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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh What A Very Merry Year: Auburn 2013

It has been a very memorable year for the Auburn Tigers. One year after a very forgettable one. And it all started on April 20, 2013, when Auburn Football held their annual Spring Game. Tickets went fast. People knew how Gus Malzahn operated in the past and wanted to get eyes on with how he could transform offenses. And pack the place out he did. 83,401, including my wife and I, attended to watch what would be Auburn's future.

 The attendance for the Spring Game broke the record that had previously set. And from that day forward the Gus Bus had it's wheels rolling and not looking back. Malzahn's philosophy of HUNH and take every game and play one at a time sank into the players. 

Auburn opened with Washington State (also there) and didn't disappoint. Nick Marshall's passes, sometimes inaccurate, but made all the fans eyes open wide at his abilities. Auburn won that game and the next against Gus's old ball club.

 The next game is what made Auburn believe in Gus and Nick Marshall. Down to Mississippi State late in the fourth, Malzahn called up the perfect plays and Nick threw the ball like a winner. Making play after play. And on that final play of that drive, after moving the ball all the way down the field while losing a game, Marshall pumped and made an outstanding throw to C.J. Uzomah in the corner of the Endzone with 10 seconds remaining.

 The 2012 team would have given up, like they had on multiple occasions. Not this team. Not coached under Gus Malzahn. That was the first moment where the players and fans realized that this team could win football games against quality opponents. Prior to the season, I had four loses on Auburn's schedule; Alabama, Georgia (who I thought would win the SEC), LSU, and Texas A&M. LSU was next. I was very disappointed at the beginning of the game. But It soon dawned on me that, again, it is at LSU where no one really wins besides LSU, it was pouring rain straight into our players faces the entire 1st half, and this is a very good LSU team. Being down this team found it in their minds and body to fight. Fight until the game was over. Auburn threw an interception with roughly 5 minutes remaining while driving the ball and LSU would hold the ball and win 35-21. Auburn not quitting was a testament to what this team would become. Winners. 

Auburn ran through the SEC and the remaining non-conference games without a blemish. And in less than three weeks, Auburn made miracles happen on more than one occasion. Georgia's Aaron Murray had just scored the go-ahead touchdown in the last minutes of the game. But this team didn't quit. Facing a 4th and 18, the game and future riding on this down, Nick Marshall dropped back and floated the ball down the field. Two UGA defenders touched the ball and it popped up into a perfect spiral and when Ricardo Louis snapped his head back around it hit his fingertips. Auburn scored had scored again with 25 seconds remaining in the game and would hold on. But the magic in November didn't stop there.

 After getting obliterated 49-0 in last years Iron Bowl, Alabama came to town. It would be Auburn who would strike first and last. Down 21-14 at the half, having scored as many points as the Tigers had in eye previous two meetings, Auburn came out strong. Again, Nick Marshall had made play after play and moved the ball down the field. Read option, Marshall keeps it, defender bites, Marshall pulls up and throws to a wide open Sammie Coates. 28-28. 32 seconds remaining. Win or lose Auburn had played the number one team in the nation for 59 minutes and 28 seconds. Everyone in that stadium would have been proud of them no matter what.

 Alabama had the last chance and what happened next will be probably one of he greatest plays of this century. They missed 57 yard field with 0:01 seconds left, turned into the Chris Davis "kick six" that would stun the world as Auburn had beaten the #1 Crimson Tide after the biggest turnaround in history.

 After being the worst team in the SEC the previous year Auburn had won 11 games and only had that one loss to that strong LSU team in Death Valley. Next? The SEC Championship where Auburn ran for 545 yards and Tre Mason ran for 304 ALONE!

 With an amazing year and turnaround almost complete, Mason and many other Tigers, had their names in the short list of finalists for their respective awards. And many making the All-American lists and All-SEC teams. Gifts kept coming.

 Malzahn won the Coach of the Year Award and Mason made it to NYC as a Heisman Finalist after an impressive year of breaking records. What a year it has been. Filled with moments that most Auburn fans will never forget, this season isn't over. Auburn is ranked #2 in the nation and is playing Florida State in the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena. Wow. Yes. I said it. The National Championship Game. I am proud of the Tigers. And with Gus Malzahn and Nick Marshall, I believe again. I believe in Auburn and love it. War Eagle!

Football Q/A at the closing of the year:

Why is Tre Mason an All-American above Ka'Deem?

Both players deserve it. No doubt. Mason outplayed some very exceptional runners in the SEC and has kept his foot on the pedal in SEC play. Among the teams Tre has made look weak, Alabama and Missouri, in the past few weeks he has rushed for a combined 469 yards. Mizzou was ranked 2nd in rushing D in the SEC. After they played Auburn, Mizzou was ranked 9th. From 14 in the country in rush D to 47th. Granted that was with all of Auburn's powerful rushing attack, spearheaded by Mason.
Ka'Deem Carey had 1,716 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, but the PAC-12 is no SEC. Arizona played 3 teams that are currently ranked in the top 50 in Rushing D. Auburn has played 5. (Arizona: USC, Utah, Arizona State) (Auburn: Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia, and Mizzou) Both players didn't get enough media attention, but the conferences probably had something to do with Mason being over Carey. Mason had such consistency against top opponents.

With Mack Brown stepping down, which SEC coaches, of any, might fill his spot?

As of right now I really don't think it will be an SEC Coach. If Nick Saban would have caught word that he had confirmed stepping down prior to him signing his extension, I think Saban would be in Austin as we speak. More names are thrown around though. Malzahn, Franklin, Miles? I really don't think Malzahn is going anywhere. Call me a barner, but I don't see him leaving Auburn for a while. Franklin? He is certainly a great Head Coach. I don't think he will high on Texas' list, but his name as well as Les Miles is out there.

Where will Auburn finish in recruiting?

Auburn has been racking up talent left and right. Malzahn has went to the JUCO ranks again in need of instant impact players, similar to last year, but he is also flipping and appealing more and more young players as the season concludes. If Auburn is to win the National Chanpionship after the debacle last year, Auburn finishes with a top 3 or 4 class.

Heisman race next year?

No doubt that next years Heisman finalist will be a complete different bunch. I think Tre Mason leaves for the draft and plenty of love from all the Auburn family, but next year I believe a different Tiger will be there. Nick Marshall. I mean jeez, he was a defensive back two years ago. Last year was his first job as a QB in the college ranks and he competed exceptional. He joined Auburn in August. 4 weeks of QB play before he started against Washington St. He was raw, but you could tell when he fell into the offense he would excel. He has posted outrageous numbers in his first year and with a full off season and with the experience, Marshall WILL post big numbers next year. Others I believe will be there; Mariota, Winston, and a few random success stories. 

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @austin_preiss19 for SEC, Auburn, and many more topics. Also be sure to comment and let me know what you think! 

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