As far as SEC Media Days go, this year’s was a snoozer. Outside of Alabama’s Nick Saban whining about pimps and agents, there wasn’t a whole lot of copy. Even so, the annual event is another milestone on the way to the start of the college football season. As expected, Alabama is the prohibitive favorite to win the SEC West and the conference title. Auburn is picked third behind Alabama and Arkansas in the division. Sounds like a good enough starting place to me. No pressure.
I was talking with an Alabama buddy on Thursday about the season and he made the comment, “You know it’s rare that Alabama and Auburn are both good in the same year.” That’s a statement we’ve heard over and over again through the years. It got me thinking. Is that the truth or just a myth?
So I did a little research.
The answer is both yes and no. It all comes down to how you define “good” and what constitutes a successful season. I looked at the records of both schools dating back to 1980. Over those 30 years, Auburn has had 22 seasons where it has won eight games or more in a season (including bowls). Alabama has won at least eight games in 19 of those years. I don’t penalize Alabama for the 30 games it forfeited due to NCAA violations.
During this time, both schools have won eight games in the same season on 13 occasions (2009, 2005, 2002, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1989, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1983 and 1982).
When you up the win total to nine games in a year, things start to change. Since 1980, Auburn and Alabama have an equal number of nine win seasons with 16 each. However, the number of seasons in which both schools achieved nine wins in the same year drops to seven (2005, 2002, 1994, 1993, 1989, 1988 and 1986).
When you start looking at the seasons where both schools had double-digit win totals you find they are as rare as a hair on Paul Finebaum’s head. Since 1980, Auburn has enjoyed eight seasons with at least 10 wins. Alabama has had 12 in that time period. There have been only two seasons where both enjoyed 10 win schedules – 1989 and 1986.
What decade did Auburn have the most 10 win seasons? That would be the 1980′s where Pat Dye’s teams did it on four occasions – 1989, 1988, 1986 and 1983. They also had three nine win seasons in that decade. Looking back, it’s truly unbelievable how Dye had the Auburn program rolling.
How do we answer the question of whether both schools can be good in the same year? History says both programs can regularly be good in the same year. There are enough eight and nine win seasons in the same year to comfortably make that statement.
When you start talking about being great at the same time, well, that’s when things change. History says that doesn’t happen often. The odds of both institutions having double-digit win totals in the same year are long at best.
Will it happen this year? There’s always a chance. Just like your chances tonight in the Power Ball Lottery. But with Alabama playing with a target on their back and six opponents having bye weeks before playing them, it won’t be easy. Auburn counters with a new quarterback and a murderous schedule. Likely, something will have to give.
I can’t wait to find out.