any receiver would be proud to have.  RB Mark Ingram contributed big time in that first half with 91 receiving yards.  Despite all of that, Auburn did manage to sack McElroy twice.  But, the second half was as different as night and day.

If the first half was a dark time for Auburn’s “D”, the second half was bright sunshine.  The Tigers limited to Alabama to just 67 total yards of offense in the second half compared 379 in the first.  The Tide only clicked on 8 of 18 passing for a measly 42 yards in the second half and Auburn’s defense came up with three more sacks of Alabama QBs.  One was quite significant; McElroy, the outstanding senior, team leader, suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder when he was driven into the ground on a sack late in the fourth quarter.  Jones was not blanked in the receiving department in the second  half, but his three catches were for only 25 yards.

Aside from Fairley, Auburn also got great production out of LB Eltoro Freeman who totaled 9 tackles, including a solo sack and two tackles for loss.  CB  T’Sharvan Bell also has the same numbers in the minus yardage play categories, evidence of the Tigers bringing some heat from the secondary.

Cam Newton and the rest of the Auburn offense is exciting to watch and very explosive, but there has not been a team who has won the national championship with a shaky defense.  The Tigers are yielding about 25 points per game and 363 yards of total offense (108 rush & 255 pass).  That’s good enough to beat most people given Auburn’s offense.  They are not a big INT defense, in fact, Auburn has only picked off opposing QBs eight times out of 441 attempts.  As mentioned before, they can get after the QB a fair amount–30 sacks on the year.  The key in the very near future will be for Auburn’s “D” to play with the sense of urgency, tenacity, and execution they did the last 30 minutes against Alabama.

If Auburn gets past South Carolina in the SEC title game this Saturday, and Oregon takes care of business vs. rival Oregon State in their “Civil War”, the bottom line is– will the Tiger defense be good enough against the Ducks?  If both teams hold form, we will have to wait until Jan. 1oth  to find out.  That gives Auburn’s defense a good month to get ready for Oregon’s electric, scoring machine of an offense…but, it also gives the Ducks time to come up with a couple of new wrinkles, too,

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