Proving Auburn Was More Good Than Lucky in Unforgettable 2013 SEC Title Season

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMay 28, 2014

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Rushing for 296 yards against one of the best rushing defenses in the country isn't luck.

Building a 27-7 lead by combining a hurry-up, no-huddle offense with a stifling defense that forced drives of three or fewer plays in four of the first five drives of a game isn't luck.

Yet when the story of the 2013 Auburn Tigers is told, "luck" seems to be one of the first things that pops up in the conversation.


Because the game-winning scores of those two games, Alabama and Georgia, respectively, were unlike two we've ever seen, and explaining them away with luck is the most convenient way to do so. 

Yes, Nick Marshall's 73-yard touchdown pass that was tipped into the hands of Ricardo Louis for the game-winning score of the Georgia game was lucky.

Georgia QB Aaron Murray is sacked by Auburn DE Dee Ford
Georgia QB Aaron Murray is sacked by Auburn DE Dee FordDave Martin/Associated Press

But Auburn put itself in position to make that happen with a remarkably dominant first half that had nothing to do with luck and had everything to do with players executing and coaches coaching at an extremely high level. That lead could have been even bigger had a close call on an incompletion from Marshall to Sammie Coates on the opening drive gone Auburn's way and led to a touchdown rather than a field goal.

Even if the "kick six" to beat Alabama didn't carry the ramifications it did, it would have still gone down as one of the most remarkable ways to end any game in college football history. Throw in division title, SEC title and national title ramifications, and it will be replayed for generations.

But it wasn't luck.

Auburn had a plan coming out of a timeout and executed it to perfection. Sure, it needed Adam Griffith to come up short on his 57-yard field-goal attempt, but both teams knew that was a legitimate possibility. Auburn was simply better prepared and properly executed the final play of the game.

It wasn't like it was a 34-point field-goal return either. Auburn actually played a good game for the first 59:59.

Auburn WR Sammie Coates
Auburn WR Sammie CoatesUSA TODAY Sports

Auburn's offense clicked, its defense tightened up when it needed to, the team got a key field-goal block that set up the game-tying drive and ran it straight at Alabama, leading to the game-tying 39-yard touchdown pass from Marshall to Coates.

Not luck.

You're going to see Auburn dancing around many preseason predictions for the College Football Playoff this year, but it won't in all of them. Luck will be cited as a factor for not putting the Tigers in the top four.

What won't be discussed is the bad luck Auburn had last season. And yes, there was some.

Like the illegal touching penalty on a fourth-quarter onside kick with Auburn down two touchdowns with 6:33 to play (2:14:00 mark)?

The ball checked up a little more than anticipated just short of 10 yards, and kicker Cody Parkey touched it just shy of the 45-yard line. Had it not checked up as much, Parkey would have still recovered it, and Auburn would have had the ball with momentum and time on the clock for head coach Gus Malzahn to work with.

That's not to say Auburn would have won the game, but that was certainly one instance of an unlucky bounce that closed the door on Auburn's late-game surge on a sloppy field (also an unlucky break) in Baton Rouge.

Don't fall into the trap of writing off Auburn because "its luck will run out." That's just lazy.

Auburn won last season with a raw quarterback and a new head coach that fell into a play-calling groove unlike anything in recent college football memory. It isn't luck that nobody could stop it. The fact that it couldn't be stopped is a compliment to the skills of the players and coaches.

Good teams put themselves in position to get breaks. Show me a championship team that didn't get a little lucky along the way, and I'll show you a unicorn or Sasquatch—all of which are mythical.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.