Before winning his first national championship in 1982, legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno said the worst thing that could happen to a program was to win a national title. “Once you win a championship, your fans are never happy again,” said Paterno. “Until you win another one, every year is a letdown.”
While that statement may be something of a stretch, there is some logic to his words. There’s no confusing this year with 2010 for Auburn fans. After winning a championship, fighting for a bowl bid has been something of an adjustment for coaches, players and fans alike.
Putting all of that aside, Saturday night in Auburn was off the charts. For a team that’s been ridiculed, slandered, doubted and straight out railroaded since winning the title in January, Saturday was a time to let it all out.
Jordan-Hare Stadium was packed to the rafters, Tiger Walk was a little more intense and fans took tailgating to another level. This weekend’s gathering on the Plains wasn’t just for the Florida game; it was a day to celebrate.
In case you haven’t checked lately, you are living through the golden years of Auburn football.
On Wednesday, the NCAA took a fork and rammed it through the eyes of slimy Alabama apologists Paul Finebaum, Danny Sheridan and Pete Thamel. Not even the nation’s largest newspaper or the state’s biggest mouth has been able to stop this Auburn train.
And what about this year’s edition of Auburn football? With apologies to Mr. Paterno, the season has been pretty doggone fun so far. I said in late August that winning six games would take Gene Chizik’s best coaching effort since arriving on campus.
There’s been nothing pretty about the season except for the results. A winner of 20 of their last 22 games, this football team sits at 5-2 heading to Baton Rouge. They may not rise to the level of the 1972 Amazin’s, but this team is making its own mark in the Auburn history books and hearts of its fans.
Who would have believed this Auburn offense would fail to get out of the teens in scoring over the past three games and yet manage to win two of three?
Who would have guessed that the worst defense in America through much of the first month of the season would rise up and hold South Carolina to 13 points and Florida to only six points?
Who wants Chizik to show Ted Roof the door now?
If there was ever a living example of making lemonade out of lemons, this 2011 Auburn edition is it. Barring a major upset at LSU on Saturday, Auburn will likely find itself going for its eighth win of the season when it goes to Athens on November 12th.
Not too shabby.
The unlikely story of Gene Chizik continues. The coach no one wanted has carved out the most unlikely times in Auburn history. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it has been one hell of a ride.
The odds say Auburn has no chance this Saturday at LSU. That may be true. But let’s not forget they are taking odds against a coach and team no one believed in three years ago and still had doubts about as recently as August.
Bet against Auburn at your own risk.