The 2004 team never got the chance to play for a national title. This year’s team is playing for one Monday night in Glendale, Ariz. Among the plenty of players from that 2004 team who will be on hand to pull for 2010 Auburn Tigers is Jeremy Ingle, who started for Auburn at center in 2004. “It’s going to be something else,” Ingle said. “We’re looking forward to it, no doubt.”
Ingle, along with 2004 teammate, then-sophomore tight end Cole Bennett, talked a little about the two Auburn teams, what sets them apart and more interestingly, who would win if the two met on the field.
Q: First off, right to the point—2004 Auburn vs. 2010 Auburn—who wins and why?
Ingle: You know, there are a lot of similarities. There’s 25 seniors on this team and we were very senior laden on ours. A bunch of upper classmen on the offensive line, we had a bunch of upperclassmen on defense. Obviously, Cam Newton is a special player. I don’t think there’s a college football or Auburn has ever seen a player quite like him. I don’t know man, you can’t ever—it’s a hard question to answer. But if I had to put a guess on it, I’d probably say us by a point.
Bennett: Auburn wins of course. I’m biased so I’m going to say the ’04 team wins, but it’s a down-to-the wire game. That said, it’s an interesting matchup in a lot of ways. In ’04, we did well against any type of spread since our offense was such a time hog. That allowed our defense to play in a “shut down” mode since they were always fresh. However, what gave us the most trouble were mobile QBs, which is obviously what 2010 has.
Q: Where do you think the biggest difference is between the two teams?
Ingle: The thing about our defense that year and what people don’t realize—and our defense has had its moments this year and played great in the second half—but our defense was the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. They were giving up less than 10 points per game. What you saw with us was a lot different in that a lot of our games were over by halftime. We’d have a 20, 30-point lead and with that defense, we could really just sit on the lead. With this team, it’s been behind a lot and it’s made for more photo finishes and interesting games, but I think top to bottom, from the first quarter to the fourth, our defense was probably better.
Offensively, at the running back position, we were better. The receiver position, it was a wash. Offensive line, I would probably say with this group of seniors, they probably have a little better offensive line, even though we had Ben Grubbs—he was a freshman or sophomore at that point and he wasn’t as confident or good as he was going to be in the coming years and eventually be a first-round pick. Guys like Ryan Pugh and Ziemba and I think Isom is an unsung hero—I think he’s a heckuva guard—all those guys, I’d probably give them a little bit of an edge on us.
I think the pace of play—Gus Malzahn is an unbelievable offensive coordinator. Even with Cam and all the other difference-makers, I’d say the biggest difference between the ‘04 and the 2010 team has gotta be Gus Malzahn. He has just been unbelievable as far as being able to gameplan and make adjustments at halftime. He’s definitely been the difference-maker and key catalyst for this team.
Bennett: The ’04 team was a ball-control offense with a shut-down defense. Whereas the ’10 team has a pressure bend-don’t-break defense and the offense is a touchdown-scoring juggernaut. Special teams are about the same, very disciplined but with a few wrinkles up the sleeve.
Q: When did you think to yourself—this team has a chance to win it all?
Ingle: I think the second half of that South Carolina game. … We were down by 13, we got the ball first and really established our dominance. Just being able to establish our physicality within that spread because a lot of times you’ll see a lot spread offensive lines can be more finesse than power, but being able to come out in that second half and really establishing our physicality not only turned around that game but the entire season.
Bennett: I saw the Clemson, Georgia, and SEC Championship game in person. After the Georgia game when we went down 21-7 in the first quarter and came back, I knew something was up. In a game that is so dangerous because records matter little, Auburn stayed focused and finished the job. Once that game ended, I knew that booking tickets to Arizona was a sure bet.
Ken Bradley is the senior editor at Sporting News. A 1994 Journalism graduate of Auburn University, he still proudly claims — somewhere in a box — an Auburn shirt declaring “Auburn, the Best Team on Radio” from the ’93 season. A journalist for more than 15 years, he worked at several media outlets, including an internship with the Birmingham News right out of college (and yes, was to Tuscaloosa) and a three-year stint at the Gainesville Sun where he was working the desk when Damon Duval booted “the kick” to beat the Gators and then again when Grossman-to-Jacobs ruined a (near) perfectly good comeback. He currently lives in Charlotte, N.C. with his wife and kids. Write to him at [email protected] You can also follow him on Twitter.
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