Phillip's blog: Voters do the right thing

You have to give the voters in the coaches poll credit. They continue to focus on what’s happened on the field and rank Auburn No. 2, despite an unprecedented amount of vitriol thrown in the Tigers’ direction.

Phillip Marshall, Senior Editor,

From ESPN analyst Lou Holtz’s utterly classless flinging of an Auburn helmet onto the floor, a move that should bring some sort of disciplinary action but won’t, to columnists and commentators assaulting quarterback Cam Newton’s character, the past two-plus weeks have truly been unlike any other.

The irony of it all is that, if you read the news stories that have been reported, some not very well, they are almost all about what other people did, not what Newton did. Only one story, quoting the mysterious “two sources who recruit for Mississippi State,” have even hinted that Newton might have broken NCAA rules. And even that was based on a supposed quote that could be interpreted more than one way. No story has implicated the Auburn program.

Yet, Newton appears to be losing Heisman votes. Auburn is being roasted nationwide. It would be easy for voters to be impacted by all that, but most of them apparently haven’t been. I mean, you could make a case Auburn should be ahead of Oregon, but I don’t believe that would have happened even without the flood of negativity.

Despite all the noise, all the message board conspiracies, all the wringing of hands, Auburn’s football team remains in the position it has earned for itself – two wins away from playing for a national championship.

It’s in the hands now of the players who have done what they had to do 11 consecutive times, but there’s little question they will face their most daunting challenge on Friday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama might not be at the dominating level it achieved last season, but it is very, very talented and will be very, very motivated. In some ways, it reminds me of the 1989 Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium. A two-loss Auburn team beat an unbeaten Alabama team 30-20.

This game doesn’t have the overwhelming emotional component of it being Alabama’s first visit to Auburn, but this one probably means just about as much to Alabama fans as that one meant to Auburn fans. And I expect the atmosphere to be just about as crazy as it was that day, when thousands milled about without tickets outside the stadium just to be a part of it.

There will be ugliness off the field Friday. You can count on that. There was ugliness then, too. Alabama coach Bill Curry had reported written death threats to the FBI.

But what matters most is that Auburn’s fate is in the hands of the players and coaches who have come this far. Either they’ll be good enough to do it or they won’t, but they have the opportunity they earned.

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