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2013 Takeaways

malzahn

                                                                                                                                         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!

17 Comments

  1. restless6 says:

    There sure is a farm system at UAT. With agents on the staff as strength coaches and players acting as agents, it’s an attractive place for those who want to play on Sunday.

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      Saban will exploit any grey NCAA grey area he possibly can. He and Kiffin are perfect fits for the moral vacuum that exists in updykeville.

  2. uglyjoe says:

    I agree, the BCS was not an evil thing…..it was an objective rating tool, albeit it used subjective data (polls) to determine the outcome. The outcome was only as good as the data. It was a stepping stone to get us from a bunch of discrete polls to a first stab at a playoff, and it was a measurable, repeatable process.

    The four team playoff is also going to suffer from subjectivity….I imagine the first couple of teams are usually going to be a no brainer, but I’m glad I don’t have to explain to number five why they didn’t make it. The only way to reduce that (not alleviate it) is to increase the size of the pool. I think it’s easier to argue why number seventeen (or thirty three) got left out rather than number five.

    When the number five team destroys their bowl opponent and you have close games or upsets in the top four team’s games, it’s going to be 2004 all over again.

    • win4au says:

      You are correct sir. The playoffs will provide two teams from the SEC (hehe) and the leftovers will go to the B1G,ACC,PAC12 and BIG12 to fight over causing even more controversy than before.

      Teams like UCF will never get into the playoffs based on their schedule. Which is crap because I feel that team(2013) could have competed with anyone in the country. But we will see next year.

      Quick story…
      My fam and I were at Disney this weekend during which the Magic Kingdom had a parade to celebrate the UCF football team’s success this past season. It was a really cool experience and you could tell the players and coaches were really honored. While watching the parade I was surprised to hear someone say “War Eagle!” and right next to us was an Auburn family visiting Orlando. We greeted each other and continued to enjoy the festivities. Later on, I thought how cool it was that in this huge mob of black and gold UCF fans two Auburn families just happened to stand next to each other at that time. We always seem to find each. WDE!!!

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        ……Sounds pretty cool! We went to the Magic Kingdom about 13 years ago in November (no lines!) and I’ll bet my kids rode Space Mountain about 50 times!

        • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

          Space Mountain scared the living lights out of me when I was 9. I went back when I was in my 20’s, expecting a giant super scary rollercoaster……twas not the case…….

  3. win4au says:

    …each other. WDE!

  4. NoVaFan34 says:

    I would add the 2007 season to the list of BCS fiascoes. That LSU team easily was the worst champion of the BCS era. They lost to Kentucky, should have lost to Auburn, and then lost, at home, to an unranked Arkansas team at the end of the regular season. Yet because of a bunch of crazy upsets they squeaked in and got to play hapless Ohio State. That was one season when college football really could have used a playoff.

    Still, I agree, BCS was a major improvement over what existed before. People forget just how awful and rigid the old bowl system was. Now the dam is broken, and it’s only a matter of time before the playoff expands to 6 or 8 or more teams.

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..The thing about the early exodus stuff is that I think it may actually hurt many of the guys that leave school. What’s the average NFL career, 4 years? Unless they are a top player they are going to make maybe a half million a year, and how frugal were you in your early 20s? Two million dollars ain’t enough to retire on, especially after Uncle Sam gets his cut! By 30, times are tough for many, who didn’t get an education.

    …..We’ve seen an Auburn guy every other year or so that leaves early, and then struggles to even make a free-agent practice squad. They end up playing Arena ball or in Canada, and needing a day job to pay the bills. That’s a tough road.

    …..That 2007 year, LSU would have still made the playoff. You’d have had two of the following three in the bracket: one-loss Missouri or Kansas, or the two-loss Oklahoma team that was bombed by 3 touchdowns by West Virginia.

  6. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    Something that might have been missed in the NFL conversations is that Khiel Frazier is leaving the team to (hopefully) play quarterback at an FCS school. Of all of the successes that Auburn has had, I view the development of Khiel as a failure. Had Chizik hired a Malzahn-esqe OC, I truly believe that Khiel would have been much better off. He’s a hell of an athlete.

    Good luck Khiel!

    Not related: So, since the BSC is gonsies, does that mean that Jesse Palmer and what’s his face from Georgia will create a new primetime show to stir the pot over the playoff?? Painful. Just painful. Oh, the humanity.

    • WarEagleAtlanta WarEagleAtlanta says:

      Wouldn’t you want to listen to the conversation of those two guys drunk in a bar?

      • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

        And record it for YouTube? Yes sir. Sounds like a plan…..

  7. tigertracker says:

    I wonder if Gus could’ve pulled this off somewhere else in the same timespan. I hope I never have to find out. At least not at another sec school. The fact that he had a hand in all but one recruiting class should factor in to the “quick fix” equation. I’m just excited that auburn and Gus finally have a returning quarterback. Wasn’t Cox the last to start consecutive seasons in ’05-06? I guess Todd substantially played consecutive years, but even that (2009) seems like the way back machine at this point and both those years weren’t under Gus!
    These are special times indeed and more is on the horizon.

    • win4au says:

      Maybe, but probably not…Not to take away from what Gus is capable of. He’s a hellava coach… Like you said, he already knew the team. That had to be one of the main reasons for him excepting this job. Plus, God always puts the right people in the right situations. It’s all part of the plan. Thats just my opinion anyway. I know this for sure, I never want to find out! WDE

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      Auburn will always have enough player talent to be competitive in the SEC. The thing that will separate us from the also rans will always be the coaching talent.

    • AubieCE AubieCE says:

      It will be Coach Malzahn’s 1st time to ever have a starting QB for a second year.
      Did not happen at Tulsa or AU.
      I look for a lot of improvement in Nick Marshall as a passer.
      AU, Ole Miss and State have decent returning QBs SEC.
      This should give AU a leg up.

  8. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    The time of mourning the loss has passed, its time to celebrate the season and dream about 2014. War Eagle.