The Bane of Heightened Expectations
I’ll go ahead and start out by repeating the obvious: Who in the world last year could have expected us to be 9-1 going into Georgia week, much less feeling better than good about our chances against the Bulldogs – much less discussing the SEC Championship, and even further less thinking of BCS scenarios? The general consensus of our writers and commenters here put Auburn’s relevancy to the national football picture at two to three years away, with some tough times in between.
Yet, now we are singing the (paraphrased) old song “What a Difference a Year Makes.” We have truly traveled far on the Gus Bus in such a short time. We should all just be happy for what the Tigers have already achieved! However, going into Georgia week, I now find myself with a curious disease … heightened expectations.
Yeah, I was shocked we got bowl eligible against aTm, but figured we’d eventually do it against Florida Atlantic. I was one of the folks who decried our defensive performance at Arkansas, while curiously overlooking that this was an EIGHTEEN-POINT WIN on the road in the SEC. I was restored to confidence at our blowout / near shut-down of Tennessee, but now I am worried about the last two games of the season. And my worry is the selfish one that ‘I’ won’t get to experience a “win that counts” this year.
Let me explain–Way way back in the time of the 6-game conference schedule, and no BCS to worry about, there were only four games that “counted” to me each year – Georgia Tech, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama (add Florida State when we had them regularly). If any of those teams were “down” that year, that was one less game that “counted” for me (provided we won, of course). It was a foregone conclusion that the SEC Champion was going to be ignored for the Mythical National Championship. I say that because the best team from the best conference (the aforementioned SEC champ) would have one or maybe two losses after navigating both a tough conference schedule plus a usually interesting (at least through the Eighties) non-conference schedule. Win those four or five games, TCB against whatever cupcakes we had, and take it home in the bowl, and the season would be a good year.
With conference realignment, that line-up of games has become a different four for me: LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama. Add Florida when they rotate in and are good. Texas A&M for me though, is still a little too new to the conference to provide full visceral satisfaction, even for that masterful, historical last-minute offensive comeback / defensive shutdown this year.
Let’s face it, we EXPECT to beat any team from a state between Alabama and Louisiana or (these days) north of our state line (sidenote: it’s funny that we have a better streak against Tenn than Vandy). We already blew the game against LSU in the first quarter (and, sadly, it looks like a possible BCS) with that fumbled punt snap. This year, Arky is down, down, down, and it looks like Georgia is a shell of what they really are with all their injuries.
If Georgia fights hard, that could be a win that “counts” in my reckoning; if they are still ridiculously bummed up, that might take the luster (and smack talk-ability) out of any victory from there. Bama, of course, is a mountain bringing itself to PDF at JHS, for us either to climb or upon which to be crushed.
Yes, this is crazy talk, not being happy with what we got, but it is the way I feel. Although I’ll never love the Tigers any less, my BIRG-ability (see last article) for this season depends on the two games in front of us. Boy, it was so much simpler last year when the veil of resignation descended on us AU fans. It was simpler when all we wanted for this year was for the Tigers to fight hard and “give ‘em a lick, give ‘em a lick / harder, harder” every game, regardless of the score (and that is all it looked like we could hope for after Miss State and LSU).
Now, this team is on fire. It looks like they are focused on each game in front of them and amazing prospects could lie just ahead. I, and probably most of you out there, now have a bad case of heightened expectations.
As someone who knows me thoroughly and often razzes me – I’d probably complain if you hung me with a new rope.
(Who lied … that win over aTm sure does COUNT!!!)