Saturday, December 04, 2004

12-0 and nowhere to go

Well, the final sellout of Auburn football has begun. After the Tigers notched a 38-28 win over a better-than-expected Tennessee team to win the SEC Championship Game and finish a perfect 12-0, they got no love whatsoever from the vaunted ESPN football analysts. Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, and Kirk Herbstreit all touted USC and Oklahoma as the unquestioned top two teams in the country, even though the Sooners garnered two wins this year due to last-play errors by 7-4 teams and the Trojans actually would have lost today to UCLA, a very mediocre team, if a referee hadn't blown the call on a USC fumble just before halftime. One of ESPN's analysts actually had the gall to say USC's victory today was much more complete than the 5-point margin suggested. We clearly weren't watching the same game.

Auburn didn't blow Tennessee out of the water, but so what? The Vols are a top-15 team that won nine games this year. Auburn already destroyed Tennessee on the road earlier this season, and the difficulty of beating a quality team twice in one year shouldn't be underestimated. (I'd like to see how USC would fare in a second game against California. And why don't we give Texas another shot at Oklahoma while we're at it?)

It's time for the number-crunching, so be sure to skip the next two paragraphs if you hate math. Auburn has beaten four ranked teams this year, more than USC (two) or Oklahoma (three). Auburn has won four games against teams with at least nine wins this year, more than USC (two) or Oklahoma (one). Only two teams, LSU and Alabama, have held the Tigers to a single-digit margin of victory. USC had four single-digit wins over Stanford, California, Oregon State, and UCLA. Oklahoma also had two single-digit victories, over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

Some football commentators have tried to justify Auburn's lower ranking by saying the SEC is weaker than normal this year, but it still produced seven bowl-eligible teams -- the same number as the Big 12, and two more than the Pac-10. We haven't even mentioned undefeated Utah, which hasn't played a close game all year and which dismantled the same Texas A&M team that took Oklahoma to the wire. And who's to say that unbeaten Boise State, little-
regarded or not, doesn't deserve a shot at the brass ring?

The moral of the story? The BCS is a miserable, pathetic failure, and Auburn and Utah -- my picks for No. 1 and No. 2 -- are about to pay the price for its ineffectiveness. Even worse, those teams won't get to face off in a shadow national title game in the Sugar Bowl. Instead, Auburn will draw two-loss Virginia Tech, and Utah will go to the Fiesta Bowl to play Pittsburgh, which needed overtime to beat a I-AA team this year. At least the Virginia Tech matchup will give Auburn a common opponent with USC. If the Trojans win the Orange Bowl, pollsters can compare their win over the Hokies to the Tigers' showing.

If Auburn finishes 13-0, it unquestionably deserves a share of the national title. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the voters are too obstinate to agree. USC and Oklahoma are at the top of the polls not because their play this year justified it but because they started the season there. Many poll voters are so stubborn that they wouldn't jump Auburn to No. 1 if it defeated the New England Patriots by three touchdowns.

This Auburn team looks like the best one ever on the Plains, but since university presidents think a playoff is the devil, the Tigers probably won't bring home a national title this year. It's a damn shame they won't get the chance they've earned.


Blogger W.C.G. said...

Hey, know why Auburn isn't playing in the national championship game?

Because Auburn sucks.

Dress it up however you like, but that's what it comes down to in the end. You know it, I know it, the voters know it, the computers know it. Auburn just sucks. No further justifications are required.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Through my standard-issue crimson-colored glasses? Yes, Auburn now and forever is the essence of that which sucks.

Setting aside my personal biases against teams that have orange as an official school color? Auburn got jobbed, and that's pretty clear if you've watched the top teams in action this year. I don't see a college team that could beat the Tigers right now.

Call me a freedom-hater if you will, but I've never had much of a problem with Auburn. In the end, state pride trumps any dislike of Auburn that I may harbor. If anything good has come of this postseason, it's that all four of Alabama's I-A football teams are going bowling. I don't know of any other state with that many major teams that's batting 1.000 on the bowl front.

11:50 PM  
Blogger W.C.G. said...

I think we view state pride differently.

For purposes of this argument, let's pretend I'm not in Georgia. I'm here to be cheap; my heart is in Alabama. That said, I recognize that within my state there are Things That Suck and Things That Don't. I want to be represented by Things That Don't.

Ergo, if Roy Moore runs for president, I will not support him out of some literal application of the support-your-state principle. If Tom Parker is nominated to the Supreme Court, I will oppose it at the top of my lungs, rather than just root for the guy from Alabama. And if Auburn wins a national title...well, I ask you, sir, do you want the nation to define us by our crappier aspects? By a bunch of cow-breeders who duck out of flag football games and stay in the Special Olympics divisions of journalism contests so they can sweep the awards?

I, for one, say screw you, Aubs. I'll take national recognition for Alabama's football prowress when I can get it through the proper channels.

In the end they did it to themselves. Top three reasons AU missed the national title game:

- The Citadel
- That one directional Louisiana school they played
- That other one they also played

Honorable mention:
- The chaotic administrative and coaching situation that caused voters to undervalue their returning talent in preseason polls. Totally self-inflicted there.

I have no sympathy.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

I suppose I should make some distinctions here.

For the Auburn administrators and trustees and their bungling, self-centered, short-sighted decisions, I have no sympathy. I hope they tear their hair out in agony now that their Bobby Petrino debacle and their soft scheduling have cost their football team a trip to the Orange Bowl.

For Tommy Tuberville, who pulled a Dennis Franchione on his players at Ole Miss and scurried off to the Plains in the middle of the night, I have no sympathy. Considering the shaft that his team got in the polls this year, the groveling that he had to do to save his job last year, and the bare cupboard that he'll have after this year's seniors graduate, karma is finally paying Tuberville back for what he did to everyone who trusted him in Oxford.

For the people at The Auburn Plainsman... OK, the Internet doesn't have enough space for what I have to say on that subject.

However, for the Auburn players who did everything they could this year to earn a national title shot short of offering sexual favors to all of the pollsters, I do have sympathy. Even if they did choose to go to a school where trailers are chic, they played the best football in the country this season, and basic fairness dictates that they should get a shot at the crown. So should USC and Oklahoma and Utah and Boise State and any other team that wins every single game it plays.

I have a huge extended family, and a decent number of them are Auburn fans who, aside from that, are some of the best people I know. That's probably why I've never developed a hatred for all things orange and blue. Besides, after what Alabama football has endured the last few years, that shot of Phil Fulmer bent over in pain with his bald head in his hands Saturday night meant more to me than any Auburn loss ever could have.

3:49 AM  

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