Phillip Marshall: History on the side of 2013 Tigers

Oct. 29, 2013

AUBURN, Ala. Starting with the 1957 national championship season, 18 Auburn football teams have started 7-1 or better. And each of them has finished with a flourish.

* Four finished with perfect records and one with only a tie.

* Four finished with one loss.

* Eight finished with two losses and one with three.

* Six were Southeastern Conference champions.

* Two were national champions.

* Fourteen finished the regular season with a victory over Alabama.

* Ten won bowl games.

That’s where Gus Malzahn’s first Auburn football team finds itself. Going into Saturday’s game at Arkansas, the Tigers are 7-1 overall, 3-1 in the SEC and ranked No. 8 nationally. All their goals, even the biggest goal, are within their grasp if they keep winning.

Before the Tigers had played a game, junior wide receiver Quan Bray was asked in August if the goal was win a bowl game. His response was quick and to the point.

“Bowl game?” he said. “We are shooting for the national championship.”

That mindset remains.

If the Tigers were to win their last four games – at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama – they would advance to the SEC Championship Game. Win there, and who knows?

In any case, they have an opportunity to complete one of the bigger turnarounds in college football history. After eight games last season, the record was flipped. It was 1-7 and Auburn’s football program was floundering.

The significance is not lost on those who have made it happen.

“It’s very exciting,” junior safety Jermaine Whitehead said. “It’s the most lively I’ve seen the fan base since I’ve been here. Everyone has bought in. Everyone believes. It kind of looks like the championship year, the reason I came here. I think we are going to have a great story to tell when it’s all over.”

Junior running back Corey Grant, who transferred from Alabama, says such a turnaround seemed far away as players experienced the misery of 2012. They eagerly welcomed Malzahn and his enthusiasm.

“We were ready to buy in because we wanted a change,” Grant said. “It’s guys playing harder and actually believing in the coaches and having trust in the coaches.”

It’s hard to argue with where Auburn is ranked, considering where it started. But players feel, probably accurately, that the masses don’t yet fully believe.

“I think we still have some people to prove wrong,” Whitehead said. “We still want to prove ourselves and show we can be a great team. We are going to take one day at a time, one game at a time and we’ll see what happens.”

Here are the records after eight games of the Auburn teams that started 7-1 or better and how they finished:

2010: 8-0, 14-0. SEC champions. National champions.

2006: 7-1, 11-2.

2004: 8-0, 14-0. SEC champions.

1997: 7-1, 10-3. SEC Championship Game.

1994: 8-0, 9-1-1.

1993: 8-0, 11-0.

1988: 7-1, 10-2. SEC champions.

1987: 7-0-1, 9-1-2. SEC champions.

1986: 7-1, 10-2.

1983: 7-1, 11-1. SEC champions.

1974: 7-1, 10-2.

1972: 7-1, 10-1.

1971: 8-0, 9-2.

1970: 7-1, 9-2.

1963: 7-1, 9-2.

1960: 7-1, 8-2.

1958: 7-0-1, 9-0-1.

1957: 7-0, 10-0. SEC champions. National champions.

 
       

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