College Football: How Many Titles Do the Auburn Tigers Deserve?
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The AP. The UPI. The Bowl Alliance. The BCS.
What do they all have in common?
None utilize a playoff. Therefore, since the beginning of polling, many a team has been robbed of the opportunity to fairly win national championships.
What is a fan to do?
Well, one might have a little fun and start a project. Using the College Football Data Warehouse and past polling systems (see below for details), I have sifted through the declared end-of-season No. 1 teams and decided which teams I feel have earned the accolade.
Bo Schembechler of Michigan, among others, believed that a true national champion could never be crowned in football (via the New York Times). In some cases, due to the large avoidance of first- and second-ranked teams meeting in postseason games, I will sometimes crown more than one national champion per season.
Of course, this article is meant to get your voice heard, so feel free to comment. Since fans deserve to know why their schools have been awarded certain titles, I present my methodology for each team's case.
This series will encompass eventually all the BCS teams. This summer, in honor of the impending Alabama-Michigan matchup, we will cover only SEC and Big Ten teams. Last week we started with the current national champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Today, Tiger fans, is your day.
Let the War Eagle soar to the sky!
The explicit purpose of this game is to show how the polls and bowls prevent a necessary college football playoff. By examining how confusing it has been to determine a champion, we can observe which way not to choose the best team.
Polls considered include: Alderson System, Anderson & Hester, AP, Berryman (QRPS), BCS, Billingsley Report, Boand System, Caspar Whitney, Colley Matrix, Congrove Computer Rankings, DeVold System, Dickinson System, Dunkel System, Eck Ratings System, Houlgate System, Litkenhous, Massey College Football Ratings, Matthews Grid Ratings, NY Times, Poling System, Rothman, Sagarin Ratings, Williamson System, and Wolfe Systems.
1900 Auburn Tigers
The 1900 Auburn Tigers can legitimately claim a national title.
Eight years after starting its football program, the Auburn University Tigers had their first undefeated season.
What a year! The program claimed its first SIAA (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) conference championship. It would be the first of 13 recognized conference champions.
Detractors will state the team's four-game slate makes it unworthy of the national title. They will point to the Official NCAA Division I Football Records Book, which lists Yale (which went 12-0) as national champions. But length of schedule was not necessarily the Tigers' fault. Like the then-Alabama Polytechnic Institute, most Southern teams had short schedules. Georgia, for example, only played six games.
Despite Auburn's lack of competition, coach Billy Watkins and the team outscored its opponents 148-5, including a 53-5 beating of the Crimson Tide.
1904 Auburn Tigers
Coach Mike Donahue won his first national title with the Tigers in 1904.
Auburn's football fans can go back over a century to be deprived.
Although the 1904 Tigers team went undefeated (7-0-0), they weren't crowned SIAA Champions. The reason befuddles me, but new coach Mike Donahue didn't have much to complain about. Signature victories included a 5-0 shutout at Clemson, a 29-5 victory over Alabama in Birmingham and a 17-6 pasting of Georgia in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.
Interestingly, a 44-0 victory over UF (then called Florida Agriculture College) is in question.
1913 Auburn Tigers
Mike Donahue's (pictured above) 1913 squad were SIAA Champs.
Mike Donahue had the Midas touch, as Auburn posted its third undefeated season during his tenure.
And this time, it won the SIAA.
By now, Auburn had significantly more games per season. In spite of this, the Tigers continued to dominate opponents. Donahue's players scored plenty and kept their first six opponents from scoring. The Gators were tamed, 55-0 and Clemson, 20-0. The only close victories came in the final two games against Vanderbilt and Georgia.
It is important to note that Auburn did not play the Crimson Tide this year, as the series went on a 42-year hiatus from 1907 to 1948.
1957 Auburn Tigers
Auburn's 1957 team was the first group in school history to be given an AP championship.
Ralph "Shug" Jordan, Auburn's most treasured head coach, finally returned the Tigers to gridiron glory in 1957.
For too long, Alabama's Crimson Tide had ruled the state and garnered multiple national championships. Auburn, on the other hand, had oscillated from winning big to losing seasons.
