Photo: Julie Bennett, AL.com
It’s been a week now since the loss to FSU in the BCS title game and I think I’m ready to talk about football again. While most of us have experienced some sort of self-exile from the topic, mine didn’t last as long as I feared it might. No matter how much the results of last Monday night should get me down, it just doesn’t. While my head constantly wants to flash to individual plays and squandered opportunities of that one game, how do you dwell on the last four hours of what was a four-month long magic carpet ride? Being the first SEC team to lose a BCS title game to an outsider should carry a greater stigma and sense of failure, but I’m just so proud of what this team accomplished that it rolls off like water.
After the 2010 season, I thought for the first time what it was like to be the loser of that game. Putting myself in Oregon’s place, I tried to imagine, as a player and as a fan, what it was like to scale the mountain but not summit. I was left feeling real empathy for the other team. I’m glad I did that because it’s certainly helped in the last seven days. Perhaps this interval has given me a greater chance to reflect back on 2013. Here are a few of the many things that I took away from the 2013 college football season.
Football is a moment in time. We play football games, not series. It doesn’t matter if the other team might beat you the best three out of five, or you beat them four out of seven. You don’t get to dollar-cost average in football. It’s a single game and you are forced to deal with all the chance that comes with it : weather, injuries, travel, media distractions. The season is sequential. Every game before the next is unique yet cumulative in it’s weight. Maybe Alabama was a better overall team than us. Maybe we could have beat FSU in a rubber game. Maybe no one could have beaten us if we had played the game in mid December. All of these factors are relevant but none matter. You got one shot. No regrets.
Coaching matters way more than I ever gave it credit for. What Gus Malzahn accomplished with essentially the same roster as Gene Chizik dispells any notion I previously had that coaching inertia lagged behind the program by a year or two or three. In a profession that I feel gets way too much credit for the good stuff and significantly more for the bad, the Malzahn case study isn’t going to do anything to dissipate the desire for quick coaching fixes. Maybe it was a one-in-a-million shot or a perfect storm, but Gus Malzahn just seems right for Auburn. From his humble, over-achieving posture, to the tailor-made for Auburn offensive schemes, Gus has been the answer. He’s carried on the strong recruiting acumen from Gene Chizik and landed seemingly the perfect defensive coordinator that pairs with his brand of offense. There’s just too much going on here to be a coincidence.
The BCS wasn’t so bad. Might sound patronizing from a fan of the team that lost the last BCS title game, but for all the maligning done on and about the BCS, it was very successful at the one job it was created to do: match the one and two teams for a national title game. It’s not the BCS’s fault that people kept trying to introduce mission creep into it’s mission statement. It wasn’t designed to determine rankings from 3rd on down. That is and has always been the job of the polls. The BCS wasn’t even designed to determine who the best team in the country was. It was only it’s job to arrange a meeting of the contenders.
In spite of 2004 being the worst year of the BCS for Auburn, I think 2003 was the worst year for the rest of college football. Oklahoma lost it’s Big 12 title game to K-State and still had the ranking to play in the BCS title game against LSU–and lose. USC was left out of that match but still earned the AP crown and we were left with the only split title of the era. Fine tuning was sought after and administered. The next year was the Auburn debacle, and the AP poll separated from the BCS.
2011 was the second worst year of the BCS, for similar reasons. Alabama, who had previously lost to LSU and failed to play in it’s conference championship game, was allowed a rematch with the Tigers based on BCS rankings alone. The rest of the country howled with resentment, and you read here first that nothing would usher in a playoff quicker than that moment. Three years later, we’ll have the first FBS playoff. And with twice the spots in this playoffs, you’ll have twice the controversy, and we’ll wax nostalgic over the good old days of the BCS simplicity.
I’m okay with players leaving early for the draft. After all, it’s their dreams and not ours they must pursue. With record paydays awaiting on Sundays, the temptation and lure is too much, especially if that player was never serious about his college education in the first place. But there are a record number of players leaving early this year and I fear that the pendulum is swinging over to where football will be like college basketball–simply nothing more than a thinly veiled farm system for the NFL. Luckily, most football players have to basically play at least two years before they can turn pro, where it’s only one for basketball if they elect to come under the supervision of the NCAA at all. I think we fans would be cheering our teams if all of them were Division III talent, but I think one day I’d like to see football players be able to choose between the college path and the minor leagues like they do in baseball.
War Eagle and wake me when we’ve inked our next recruiting class!