Maybe it's unfair to suggest that Auburn has finally proven its bona fides as a good team in the crowded SEC West. After all, even before tonight's victory against Ole Miss, the Tigers were putting together a strong of solid (but not spectacular) wins, with their only loss coming against a great LSU team. Auburn didn't look like world-beaters, which is not really their goal this year, but they did look like a quality squad.
But Saturday's win against the Rebels showed both the promise and the pitfalls of a lo-fi approach to winning in the West. Nick Marshall was 11-of-17 passing for 93 yards. That's it. But he ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries as the Auburn ground game churned out 282 yards.
At the same time, after leading 20-3 and 27-9 at various points in the game, the Tigers let Ole Miss back into the game before finally slamming the door shut. On the evening, Auburn allowed Ole Miss to ring up 464 yards on 89 plays, or about 5.2 yards a pop. So the Tigers beating Texas A&M or Alabama seems unlikely this year, but placing fourth in the SEC West would have to be considered success for Gus Malzahn's first season.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, is suddenly fighting for a spot in a bowl. There are at least four and maybe five winnable games on the rest of the schedule, giving the three-win Rebels a little bit of a cushion. But after a first season full of promise, it suddenly looks like Ole Miss is taking a step back in Hugh Freeze's second campaign. Which is a warning of a kind for Auburn that a good beginning does not always mean smooth sailing.