This is the Auburn AUghts, the WBE series looking back at the decade that was in Auburn Tiger football. Today: the 10 biggest and best Auburn wins of the previous 10 years. Previously: the Plays, the Players, and the Stories. Enjoy.
There’s so much that goes into figuring out what’s the “best” football game out of a selection of football games that it’s nearly impossible. Is it the one with the highest quality of play? The one with the most thrilling or unbelievable ending? The one with the greatest impact on the historical course of the programs involved? The one we remember most clearly because it was freezing cold or the pregame parachutist missed the field or (totally hypothetical example) the old gymnastics barn next-door burned to the ground mid-game? The one with the greatest emotional catharsis?
I don’t really know, which is why I’m sure the games you might pick for this list would be vastly different from the ones I’ve chosen, even moreso than with my choices for players or plays. It’s also tougher, probably, making this list for Auburn than for most teams; it was never a dull moment with Tubby around, giving us dozens of potential choices. But I picked out some choices anyway. Hope you like them.
THE TOP TEN
1. Auburn 24, Georgia 6 (2004)
Put as simply as I can: this is the best I have ever seen an Auburn football team play. Ever.
Remember: those Dawgs were far, far from chopped liver. A no. 5 ranking, a 9-1 record, a final 11-2 mark that year, one of the NCAA’s all-time winningest QBs at the helm … and they didn’t even deserve to be on the same field with Tubby’s Tigers that day. 16 points truly wasn’t even the half of it; Georgia was utterly overwhelmed, in a way I have never seen an Auburn opponent of that quality overwhelmed before or since. For me, this performance is Auburn’s gold standard, the bar which every other Tiger team–on every one of their Saturdays–will attempt to clear.
2. Auburn 28, Alabama 18. (2005)
Have I ever been more just plain deliriously happy watching Auburn play as I was in the first quarter, quarter-plus of this game? Have I ever felt more like my football team was injecting pure, undiluted liquid joy straight into the pleasure centers of my brain?
Maybe, I guess. But not this decade. HONK.
3. Auburn 20, Florida 17 (2007)
Auburn racked up a lot of massive, unexpected wins in Tommy Tuberville’s tenure; they were kind of his thing, man. But were any of them more unexpected than this one?
Remember how entirely miserable the start to that 2007 season had been: an iffy opening win over Kansas St., an overtime loss to South Florida that shouldn’t have even been close, a 19-14 home defeat to Sylvester Croom’s Miss. St. team marred by Auburn fans turning Jordan-Hare into Philadephia South in their disgust with a soon-to-be-benched Brandon Cox. The win over New Mexico St. the following week didn’t do much to stop the bleeding, not with Auburn trailing 20-14 on the scoreboard and 266-71 in the yardage column late in the first half. And now Auburn had to travel to the Swamp to face the defending national champions.
But Cox grabbed the frisbee, Wes Byrum became Wes Byrum, and somehow everything was whole again.
4. Auburn 23, Florida 20
The spiritual forerunner to No. 3, right down to the much-maligned QB and last-second field goal. Playing at home, after the narrow escapes against Vandy and Miss. St., maybe we weren’t quite so desperate (or pessimistic) as in ’07 … but it was Spurrier, the Gators were No. 1, and Auburn was starting a kid they’d borrowed from the Opelika junior high team at outside linebacker, as I recall. Victory wasn’t exactly expected.
Tubby, of course, found some way of giving it to us anyway.
5. Auburn 31, Georgia 30 (2005)
The most purely thrilling, most visceral, most heart-stopping Auburn win of the decade … and the high-water mark for an Auburn offense that (despite its successes this past season) has yet to return to anything like these kinds of heights. Even had a nice redemption story attached with J**n V****n’s game-winner.
For the record: still can’t believe Georgia left Aromashodu that open, or that Cox looked that calm on 4th-and-the-game.
