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SEC Week 9 Talking Points: West Division

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We’re running out west to see what’s being discussed in the SEC this week.

Arkansas v Auburn Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

So, Auburn opened up a can of whoop ass on Arkansas. Thoughts?

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Glad to see Auburn finally getting back to the foundation of Gus Malzahn’s offense: Running the football. My biggest pet peeve with the current state of football is the love affair with the forward pass. Football is a simple game: If you can control the line of scrimmage, you can control the game. If you can run the ball for 534 yards down your opponent's throat and wear on them physically, why the hell would you ever want to throw the football?

Auburn has stuck with a quarterback in Sean White who will not turn the ball over and can throw the ball downfield when asked to and decided to go back to being a run first team with Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson (who sat out vs Arkansas) and their assortment of skilled receivers all toting the rock 50+ times a game.

The consensus from many who cover the league has been that Auburn needs a quarterback who can stretch the field with his arm and legs. That was the case with both Cam Newton and Nick Marshall in varying degrees. What each of those two had was a strong running game. Whether it was Michael Dyer, Tre Mason or Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn had a back that complimented their quarterback well.

In essence, Malzahn’s offense is a modern version of the triple-option run out of a spread offensive look. RPO is one of those buzz words across college football nowadays and is typically used to describe these type of offenses. Call it a Run, Pass, Option if you want, but what this is is a triple-option offense.

I like what Auburn has done with their defensive line--what a difference it makes when Carl Lawson is healthy--and with the defense overall. Gus Malzahn said after escaping the magic of Les Miles that his team would carry the momentum the rest of the season. I was starting to believe him last week, now I’m all in riding in the front seat of the Gus Bus. I won’t be surprised if a 9-2 (6-1 SEC) Tigers team visits Tuscaloosa with the SEC West on the line. The last, and only, time that happened, well you already know.

Alex Dusza (@alexdusza): I’m an Ole Miss fan, so I’m already taking Tums ahead of this Saturday’s game. The revival of Auburn’s running game has been one of the revelations of the SEC thus far this season. They should run for approximately 7,400 yards against Ole Miss and the Iron Bowl is shaping up that it could be really interesting in another month.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): I mean, I called it two weeks ago after Auburn’s complete and utter destruction of Mississippi State: Auburn is a legitimate contender in the West. A 56-3 win over Arkansas certainly doesn’t change that assessment. This team is good enough to play with anyone in the country, and yes, that includes Alabama.

If you could pick one word to describe Leonard Fournette’s performance on Saturday, what would it be?

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Disrespectful. Look at this clip and tell me you think otherwise about the injustices that Leonard Fournette brought on Ole Miss Saturday night at Death Valley.

BLATANT DISRESPECT. Look, I get that Leonard Fournette is grown ass man and all, but there’s no room for that at this level of the game of football. Take that trash to Sunday...

Well maybe they’re not ready for that either.

Then again, the NFL could use some sort of entertainment, albeit disrespectful in nature.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): “Fournette.” Is that a copout? Well, it’s the performance we’ve come to expect from Fournette.

What is the best case scenario now for Texas A&M?

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): New Years’ Six bowl. For Kevin Sumlin--a guy who came into this season with some pressure to win--getting his Aggies team to a double-digit win regular season and a spot in one of the top bowl games would be considered progress for his program. Yes, Alabama still has surging LSU and Auburn teams left of the schedule, but nothing that we’ve seen this season would lead one to believe that it is conceivable for the Crimson Tide to lose two SEC West games in November.

The issue for most programs in the SEC--if not all--is that they use Alabama as the benchmark and anything less than beating Nick Saban and the Tide is considered a failure. I would have to vehemently disagree with that philosophy, particularly as it pertains to this Aggie program in 2016. The spring was marred with controversy, whether it was the after effects of losing Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen, or if it was a coach tweeting at a recruit decommitting from the program. 10+ wins and a berth in the New Years’ Six isn’t something many thought was possible when looking at the headlines in March and April.

Alex Dusza (@alexdusza): I do not see Alabama losing two games the rest of the way, so, agreed, probably a NY6 game should be a reasonable expectation at this point. I do think at this point that LSU could end up as the highest ranked (non-Alabama) SEC team and sneak into the Sugar Bowl, so the Cotton would be an awesome place for A&M to end up.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): Alabama would have to really screw up for the Aggies to win the West now, but even with the loss every other season goal for Texas A&M is still on the table. Win out and they’re in the Sugar Bowl, with an outside shot at the playoff depending on how the other conference races shake out. (There are other conferences? Who knew?) Granted, now that Auburn has morphed into a buzzsaw, the Tigers may force their way into a New Year’s bowl slot, though that arguably wouldn’t come at the Aggies’ expense.