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Auburn Panel: Ole Miss week

How has Auburn’s defensive unit grown from last year, and is the defense good enough to win a championship?

Jonathan Jenkins: Auburn’s defense has shown moments of brilliance all year. Moments. However, during the fourth quarter of the wild and wooly Arkansas game, the Tigers defense seemed to come into its own by forcing three turnovers and scoring a TD as Auburn outscored Arkansas 28-7 in that final quarter to win. Against LSU, Auburn began to force punting situations. Yes, they gave up 17 points to the #6 team in the nation, but they seemed to be playing with purpose for the first time this year. Previously, they seemed to consider themselves the intermission act between Cam’s touchdowns. Confidence is important on any level. Is it enough to win a championship? There are no champtionship games until December and January. So far, Auburn hasn’t been invited to play in either; therefore, we’ll have to wait and see.

Rick Dunn: We have made much progress since last year and I do believe that we can muster enough defensive production to win a championship.  We still have issues and are not the type of defense that we have traditionally been.  But we are also not the type of offense that we used to be.  Any way you look at it, at the end of the day we are averaging 15 more points a game than our opposition.  We should continue to improve on both sides of the ball.

Bill Meador: I thought the Tigers DID play better defense against LSU, but we need to remember that it was LSU and they have struggled offensively most of the year.  Auburn is much more mature and deeper than last year. Wheather we are good enough defensively to win a championship depends on who we are matched up against. Real good passing teams would give AU a tough time, but we are getting better.

Any chance Auburn suffers a letdown this week after three tough games in a row?

Jonathan Jenkins: Never count out any team coached by Houston Nutt. Ole Miss was supposed to have a cinderella season with transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, while Cam Newton only received two brief paragraphs in the Auburn media guide on a page with 3 other Tigers. The first eight weeks of the 2010 season have written an entirely different story. Yet, Masoli still has natural talent and Nutt is still an outstanding coach. Chizik and the Tigers know those two facts. Expect Ole Miss to control the first quarter as much as 14-3, but Auburn will be alert.

Rick Dunn: I don’t think so.  We may not be on top of our game, but I do not think that will translate into a loss.  I truly feel that the only thing that can stop us this weekend would be several turnovers and excessive penalties.

Bill Meador: Ole Miss certianly has the athletes and ability (as most any SEC teams do) to beat Auburn. This game scares me a lot.  Auburn has enough senior leadership to stay focused and win what will be a very tough road game.

Can Auburn survive the rest of their schedule relying so heavily on Cam Newton, more specifically, his legs?

Jonathan Jenkins: LSU played third down defense with only six men in the box; whereas, Auburn had five linemen, a tight end, and Cam. What many people are overlooking is the fact that Cam hasn’t been touched until he gets to the secondary. Why is that? Is it only the “Cam Newton Show”? No. Most people and especially sports reporters never give offensive linemen credit. Chizik and Cam have repeatedly given credit to the O-line as they name Lee Ziemba, Ryan Pugh, Bobby Ingalls, Andre Harris, Jared Cooper,  and TE Philip Lutzenkirchen as members of the “Cam Escort Service.”

Rick Dunn: I think that we have other options that could also be successful.  When the quarterback runs the ball, you have one more blocker available, there are no hand offs that are dropped, and there are no dropped or intercepted passes.  Many coaches say, “We will run it until they stop it”.  I think that is what we are doing.  It also opens up other options and I predict that we will see some of those options this weekend.  Physically, Newton appears to be holding up very well.

Bill Meador: As I have said before, Cam Newton can pass very effectively. Remember back to the La Monroe game where Newton did not run one time? He will not get that game plan this week against Ole Miss, but can look forward to the UT Chatanooga game for a rest from running . That should allow him to get the rubber out of his legs for the stretch run.

Who do you think will be a key player this weekend and what is your final score prediction?

Jonathan Jenkins: Wes Byrum and Cam Newton will solidify their names in the AU record book. Look for Michael Dyer to have another 100-yard rushing game. Also, watch as either Fannin or McCalebb finish with 100 yards of combined rushing and receiving. Then, at some point in the game, Demond Washington will break a long kickoff or punt return.

Rick Dunn: I think that it will still be the Cam Newton show, but we will see a little more of what he can do with his arm.  I also think that if Dyer’s knee is ok, he will go for over 100 yards.  Masoli takes such a deep drop, Fairley may not have a sack, but he will have an impact. Auburn wins, 38 – 27.

Bill Meador: I don’t have any other key player but look for more of the same against the OM Rebel Black Bears offensively. I hope the defense can continue to improve. It will be a tough game, but AU 42- Ole MIss 24.