When the “What If” Machine Works: Auburn vs Cincinnati
As one born in the 80’s, I haven’t had to live through some of the more difficult stretches that many of the Auburn family were forced to endure. While I mock most of the younger Bama nation for having misguided expectations about college football, based on the Tide’s recent run of greatness the truth is that I am not too far removed from the “80’s experience.”
For my Bama friends who read my work, don’t misunderstand. I am not comparing the successes of Bama and Auburn. I am well aware of Bama’s three National Championships in the last six years. I am aware that Auburn hasn’t beaten the Tide in back-to-back seasons since Saban came to town. And, I am well aware that Auburn has never strung together two consecutive ten-win seasons since Pat Dye left the Plains. Even then, Dye needed a bowl game win to pull that off
I do remember seeing two undefeated Auburn teams miss championships. I remember beating Alabama six years in a row. I remember a Kick Six, and I remember “Go Crazy, Cadillac!” Those are great events that I believe rival Tide successes.
Perhaps it’s because of my relatively young age that I know mostly success with only limited failures. I do have my share of disappointments in Auburn football that may rival the Barfield years, and I do get it, fans of the older persuasion. At times, I have felt the same levels of exasperation and disappointment of Auburn fans in the 70s.
The 2014 season was easily the most disappointing season for me. So, here we stand in 2015. Since Tuberville’s departure and the resulting coaching carousel, we have a national championship and another national championship game appearance. We also have three 8 – 5 seasons, a 3 – 9 debacle, and the 2015 season where the Tigers were picked to win the SEC, go the college playoff, and boasted a Heisman candidate who was an actual recruit developed by Lashlee/Malzahn instead of JUCO transfer.
What fans got was a 6 – 6 team featuring an absolute dud of a QB who was more like Jeff Klein than Cam Newton. I wrote on my personal blog almost a year ago that Jeremy Johnson had to be a winner, if only to prove that Malzahn and Lashlee could recruit and develop QB’s to provide offensive stability instead of lightening in a bottle. That didn’t happen, and worse yet the coaching staff time and time again looked bewildered, lost, and flat out-coached while offering excuses that didn’t placate my nine-year-old daughter much less donors and fans.
So, Auburn fans, the “What If Machine” could provide you the topping for the recipe for the most disappointing season on record.
Since Tommy Tuberville left, there have been plenty of people who wondered, “what if Tuberville had the opportunity to coach against Auburn.” It’s been a novel idea of little consequence until now. A Cincinnati vs Auburn game in Birmingham was a very real possibility, especially since Missouri declined any invitations to go bowling. However, yesterday, reports came out that Cincy would be going to the Hawaii Bowl.
But “what if ” they had matched against Auburn in Birmingham. In my opinion, it would have added insult to injury. There would have been no upside in playing Tommy Tuberville’s Bearcats led by Notre Dame outcast QB, Gunner Kiel. Losing to the Bearcats would have ensured a losing record and perhaps be the worst thing that could happen to a struggling Auburn program seeking stability following the rollercoaster ride that has ensued since Tuberville’s firing after a decade of mostly winning.
I understand what a bowl means to players, coaches, and fans. Before everyone calls me a Debbie Downer, know that I am fully aware that going to, and winning, a bowl game awards the team 15 extra practices and rewards the players for their hard work. For the Auburn fan base, it means a chance to celebrate a winning season from what has otherwise been a completely forgettable year.
A possible loss to a coach who once defined Auburn though, would have added a rather large question mark about the future of Auburn’s football program to those that are already there.