When you do something once, and it gets linked to by the best college football blog on the planet, making the bar graph for your daily traffic look like Manute Bol at a preschool, you do it again. So, here, folks, is the fear-o-meter, ready to tell you how horrified you should be, this time, by Auburn's defense.
It should be noted that everything on the list should denote some level of danger. For example, the swine flu, though it generally did nothing more than make your friend's roommate stay in his room for a few days, killed a bunch of people. And chinchillas, although initially disarming due to their cute appearance, alarmingly soft fur, and general adorableness, can kill by sinking their adorable and sharp fangs into their prey*.
What I'm trying to say is that there's no aspect of any team you can assume won't harm you: remember that Mike Kafka, one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, went 15/31 with no touchdowns and a pick against Miami of Ohio, that someone named Dwayne Priest, a running back for an 0-12 team, earned his only 100-yard rushing day by busting out for 127 against a run defense that spent large parts of the year looking relatively stout, and that we lost to Syracuse. Yeah, that Syracuse. So never relent, homies.
That being said, let's look at Auburn's defense, but I'm going to make you jump it up first.
* - not true at all
Defensive Tackles: Auburn starts junior Mike Blanc and senior Jake Ricks, and nothing I have read about either indicates that they're particularly special. Mediocre run defense starts up front, and if there's one thing Auburn has had this season, it's mediocre run defense. (before a thousand Auburn fans yell at me. Yeah, you held Mark Ingram to 30 yards. Read the thing I just read up above about how sometimes weird things happen. Allowing 161 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns a game over the course of a season doesn't go away when you shut down a really good running back in one game, even if you did win that game. Which you didn't.)
Fear-o-meter: Public Speaking
Defensive End: Antonio Coleman is Auburn's response to Corey Wootton, except without a half-season of confusing nonexistence. Coleman led the Ess-Ee-See in sacks with nine and was a pretty easy first-team all-conference pick. The 6'3, 260 senior was second-team SEC as a sophomore, and first team as a junior, and this past year, 15.5 tackles for loss, 12 QB hurries, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. Basically: he'll mess you up. He's not half the NFL prospect pre-Wootton injury was, but at the college level, he's got the speed and strength to please fans of violence against quarterbacks everywhere.
Fear-o-meter: kidney stones.
On the other of the line is Antoine Carter, apparently the second half of Auburn's plan to confuse o-lines with similarly initialed pass-rushers. You'd think Carter would have increased stats with teams forced to focus on Coleman, but it's really not the case.
Fear-o-meter: Most Dangerous Game
Linebackers: Auburn's scariness here depends a lot on the healthiness of name of the bowl week winner Eltoro Freeman. "The Toro", as I call him, was pretty damn good as a weak side linebacker for the Tigers, but a concussion kept him out of the Alabama game, and he's questionable for the Outback bowl. He's also had hamstring and ankle injuries on the year. This is a problem because you see, Auburn is really, really weak in terms of depth at linebacker. They came into the year already weak at linebacker, and then injuries to sophomores Spencer Pybus and Adam Herring as well as freshman Harris Gaston, and now, there are only three healthy scholarship linebackers: True freshman Jonathan Evans, who started for the first time against Alabama, middle linebacker Josh Bynes, and strong side man Craig Stevens. That's actually it.
All that said, the unit hasn't been as awful as you'd expect a 17-22 year old MASH unit to be. If Freeman's available to play, you're looking at mediocre unit prone to missing tackles and those types of things, but not a walking disaster. If he's not, you're looking at two mediocre players and a true freshman playing for 60 straight minutes, with all the problems they normally have exacerbated.
Fear-o-meter: With Eltoro, public speaking. Without, swine flu.
Cornerbacks: This is the one area where Auburn is actually really good on defense. Walter McFadden is Auburn's primary corner, and isn't too bad at that. Dude made second-team All-SEC with four picks and eight pass breakups. He seems like a shutdown corner you don't want to throw at, and the only evidence I have against that is Julio Jones' nine receptions for 83 yards in the Iron Bowl.
Elsewhere, Auburn has a few issues with the passing game. Neiko Thorpe is the secondary cornerback, and he, like, seven other Auburn players, has a pick, but nobody besides McFadden has more than one.
Fear-o-meter: Most Dangerous Game
Safety: Hoooooo doggy! After a season-ending head injury to Zac Etheridge against Mississippi, it's been pretty hit-or-miss back there. Mike Slade stepped in for him at first, but juco transfer Demond Washington is in. Meanwhile, at free safety, Daren Bates, a true freshman, has been plying his trade all year. Neither has done much of anything to impress anybody. The unit, already considered a weak one, became weaker, and basically, unless you're throwing right at Warren McFadden, passing against Auburn can be a good proposition.
Fear-o-meter: Swine Flu.
Overall defensive fear-o-meter: Public speaking.
A good defense doesn't allow 27 points a game, give up 353 yards offense per game, or allow opponents to score on 41 of 43 red zone opportunities. There's sparks of light on the defense: Coleman makes sure that opposing quarterbacks don't have much time to operate, and most of the time, McFadden will eliminate the opposing team's best receivers. But the truth is that teams can, for the most part, run at will against the Tigers, and excepting McFadden's side, there's not much resistance to the passing game.
In 12 games, Auburn only held one opponent below 20 points, and that was Louisiana Tech. Sure, Furman and Ball State were allowed to rack up 30 points because their defenses couldn't keep the Tigers on the field for more than 30 seconds at a time, resulting in a lot of possessions, but, still, they gave up 30 points to Furman and Ball State. The Tigers' best defensive performance came in the last game of the year, and that was in a 26-21 loss. (Yes, it was to Alabama, and they're good. But you get my point.)
Auburn won't beat you defensively, luckily they've got a very good offense to back it up.