While the powerhouse teams in the Southeastern Conference‘s Western Division get the majority of the attention, there is a smaller story going on that many may not have noticed.
Sure, everyone wants to read about the Alabama Crimson Tide, the LSU Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies (and Johnny Manziel, of course). When looking at the standings in the mighty SEC West, a surprise name is currently tied for second; it’s the Auburn Tigers, who are 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
After last season’s miserable 2-10 season, Gene Chizik was fired as head coach and he was replaced by his former offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, who returned to the Plains after one season as head coach at Arkansas State. Malzahn was calling the plays when Cam Newton led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship three seasons ago.
Malzahn is known for his fast-paced, high-scoring offenses. However, the 2013 Tigers have yet to score more than 38 points in a game this season. Malzahn continues to work with new quarterback Nick Marshall and the offense, which seems to be making strides.
The surprising unit for Auburn this season has been the defense. The Tigers are currently third in the conference in scoring defense (22 points per game), despite being 96th in the country in total defense. That means that this defense is the definition of “bend, but don’t break” on that side of the ball.
Auburn’s best win of the season came on Saturday night, when the Tigers upset the nation’s 24th-ranked team, the Ole Miss Rebels. Marshall had a big game on the ground, scoring two touchdowns to help Auburn pull the upset.
The schedule will get tougher as the season moves forward, but Malzahn should be able to find at least two more wins on the schedule, which will get Auburn back to postseason play this season. That’s quite a step up from only two wins last year.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.