6. Auburn 17, Alabama 7 (2002)
In some ways, this game shouldn’t rank this high on the list. It wasn’t dramatic; the signature play (the long Tre Smith run on Auburn’s opening drive) took place just a few minutes in. It didn’t help Auburn win a divisional title or springboard the Tigers to any new poll heights or big future victories. It didn’t feature any offensive fireworks, go-for-broke coaching maneuvers, or off-field drama. At least, not more than is usual for the Iron Bowl.
But that’s the thing–it was the Iron Bowl. And not one of Auburn’s seven wins in the Iron Bowl this decade came as more of a surprise. Not one was any sweeter. Not one makes me smile more today. And when you’re talking about the Iron Bowl, that counts for an awful, awful lot.
7. Auburn 10, LSU 9 (2004).
It says something about the decade Auburn had that the most taut, exciting game in their best season–featuring two of the decade’s top 10 plays by my count–still comes in at No. 7 here. If you want to rank it higher, given how hair-trigger tense it was, how high the level of play that day was, how this was the game where that 2004 team became the team they’d become … well I certainly won’t stop you. (Come to think of it … why am I putting this seventh?)
8. Auburn 27, Florida 17 (2006)
Yep, yet another ecstasy-inducing upset of a highly-favored Gators team. This one was ranked No. 2. Helped ease the pain of that humiliating loss to Arkansas a week prior right quick.
Just so you know, any Gator fans reading out there: it was a fumble.
9. Auburn 7, LSU 3 (2006)
Unlike a lot of the games on this list, this one was not “fun” to watch. It was the opposite of fun, in fact, as two brutal defenses pretty much brutalized the opposing offenses for four quarters. I’d be hard-pressed to name an Auburn game I thought was harder-hitting or more physical, one where yards were any more precious than they were that day.
Which–fun or not–is why this, too, was a truly terrific game.
10. Auburn 28, Alabama 23 (2003)
As far as the game itself goes, I’ll be honest: I don’t remember too much about it other than the play above. What I do remember is how desperately we needed that win; for all kinds of reasons, I would say we needed that win more than any other this decade. That we got it is reason enough to slot this game here.
FIVE MORE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
Auburn 29, Georgia 26 (OT) (2000)
The 2000 team didn’t actually end up offering us too many memorable moments on their way to the SEC West crown, but beating the Dawgs in overtime to seal up a trip to the Georgia Dome remains a highlight.
Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13 (2004)
Still think Auburn didn’t play its best game, but a Sugar Bowl victory to cap a 13-0 season is a Sugar Bowl victory to cap a 13-0 season regardless.
Auburn 31, LSU 7 (2002)
At 3-3 and smarting from an OT loss to Ron Zook’s Gators, it didn’t look like Auburn had yet shook off the end-of-2001 malaise. Then they smashed Saban’s LSU team into tiny, tiny pieces.
Auburn 41, West Virginia 30 (2009)
Between the rain, the tightrope walk of the first three quarters, and finally the emphatic YES this game offered to the question of whether this staff was ready, I think this goes down as the definitive game of Chizik’s debut season. (OK, the Auburner video helps a little, too.)
Auburn 24, Georgia 17 (2001)
41 carries for Carnell + his game-winning touchdown + the thrilling last-second goal-line stand = a classic.
STILL ROOM FOR HONORABLE MENTION
Auburn 34, LSU 17 kicked off the 2000 divisional title run … Auburn 17, Alabama 10 in 2007 to extend the Streak to 6 at Saban’s expense was awfully sweet, as was Auburn 23, Clemson 20 that same year in Chick-Fil-A Bowl overtime … speaking of bowls and overtime, Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 maybe ought to rank higher on pure excitement, but I can’t shake the fact that Auburn didn’t play that well … oh yeah, Auburn 38, Tennessee 28 in 2004 earned Auburn its only SEC title of the decade and may have been its best offensive performance of the last 10 years … and lastly, I only considered one loss for this post: Alabama 26, Auburn 21 from this season. Devastating emotionally, sure, but those kind of guts deserve a nod.