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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Perils and Pitfalls

Circle the wagons, the rest of the SEC will be gunning for us. photo by Celeste Bell

It's no secret. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Auburn will begin its defense of the Championship Trophy, won on the field in Atlanta against the University of Missouri, as the team everyone has set their sights on. 

Their calendars marked, eight different teams on the Tiger's schedule will want to be the first to take down the "Lucky Champions." It all starts with Arkansas at Jordan-Hare on August 30th. It's a brutal schedule that finds itself ranked among the toughest in the land in the early preseason.

This is not unfamiliar ground for us, we long time Auburn fans. With a quick check, we can find that Auburn has begun a season ranked inside the Top 10 eleven times since 1975. Six of those eleven the Tigers finished the season outside the Top 10.  

1975 started off with a euphoric outlook, only to be dashed with 3 losses and a tie in the first four games. The Tigers didn't rebound very well and finished 4-6-1. 

In 1984, after being looked over as the National Champions in January, and starting the season ranked #1 the Tigers set out to prove the doubters wrong. After starting with two straight losses, there were more questions than answers. The Tigers finished that season 9-4.

Unfortunately, in 1985 nearly the same thing happened. Auburn started the season ranked #2 and in the 3rd game of the season lost by 18 to Tennessee. A crushing loss to Florida of 14-10 set the stage for a colossal collapse at the end of the season. Losses to Alabama and then Texas A & M in the Cotton Bowl were the final two nails in the coffin. The Tigers finished outside the Top 25

1987 started an incredible run in Auburn Tigers football history. Three straight years the Tigers started and finished the season inside the Top 10, setting the stage for 1990. That year, Auburn went into the season ranked #3 in the nation. At the end of October Auburn was sitting pretty at 6-1. November as it turned out, was devastating. The Tigers lost on the road at Florida, and then at home against Southern Miss. Then came UGA to JHS and the Tigers looked like world beaters when they shellacked the 'Dawgs 33-10. A crushing loss to the Tide by the score of 16-7 finished the regular season. Auburn ended the year with a win in Atlanta vs. Indiana leaving them ranked 19th.

Same story goes for 1995, and 2003, but 2008 was the worst.  Fresh off finishing ranked #15 in 2007 the Tigers were preseason ranked #10 going into '08. Coach Tuberville had brought in a new defensive coordinator, and offensive coordinator. There was indecision amongst the coaching staff, and division amongst the players.

Josh Dowdy writes in his book Orange Is Our Color; The end of the streak(of beating Alabama) was difficult for me to accept..

Auburn finished with just two conference victories, and a 5-7 record. Auburn fans were dismayed. Changes were coming.

In 2014 Auburn will once again be highly ranked to start the season.  If the coaching staff can keep the players focused, and the lessons of seasons past learned, this team has the potential to rewrite the offensive record books at Auburn.

The one true unknown is the special teams. Gone are punter Steven Clark, Kicker Cody Parkey, holder Ryan White, and return men extraordinaire Chris Davis, and Tre Mason.

The new pieces to this puzzle must be brought up to SEC speed, and fast, if this version of Auburn football is to reach its highest objectives. 

War Eagle!
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