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Phillip Marshall: Auburn claims place among elite programs

June 5, 2014

The past decade of Auburn football has been nothing if not interesting. It has had great times and awful times, but the facts don’t lie. The Tigers have done special things, many of which no one in the Southeastern Conference can match.

Some examples:

* Three SEC championships won by three different coaches. That’s more than Alabama, more than LSU, more than anyone.

* Two perfect seasons. No one else has more than one.

* A national championship and two trips to the BCS Championship Game.

* Matched the biggest turnaround in college football history by going from 3-9 in 2012 to posting a 12-2 record, winning the SEC championship and playing for the national championship in 20013.

* Two quarterbacks chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. No other SEC team has had more than one and only three have had one. Auburn’s Cam Newton was the first pick in the 2011 draft and Jason Campbell went No. 25 in the 2005 draft.

* Four Auburn players – Campbell in 2004, running back Kenny Irons in 2005, Newton in 2010 and running back Tre Mason in 2013 – have been SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

* Three national Coach of the Year winners in Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn. Has one school ever had three different coaches so honored in a 10-year period? I doubt it.

* Newton won the Heisman Trophy, Nick Fairley won the Lombardi Award and Tre Mason was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

* Auburn football has not been found guilty of a major violation, not only in the past 10 years but since 1993.

* Won 17 out of 18 SEC games from the final two games of the 2003 season through the 2005 season.

That Auburn football accomplished those things with three different coaches should make it clear to the football world that it’s the program as well the coaches, that Auburn football is not likely to ever be down for an extended period of time.

Yet, nationally, you don’t get the impression many college football observers recognize that. Why? I have some opinions.

* The 2012 season and, to a lesser extent, the 2008 season, were so bad that they left lasting impressions.

* Auburn has not had back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins since 1988 and 1989. The closest in the past 10 years was when the 2004 team won 13, the 2005 team won nine and the 2006 team won 11.

* The national fascination with Alabama coach Nick Saban has, unquestionably, made Auburn’s job harder. Saban has earned that with three national championships, but outside of Auburn followers, how many people know that he is 6-6 against Auburn at Alabama and LSU and that he has not beaten an Auburn team with as many as nine wins?

There really is no valid argument that Auburn is anything other than among college football’s elite. Is it at the top? No. Can it be? Based on history, it’s hard to come up with a reason why not. It’s a matter of adding a little more consistency, putting great seasons back-to-back and continuing to do things the right way.

All indications are that Malzahn, his staff and Auburn players are headed in that direction at warp speed.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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