Let the debate begin. Is Auburn really the best team in the land? After defeating five teams who’ve been ranked at some point this season, it’s hard to make the argument against them.
Has another college football coach gone from such lows to unanticipated highs as Gene Chizik? From a dreary afternoon press conference announcing his hire in 2008 to becoming a household name in college football overnight, it’s been one incredible journey for the second-year coach from Clearwater, Florida.
What does it all mean for Auburn? Things have just gotten a whole lot tougher. For fans though, it’s a time to bask in the glow of mid-season success. Alternate the name Auburn with Cam Newton and either way you get a rags-to-riches story fit for Disney.
What must Florida’s Urban Meyer think today? Will his arrogance in assuming Newton’s departure would have no effect on the Gators ultimately cost him his job? I bet he wishes he’d spent a few extra minutes asking Cam to reconsider.
Speaking of Florida, should Meyer begin having heart palpitations again, do Auburn fans need to worry about Chizik going home to Gainesville? Who would have thought we’d be having this discussion two years into his tenure?
The coach nobody wanted is now likely to be in high demand at year’s end. And to think, Auburn President Jay Gogue didn’t even bother showing up to welcome him on his first day on the job.
Auburn now has the big red bulls-eye on its chest. It’s something that’s not easy to carry on Saturday. Ask Oklahoma or Alabama. This is not Auburn’s first rodeo. The program has had varying success hanging around the top of the polls. The last time Auburn was ranked number one was way back in 1985 where it stayed in the top spot for two weeks before losing 38-20 at Tennessee in late September.
A year earlier, the Tigers were preseason number one to start the 1984 campaign. It was short-lived, with Auburn losing to Miami in week one, 20-18 at The Kickoff Classic in New Jersey. Auburn would lose its second game of the season two weeks later at Texas and basically put a stop to Heisman Trophy favorite Bo Jackson’s year after he dislocated his shoulder. Auburn finished the season 9-4.
During the Undefeated Season of 2004, Auburn stayed at number three in the BCS for six weeks and finished the season ranked second in both major polls after defeating Virginia Tech 16-13 in the Sugar Bowl.
Most recently, Auburn was number two for three weeks in 2006 after getting off to a 5-0 start before losing to Arkansas 27-10. Tommy Tuberville’s team would lose only once more that season, finishing with a Cotton Bowl win over Nebraska and a top 10 finish in both major polls.
Auburn, which has a .9371 BCS average, is followed in the BCS rankings by No. 2 Oregon (.9069), No. 3 Boise State (.8846), No. 4 TCU (.8833) and No. 5 Michigan State (.8387). None of the current top five BCS schools have played in the championship game since the BCS started in 1998.
Appearing on ESPN’s BCS Countdown Sunday evening, Chizik says his team is taking it one game at a time. “I’m really proud of our football team because no matter what our rankings are or were, we really haven’t paid a lot of attention to that,” Chizik said. “We’ve really tried to take every day one step at a time.”
“I can only control how we proceed in this building,” he continued. “We just had a team meeting and we talked about being very grounded and understanding that every week is another new week and another opportunity. It probably sounds to them the same old sad song every Sunday. But that’s what we do. “
Saturday’s matchup in Oxford against Ole Miss is a classic gotcha game. Nothing on paper suggests they can compete with Newton and company. But Rebels coach Houston Nutt knows a win would be a signature one for a hungry Ole Miss squad.
The good news is that Auburn’s made it to the promise land. The bad news is that nothing has really been accomplished. Nobody remembers who led the BCS in late October. With the exception of homecoming, Auburn has a chance to win or lose every game left on its schedule.
The hunter has become the hunted. Champions will be made over the next month.
I can’t wait!