Of the four first-year head coaches in the SEC, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is having the best season to this point. His Tigers are 5-1, ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 2011 and coming off a game where they set a school record with 712 yards of total offense against Western Carolina.
Auburn certainly looks to be ahead of schedule with their rebuilding efforts.
The offense has thrived under Malzahn. The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing at 287 yards per game. Their trio of running backs -- Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant -- have all rushed for over 100 yards in at least one game this season. Even quarterback Nick Marshall reached the century mark with 100 yards rushing against Ole Miss.
Meanwhile, the defense has also shown signs of improvement. Although they’ve given up plenty of yards, the Tigers are ranked in the top half of the league in scoring defense. They have been solid in the red zone, and they’re making plays in critical situations.
The road ahead is not an easy one. Three of the Tigers’ next four games are on the road, including Saturday’s matchup with No. 7 Texas A&M. They finish the year with back-to-back home games against Georgia and Alabama. However, the Tigers are just one win away from bowl eligibility, a monumental step for a team who had just three wins a season ago.
Offensive MVP: C Reese Dismukes
When you lead the SEC in both rushing yards and fewest sacks allowed, it says something about your offensive line. For Auburn, Dismukes is the leader of that group. He also claims he leads his fellow offensive linemen with over 60 knockdowns this season, the only stat they keep track of on the line, but his impact goes far beyond the numbers. Every play starts with him, so if the offense falters, it’s on him. If they execute, that’s on him, too. Through six games, it’s safe to say Dismukes has helped trigger a lot of positive plays.
Defensive MVP: DB Robenson Therezie
Therezie wasn’t even a starter coming out of fall camp. The only reason he started the season opener was because of an injury to Justin Garrett, but he took full advantage of the opportunity. Therezie finished with seven tackles and two interceptions against Washington State, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Since that game, he’s found a permanent home at the Star position for the Tigers. He leads the team in both tackles (28) and interceptions (3), and he made a critical pick-six in Auburn’s 30-22 win over Ole Miss.