Auburn could contend for its third football national title--or its 10th
Auburn slipped last season but is already fighting back.
We know this because an Alabama state senator recently introduced a resolution calling for the school to claim seven more national championships than it actually owns.
Tom Whatley — hint: he’s an Auburn grad — says the school is doing a disservice by claiming only the two national titles, won in 1957 and 2010, anyone can remember.
“We call upon Auburn University,” the resolution reads, “to officially claim nine national championships in football to rightfully reflect the esteemed achievements and success of the Auburn University football program.”
Whatley says Auburn’s legacy should include three titles between 1910 and 1914, and two more in 1958 and 1983.
For what it’s worth, Auburn was No. 4 in Associated Press media voting in ’58 and No. 3 in ’83.
Whatley also wants two other crowns: 1993 (never mind that the school was on NCAA probation and therefore ineligible) and 2004, the year Auburn finished third in the Bowl Championship Series standings behind USC and Oklahoma.
The resolution will be considered by the Saban Committee before being sent to the open floor for a big laugh.
As for the immediate future, 2015 looks promising even though the Tigers are coming off an 8-5 season that ended with a bowl loss to Wisconsin. Forget what Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn says about having only four returning offensive starters.
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Malzahn said at the Southeastern Conference’s football media days in July. “We lost most of our rushing yards; we lost over half our receiving yards.”
But Auburn will be just fine, so long as Malzahn hasn’t lost his marbles. This is a guy who took a team that finished 0-8 in SEC play in 2012 to the brink of a national title a year later.
Malzahn is joined on staff this season by Will Muschamp, who proved as head coach at Florida that he was an excellent defensive coordinator — which is what he was in previous stints at Auburn and Texas.
Muschamp lacked the CEO chops to run a big operation in Gainesville, but few people question his ability to coordinate a defense. His addition gives Auburn the biggest “M&M” power combination since Mantle and Maris.
Muschamp is a lock to improve a unit that allowed 30 or more points in seven games last season. year. He will also benefit from the return of pass-rush specialist Carl Lawson, who missed all of last year with an injury.
The offense does have shoes to fill, but Malzahn has always been a creative points producer. He needs to tweak the run-first option Nick Marshall made so dangerous because new quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, is more of a passer.
“He can flat out throw it,” Malzahn said.
Auburn may throw a running- back-by-committee against opponents this year until a star emerges.
The biggest weapon on offense will be receiver D’haquille (Duke) Williams, an SEC game changer who caught 45 passes for 730 yards last year when he wasn’t injured or being disciplined. Williams missed the Outback Bowl due to a violation of team rules and started training camp in the doghouse. He should work his way up the depth chart—Williams was second string last week—just in time for the team’s Sept. 5 opener against Louisville.
More good news: Auburn has only four true road games this season, and one of them is at Kentucky. The SEC West will likely be decided in the Nov. 28 Iron Bowl against Alabama. The Crimson Tide won last year’s game, 55-44, not that anyone keeps track.
Top 25 so far: 25. Michigan; 24. Nebraska; 23. Utah; 22. Missouri; 21. Arkansas; 20. Tennessee. 19. Boise State; 18. Oklahoma; 17. Notre Dame; 16. Wisconsin; 15. Georgia Tech; 14. UCLA; 13. Arizona; 12. Florida State; 11. Arizona State; 10. Georgia; 9. USC.
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