The last couple years, we've considered the SEC West to be the domain of Alabama and LSU. And why not? They stood atop the standings week after week, year after year. Auburn? In a post-Cam Newton, post-Gene Chizik world, they were little more than a post-Thanksgiving Iron Bowl snack for Alabama.
Not any more. With its 55-23 demolition of Tennessee, Auburn has established itself not just as a roadblock for Alabama's march to another SEC championship, but a valid challenger in its own right. At 9-1, with only a September loss to LSU darkening its record, Auburn under Gus Malzahn is a top-10 team, and playing even better than that.
Against an overmatched Tennessee, Auburn QB Nick Marshall ran for 214 yards — no, that is not a typo — and two touchdowns. Auburn scored on punts, kickoffs, and pretty much any other way possible. The Tigers have now won six straight, with the offense scoring at least 30 points every week and posting a margin of victory of at least 30 points in three of those games. That's some solid playmaking right there.
Auburn now faces Georgia in what will be the most important Tiger game in several years. From there, it's a two-week wait until the Iron Bowl and yet another showdown with Alabama. The Tide has won the past two Iron Bowls by a combined score of 91-14. It's a safe bet this year will be a little closer than that.