By this time, Auburn was on its way to becoming a national powerhouse. While Shug wouldn't capture another title, he would continue to have sustained success at Auburn. He would retire in 1975; his retirement would be mourned by fans of the War Eagle. The conclusion to his last show can be found here.
1983 Auburn Tigers
In the second part of a CNN interview, Pat Dye answered questions from callers.
Auburn would return to the national stage in 1983, when the Tigers played one of the toughest stretches in football history. Check out their ridiculous schedule, playing six ranked teams and five Top 5 teams. Even though they were not awarded an AP national championship, sportswriters like Tony Barnhart realized how Pat Dye's team permanently changed the direction of program.
|Opponent||Auburn's Rank||Final Score|
|Southern Miss||Fourth||W 24-3|
|No. 3 Texas||Fifth||L 7-20|
|at Tennessee||11th||W 37-14|
|Florida State||10th||W 27-24|
|at Kentucky||Seventh||W 49-21|
|at Georgia Tech||Fifth||W 31-13|
|Mississippi State||Fifth||W 28-13|
|No. 5 Florida||Fourth||W 28-21|
|No. 7 Maryland||Third||W 35-23|
|at No. 4 Georgia||Third||W 13-7|
|vs. No. 19 Alabama||Third||W 23-20|
|vs. No. 8 Michigan||Third||W 9-7|
Note: It's important to remember that this interview took place before the bowl games. In the first part of his interview with CNN (toward the end), coach Pat Dye predicted that star freshman Bo Jackson was just scratching the surface of his talent.
1993 Auburn Tigers
Terry Bowden finished his inaugural undefeated season with a win over Alabama.
Auburn emerged from the rubble as 1993's only undefeated team.
They weren't awarded a championship, though, due to a bowl ban. Season highlights included a victory over defending national champion Alabama and the then-fourth-ranked Florida Gators.
Coach Terry Bowden (son of renowned Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden) would win his first 20 games at Auburn, including upsetting the top-ranked Gators in 1994.
2004 Auburn Tigers
Auburn reflects on being left out from the national championship.
Auburn fans had a right to be boiling mad.
Auburn had gone undefeated, ruling the regular season with standouts like quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Cadillac Williams. But (yet again) they didn't even have a chance to play for it all.
Yet in 2010, things just became outright preposterous for Tiger fans. News had surfaced that 2004 national champion USC would lose its title due to NCAA violations. This left the Tigers as the highest ranked undefeated team in the land. But instead of giving the Sears Trophy to Tommy Tuberville, the NCAA had decided to not have a 2004 national champion.
Writers nationally and at Bleacher Report supported a 2004 Auburn title. And they had great reasons. Auburn had many great triumphs, including a 10-9 win over previous national champion LSU (led by Nick Saban), blowing out fifth-ranked Georgia (coached by Mark Richt) and Ronnie Brown's performance against Phil Fulmer and Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game. Basicallly, Tuberville and the team had to face off against the highest caliber coaches in the land week in and week out. And once USC had lost the title, Tuberville said that Auburn deserved at least a share of the national title.
Well, at least the FansPoll crew recognized this team.
2010 Auburn Tigers
Auburn's most thrilling victory was "the Comeback" at Alabama.
No one could see this one coming.
Sure, some prognosticators somewhere likely thought Auburn would be a wild card to win the SEC West. But nobody expected it to come from the brink of defeat so many times.
It all culminated in a 14-0 season and a BCS National Championship victory. By the way, Tigers quarterback Cam Newton only won the Heisman Trophy.
Auburn overcame multiple deficits throughout the regular season. Close wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina weren't as thrilling by the end of the season. Games like Clemson, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama became the stuff of legend even before the end of the year. All these victories led straight to Glendale, where the Tigers beat Chip Kelly's Oregon crew on a last-second field goal. On that January 9, Auburn won (in this writer's mind) not merely its second, but its eighth national championship!
Most people think Cam Newton was paid to go to Auburn, causing this national title to be a controversy to some college football observers. Whether Newton himself was involved or was lied to and auctioned off to the highest bidder by his father, only time will tell.
Nevertheless, one thing will always be sure. The 2010 magic carpet ride will never be forgotten on Toomer's Corner.
Be sure to check out next week's team: Georgia! How many national titles have been on the line in the Deep's South Oldest Rivalry?