While the season hasn't worked out as most Auburn fans had hoped, it might likely be much worse if not for the efforts of the defense, which has propped up an offense that still hasn't found its footing or a solid identity.
While the Tigers only rank sixth in the SEC in total defense, they are clearly one of the better squads in the country, especially with how often they've been placed in bad positions by an underperforming and inconsistent offense.
While the linebacker corps has exceeded expectations with its play, the heart and soul of the defense is found along the line.
Tackle Derrick Brown and end Marlon Davidson make up arguably the best defensive line duo in the nation — both have won SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors three times, or in six out of 10 weeks.
With Davidson held out last week against Ole Miss, Brown stepped up once again, leading the team in tackles with seven, including one for a loss on a play where he swept in late from the sideline to make an nice open-field tackle on Ole Miss running back Jerrion Ealy for a four-yard loss.
Brown's bone-jarring hit might be his best highlight reel play to date in a season filled honorable mentions. After shocking most everyone by returning for his senior season instead of being likely first-round pick in the NFL draft, Brown has only increased his stock, racking up 37 tackles, four sacks, eight tackles for a loss and forcing two fumbles so far. He'll likely be the top defensive tackle taken in the 2021 draft, behind only Ohio State defensive end Chase Young among all linemen.
"If they don't pick him first, then I don't think they made the right decision," said Davidson of Brown.
In his own right, Davidson has been close to unstoppable after following Brown's lead and returning for this senior season.
After struggling to finish plays last year, Davidson found discipline in the offseason, shedding pounds and gaining explosiveness and quickness. That effort has paid off so far, as he currently leads the team in sacks with 5.5, while also adding 34 tackles, a team-high nine tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles of his own.
Auburn will need both Brown and Davidson, as well as the entire defense, to continue their high level of play if the Tigers are going to upset rivals Georgia and Alabama in the coming weeks.
That shouldn't be too hard for the duo, who have truly looked like men playing against boys this season.