When South Carolina beats Allbarn and then beats them again in the SECCG
One Big Question: Auburn Football 2014
June 25th, 2014 12:55 PM ║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink ║ Schools: Auburn
Alabama-Auburn-Football-26The 2013 Auburn Tigers might have been the nation’s most exciting team to watch. Gone was the “traditional” offense that Gene Chizik rode to a 3-9 finish in 2012. In was Gus Malzahn’s no-huddle, up-tempo attack. And a lot of points and yards.
Malzahn’s SEC champions had their share of fourth quarter victories, too. Washington State 31-24, Mississippi Sate 24-20, Ole Miss 30-22, Texas A&M 45-41, Georgia 43-38 and Alabama 34-28 were all tight games late. You might recall the pair of miracle plays the Tigers needed to vanquish the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide.
With 14 starters returning — eight on Malzahn’s explosive offense — many are expecting the Tigers to match or better a 2013 campaign that ended just one minute shy of a BCS Championship. But we wonder…
Will the breaks go Auburn’s way in 2014?
Never in the history of college football has their been a championship-winning team that didn’t get a break or two somewhere along the way. The best teams take advantage of flubbed penalty calls, turnovers, clock errors, etc. Auburn did so last season. Auburn was darned good (on offense).
But look again at the close games mentioned above. Six wins all by eight points or less. A four-point win over MSU that came on a touchdown pass with just 10 seconds left in the game. A four-point win over A&M in which the Tigers scored their go-ahead touchdown with just 1:19 remaining. The tipped Hail Mary to beat UGA. The last-play-of-the-game missed field goal return to topple Bama. That’s a lot of close calls. Had a few bounces gone the wrong way, Malzahn’s first regular season could have ended with an 8-4 or 9-3 mark. Again, that’s no knock. AU won the games. But the difference between victory and defeat in many of their games were one or two plays in the final one or two minutes of action.
Typically, if you see a team get all the breaks one year, you can expect many of the same kinds of breaks to go against that team the following season. There’s no science behind that, of course, but it’s become accepted as a truism by most sports fans. So will the Tigers improve so much in 2014 that they’ll no longer need so many last-second heroics? That has to be the aim for the Plainsmen and many, many people seem to believe that’s exactly what will happen. Auburn’s name is popping up in quite a few College Football Playoff prediction columns this summer. The belief seems to be that if Malzahn could get AU to the BCS title game in his first year, the sky’s the limit in his second go-round.
But if Auburn maxed out last season and Malzahn squeezed the absolute most from his squad, what happens when the Tigers find themselves in a few more nailbiters in 2014? Will his team — well coached and confident — pull off the same clutch-type plays as it did a year ago? Or will the breaks bounce the other this fall?
For Auburn, the hope is that last year was just a taste of what Malzahn and his Tigers can do. Otherwise, don’t expect Auburn to pull it’s fanny from the fire with such regularity in 2014. As the old saying goes, “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day.”