There is a lot of excitement building around this year’s Auburn football team, led by an experienced defensive line and freshman quarterback Bo Nix. Through 4 games in the young season, Auburn is 4-0 for the first time since 2014 and have jumped significantly in the polls. In early August, when the preseason polls were released, Auburn was ranked 16th in the nation. Heading into week 5, the Tigers have climbed into the No. 7 spot in the latest poll. The higher that Auburn climbs in the polls, the more pressure that is put on the team for a potential playoff appearance. The question is, how will the Tigers be able to handle the limelight?
Auburn was thrown right into the fire in week one when they faced then-ranked No. 11 Oregon in Arlington, Texas to kick off their season. It was a highly publicized game, college gameday was hosted from Fort Worth and it was the only match up in week 1 where both teams were ranked. All eyes were on Bo Nix and how he would be able to perform in front of one-hundred thousand fans. The true freshman threw two interceptions early, but settled in late and led Auburn back from a 21-6 deficit to win 27-21. This win propelled Auburn to join 4 other SEC teams in the Top 10 for week 2.
Following two home wins, Auburn traveled to College Station to face the 17th ranked Texas A&M Aggies for their SEC opener. While it was now known Bo Nix has the capability to play in an intimidating environment and under the national spotlight, Texas A&M is a whole other case. The trip to Aggie land was Auburn’s first true road game, and the home of the 12th man is a hostile atmosphere for visiting teams. Especially if you are an SEC team, where the match ups are always physical. The game was broadcast nationally on CBS and a top 10 Auburn team walked away with what Gus Malzahn described as a “big boy win”.
This win made a huge statement: that Auburn can go on the road and beat ranked opponents. The win added to their resume, but also means that they likely have a larger target on their back.
Now, in the latest AP poll, Auburn holds the No. 7 spot when they host Mississippi State this weekend. Auburn has made the 2nd largest jump in the rankings since the preseason, only behind No. 8 Wisconsin. When asked about blocking out the media and a potential college football playoff appearance, “We’re pretty isolated,” head coach Gus Malzahn said at his press conference Tuesday. “We’re not worried about any kind of talk like that [college football playoff] until we get to November”.
From what we’ve seen so far in the season, Auburn has been able to perform well with the pressure of being one of the top teams in the nation.