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Auburn Panel: LSU week

Where does Can Newton stand in the Heisman race now?

Bill Meador: I don’t like the individual awards talk until the season is over because many times things happen that affect the discussion. I would have to say that Cam Newton has been everything Auburn fans could have hoped for up to this point. He is the player and the leader that has brought us to where we are. He must be in any conversation when there is awards talk.

Jonathan Jenkins: Three weeks ago I would have said that Cam was an outside dark horse since he had no preseason Heisman hype. I still think that the preseason advertising has Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Oregon’s LaMichael James ranked ahead of Cam, but not for long. After seven games, Cam already has over 2,000 yards total offense and 25 touchdowns; well ahead of other contenders. Besides, the other guys don’t play in the SEC!

Rick Dunn: I believe that in the minds of most voters, at least at this point, it is his to lose. You never know who could emerge or if Cam could stump his toe along the way. There are several weeks of play remaining. I don’t think that it is wise to speculate too early in the season. Additionally, football is a team sport, and Cam seems to understand that.

What are the odds that Cam Newton goes to the NFL after this season in what otherwise is a soft draft class at his position?

Bill Meador: Newton’s size, athleticism, poise and leadership qualities make him a great candidate for playing at the next level. I think that the NFL is such a passing league that another year honing his passing skills would really help (ask the guy he played behind at Florida). Should Newton decide to go to the NFL early, he will be one of the top picks and the odds are good that he might go.

Jonathan Jenkins: On the surface, the odds look good, but the NFL looks at more than sensational style and winning ability. Cam has yet to prove that he can be a prolific pro-style passing quarterback. Yes, he’s made some big plays in the passing game, but Auburn doesn’t pass the ball 30 to 40 times a game. If forced to be a passer by LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama — and if he rises to that challenge — then yes, Cam could go in the first three rounds. However, without a clearly displayed passing performance, the NFL may bump him down to round six or seven. If that’s the case, Cam would be better served to play out his career at Auburn in 2011.

Rick Dunn: I believe that it would be a huge mistake. Cam is a Vince Young type of player, but he still has a great deal to prove as a passer. I am not saying that he is not capable, but seven games do not a career make. He may end up being a being a receiver in the NFL. Who really knows at this point?

Where do you put Wes Byrum on a list of Auburn Tiger greats?

Bill Meador: I know AU has had some terrific kickers through the years and I agree Wes will finish right up there with any that one would chose to try to compare. He has been consistent as well as knocking down some clutch game winners.

Jonathan Jenkins: Most people don’t understand how difficult it is for a kicker to lead his school in all-time scoring. Especially when a kicker can only score in multiples of 3s and 1s while other positions score in multiples of 6. When you consider that Bo Jackson, Carnell Williams, Pat Sullivan, Joe Cribbs and Dameyune Craig have lit up the Auburn scoreboard in my lifetime while Jimmy Sidle led in yesteryear. Byrum has cooly and consistently been Mr. Automatic for Auburn since he got there as a freshman. Several games have been decided by his toe. He belongs among those other great Auburn Tigers.

Rick Dunn: You have exposed me with that question. I fall in that group of fans who take FG kickers for granted, until they miss. His record speaks for him. I hope that his consistency will allow him to play at the next level. I would put him somewhere above Kenny Irons.

Can Auburn win a defensive slugfest if LSU neutralizes Newton and the rushing game?

Bill Meador: Auburn’s defense has been absolutely atrocious against the pass this year, but pretty good against the run. That said, Auburn has had a couple of games where the defense has stepped up and gotten the job done. I believe that they can and will slow LSU down enough to beat them.

Jonathan Jenkins: ABC’s Keith Jackson was fond of saying that college football allows anyone to be Walter Mitty for a day. Look for this year’s Auburn-LSU game to make a once-in-a-lifetime hero out of someone we wouldn’t normally expect to be one. Auburn won a defensive game with Mississippi State. LSU won a shootout with Florida. Both teams have proven they can play the other’s game. Although LSU doesn’t have consistent quarterback play, they do have Les Miles. Let’s just hope that the game isn’t decided by a Les Miles decision.

Rick Dunn: Though it has yet been confirmed, I believe that Cam can beat you with his arm if you adjust to stop him from running. The defense would have to make some adjustments in order to truly neutralize him, which would present other opportunities. Would the coaching staff recognize and capitalize on those situations? I hope so.

Who is your pick to win this weekend and what’s your final score prediction?

Bill Meador: This will be huge Cat fight, but the Auburn Tigers win this one 36-27.

Jonathan Jenkins: Auburn 37 LSU 27

Rick Dunn: Auburn wins, 31 – 24.