I haven’t written many posts that seemed sillier faster that the one I put up yesterday a few hours before kickoff, one I named “Survival” and which projected another nail-biting win for an Auburn team I expected to be tired, distracted, and emotionally drained. As we know now, the better title would have been “Flourish” or “Thrive” or something, and the better projection would have been the most dominant performance yet this season by an Auburn team fresh, focused, and emotionally sound as ever.
So not my best work, maybe. But it’s not like there wasn’t precedent for that kind of outing. The 2004 Tigers, you’ll recall, also rolled into Oxford at 8-0 and in the thick of the national title race. That Ole Miss team was a lot like this year’s; ugly losses to bad teams early on, a few decent SEC performances, a bowl game unlikely. And they gave that Auburn team a legitimate game. Jason, Cadillac, Ronnie and Co. scored just one first-half touchdown and led only 14-7 late in the third quarter before three touchdowns in the last 18 minutes put away a 35-14 victory. Total yardage: greatest Auburn team of our generation 439, 4-7 Rebels 433.
The overwhelming impression left from that game, one that still lingers six years later, was one of a great team that had simply worn down from playing nine games in nine weeks and playing several of those with the SEC favorite’s target on its back. If even that team–which I think most of us would have agreed still stood as the more complete, better all-around team entering this weekend than even the current bunch of Tigers–had exhausted itself through nine weeks that frankly weren’t as challenging from a scheduling standpoint as these past nine … then surely this team would have exhausted itself as well, right?
They are not exhausted, that much we know. In fact, they’re getting stronger; the Arkansas game was their best performance of the season given the competition and level of command, until the LSU game was, until the Ole Miss game was. For three straight weeks, Auburn has gotten better, and that’s without the benefit of a bye or a break.
So what happens now that they get a week off, mentally speaking? Or when they have a full bye? What the 2004 team when they got theirs was to bury a 10-win Georgia team under what’s simply the best game I have ever seen an Auburn team play.
I don’t know if this team is capable of quite something like that; the offense is better, and is better than either side of the ball in 2004 in my opinion, but the defense obviously isn’t even in the same ballpark of 2010’s. But for the first time, I think we can say it’s a possibility. They keep clearing higher and higher hurdles. 2004 is the highest possible one. But I’m not going to say they can’t clear that one, too, any more.
Jerry, your fears were based on hard-earnded cfb common sense. Given all that this team had been through and was up against, there was no reason to expect such a completely dominant performance. Unlesss, of course, you believe that this is a team blessed with truly superior leadership from its coaches and upperclassmen. I’m done doubting any of these guys. This team still has flaws, but the 2010 Auburn Tigers are Special.
Bring on Amen Corner. WDE
We don’t expect our journalists to be mind-readers, Jerry. Well, at least most of us don’t. 🙂
Keep up the good work! Enjoying your stuff over on the other site!
Van P in Illinois says
As I’ve said before, the national perception thru all 2004 was that USC and OU were behemoths. That no matter how good AU was, those two were (supposedly) better. This year, with Alabama’s loss, there’s no one left that projects that image. So– regardless of reality, it was easier for this year’s team to rise to the top. The 2004 team would’ve been ranked #1 now, too.
AU has a chance to play a lot of youngster and get their legs back..
Then it is 2 x 1 game seasons vs Jawja and Bama…
If AU can stay versitale on offense and the defense play just a little better,
and special teams continue to improve, I like the chances of beating
Jawja and Bama…
AU matches well with Jawja and Bama on D…
Stops the power run game much better than spread or mobile QB…
Hit the QB early and often as did vs SC and make them make mistakes…
I can see AU running the table…
Who would thunk this would even be a remote possibility in August…
Not I for sure!!
WDE Jerry, I enjoy your CBS Blog a lot…
Hope you and your wife are getting plenty of rest!!
I like this team’s chances. Despite the high ranking all those talking heads on ESPN can talk about is a one-loss Alabama team going to the NC. Setting up just right for us to enter T-town with an attitude. This team may not be there yet defensively but I still haven’t seen a defense that can stop them from outscoring their team. WDE
don’t go to sleep on Aaron Murray running, he’s probably the best runner they’ve had there at that position in several years. I recall a certain Matthew Stafford with more than a few 15 yard draws up the middle (plus a bad day for Cox) when he was a freshman. “Running QB” and “fast” are not adjectives you’d use for Stafford, I don’t think.
Still, if UF’s anemic offense can put those kind of points on UGA, you have to like our chances. I only saw the last couple of plays, though, had to trick-or-treat with my 2 year old daughter. I wanted to play UF in Atlanta assuming we make it – but their D is pretty decent, they might be able to sell out to stop the run and man up on our WRs without much trouble. Could be a tougher game than seeing Alshon “The Terror” Jeffrey again.
As for Bama, I think that game will be a lot easier than expected. Bama’s D is just not that good this year. LSU may beat them this weekend. Ole Miss probably should have beat them, if they had receivers who could catch. We saw what Sakkerlina did with one of those, heh.
It’s part of the process. You have got to be nervous going into a game like that, I know I was. I’m nervous for Georgia too, even though most people keep saying we’ll beat UGA easily.
Also, I couldn’t agree more about the 2004 game against Georgia. That is the best game I’ve ever seen Auburn play. It was only a 24-6 score, but it might as well have been 100-0 with the physical domination that occurred.
What do you think … 2010 game vs. Ole Miss = 2004 game vs. Tennessee (the first game)?
Nah- Tennessee was highly ranked and expected to do big things that year.
And that game was over in the 2nd quarter.
In response to the 2010 offense being better than the 2004 offense (which it is), if this staff had those 2004 players we would be scoring 60 points a game. This offensive line is probably straight up better, but the 2004 skill players were sick and the offensive line was pretty good. I’m not saying this to knock Borges, who should be put in the coaching hall of fame for fielding a potent offense under Tuberville. It’s just that having Tubs as your HC is an automatic 40% downgrade in offensive effectiveness, while having Chizik/Malzhan is an automatic 40% upgrade.
That leads me to the most satisfying element of this season for me: proof that Auburn offense isn’t some eternally cursed entity dooming fans to always hope for an ugly win. I knew the only way offense would ever return to the Plains was getting rid of Tuberville, but I got worried last year during our 2nd half of the season struggles that our offensive issues somehow went beyond Tuberville. the same way Boise seems to be good no matter who their coach is. Its satisfying to know that it really was just Tuberville.
Marmot, you might be right that pairing this year’s coaches with 2004’s players would yield something even greater than what we’re seeing now. But that’s a what-if, and the facts we have are that this offense is playing at level beyond anything we’ve ever seen out of Auburn. (Right?) Besides, I’m not sure it’s a given that ’04 team had more talent … at running back, yes, but I think the receivers and QB are just about a wash and this year’s line is decisively better. It’s close, at least.