Phillip Marshall: Auburn must deal with high expectations

May 22, 2014

It is viewed by many Auburn fans as an unhappy fact. Auburn football teams, they believe, historically don't do well when they are ranked highly in the preseason. Is it true?

It is certainly true that many of Auburn's better teams have come from back in the pack. There is no better example than 2013, when the Tigers didn't get a single vote in any preseason poll and came within 13 seconds of the national championship. The 2010 national championship team started the season ranked No. 22. The unbeaten 2004 team started at No. 17. The unbeaten 1993 team was unranked. The 1957 national championship team was unranked.

But that's not the question at hand. With the Tigers likely to be ranked in the Top 5 going into the coming season, the question is how Auburn historically handles high expectations. A check of history says perhaps not as well as you'd like but not as poorly as you might think.

As best we can tell, preseason polls started in 1950. Since then, 16 Auburn teams have gone into seasons ranked in the Top 10. Six of those teams finished in the Top 10. Eleven finished in the Top 25.  Eight of those teams went into seasons ranked in the Top 5. The 1984 team was ranked No. 1. Two of those eight teams finished in the Top 5 and four in the Top 10.

It's an obvious fact for every college football team that preseason polls mean little. Polls won't win or lose a game when the action begins in August. The only benefit, really, of a high ranking is having a shorter climb to the top, and that advantage is reduced with the coming of the playoff and selection committee. The only negative is the target on your back that goes with a high ranking.

Auburn will likely be ranked in the Top 5 because of what it did last season and because of the players it has returning this season. Whether the Tigers are, in fact, a Top 5 team will be settled amid the sound and fury of a Southeastern Conference season.


 

 

Following are Auburn's preseason Top 10 teams, their records and their final rankings:

1958

Preseason ranking: No. 3
Record: 9-0-1
Postseason ranking: No. 4
Notes: Finished 24-game unbeaten streak. A 3-3 tie with Georgia Tech probably cost the Tigers a second consecutive national championship.

1959
Preseason ranking:
No 3
Record:
7-3
Postseason ranking: No. 19
Notes: Five-game winning streak against Alabama ended with a 10-0 loss.

1964

Preseason ranking: No. 8
Record: 6-4
Postseason ranking: Unranked.
Notes:  All-America QB Jimmy Sidle suffered a shoulder injury in the season-opener and could no longer throw the ball effectively. Sidle was playing halfback by season's end. Auburn led the nation in total defense.

1971

Preseason ranking: No. 7
Record: 9-2
Postseason ranking: No. 12
Notes: The Tigers won their first nine games before losing to Alabama in the battle of unbeaten and to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. QB Pat Sullivan won the Heisman Trophy.

1975

Preseason ranking: No. 7
Record: 3-6-2
Postseason ranking: Unranked
Notes: Coach Shug Jordan, in his 25th and final season, said later he knew his team was overrated.

1983

Preseason ranking: No. 4
Record: 11-1
Postseason ranking: No. 3
Notes: Tigers won their last 10 games to claim their first SEC championship since 1957 and first for third-year head coach Pat Dye.

1984

Preseason ranking: No. 1
Record: 9-4
Postseason ranking: No. 14
Notes: After earning what remains Auburn's only No. 1 preseason ranking, the Tigers lost their first two games - to Miami in the Kickoff Classic and at Texas.

1985

Preseason ranking: No. 2
Record: 8-4
Postseason ranking: Unranked
Notes: Auburn climbed back to No. 1 after the second game but couldn't stay there, losing close games to Tennessee, Florida and Alabama before falling to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. RB Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy.

1987

Preseason ranking: No. 5
Record: 9-1-2
Postseason ranking: No. 7
Notes: SEC champions. Kicked a last-second field goal for a controversial 16-16 tie with Syracuse in the Sugar Bowl. DE Andre Bruce was the first player chosen in the NFL draft.

1988

Preseason ranking: No. 7
Record: 10-2
Postseason ranking: No. 7
Notes: SEC champions. Only a 7-6 loss at LSU kept the Tigers from playing for a national championship. DT Tracy Rocker became the most decorated defensive linemen in SEC history.

1989

Preseason ranking: No. 8
Record: 10-2
Postseason ranking: No. 6
Notes: SEC champions. Beat Alabama 30-20 in first Iron Bowl played at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

1990

Preseason ranking: No. 3
Record: 8-3-1
Postseason ranking: No. 19
Notes: Four-game winning streak over Alabama ended with a 13-6 loss. SEC championship streak ended at three.

1995

Preseason ranking: No. 6
Record: 8-4
Postseason ranking: No. 22
Notes: Season ended on a downer with a 43-14 loss to Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

2003

Preseason ranking: No. 6
Record: 8-5
Postseason ranking: Unranked
Notes: Bobby Petrino resigned after one season. Hugh Nall was named OC and told to run Petrino's offense with Steve Ensminger calling plays. One of the more talented teams in Auburn history had an extremely disappointing season.

 2006

Preseason ranking: No. 4
Record: 11-2
Postseason ranking: No. 8
Notes: Blowout home losses to underdogs Arkansas and Georgia turned a potentially great season into a good one.

2008

Preseason ranking: No. 10
Record: 5-7
Postseason ranking: Unranked
Notes: Days after a 36-0 loss at Alabama, Tommy Tuberville resigned as Auburn's head coach.

 

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter:

 

 

 

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