When Tommy Tuberville resigned from Auburn University, most people and members of the media liked to sling it around that he was fired, especially ESPN.
"How could they fire Tommy Tuberville? He won EIGHT games a season!"
Exactly. He didn't average 12, 11, or 10. He averaged eight.
Eight wins has never gotten a team to a BCS Bowl, let alone the National Championship Game. When he left, Gene Chizik brought his 5-19 record to the Plains, where he had to deal with horrid depth, no real offensive threats, a lack of talent, and a tough schedule.
However, he hired Gus Malzahn to run the offense. If the ESPY's had an award for "Hire of the Year", that would have won hands-down. AU's offense led the way to a successful 8-5 season, including a 38-35 OT victory in the Outback Bowl over the Northwestern Wildcats.
Now, after the fourth ranked class in College Football, mainly defensive players (namely Linebackers), and the return of the entire staff, Tiger faithful are excited about the direction of the program. And with good reason. But there is a hump Chizik must get over:
Auburn Linebacker Josh Bynes, who led the team with 104 tackles in 2009, said at SEC Media Days in Hoover, "8 wins don't get us nowhere. It gets us back to the Outback Bowl, or the Champs Sports Bowl."
Well said, Josh. 8-4 would be a big disappointment in a year where many sane Tiger fans could see 12-0 really happening.
The Tigers start No. 23 in the polls, after having to win five straight to get ranked 17th last year (The one game they played ranked, they lost 44-23). The schedule sets up perfectly.
What do Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, and Georgia all have in common?
They play Auburn, and they play Auburn IN Auburn, which is huge, seeing as Auburn defended home turf better than they have in recent memory, going 6-2 (21-14 UK loss and valiant Iron Bowl loss that ended in a standing ovation).
Auburn has three road games in the first 11 weeks, and all three are teams Auburn will be favored heavily to win (Yes, I'm aware UK beat AU last year. That's just a chip on AU's shoulder). Many prognosticators have predicted an 11-0 start by AU, including Phil Steele and Colin Cowherd.
If there is one facet of AU's game that could contribute most to a possible 12-0 record, it would be the Offensive Line and the RB corp it blocks for. AU's offensive line is one of the best in the SEC and one of the best in all of College Football, led by four seniors.
The only spot not occupied by a senior is currently a battle between two five star JUCO transfers. Mario Fannin will finally get his time to shine, and Curtis Luper, like he did for Tate last year, has predicted a 1,000 yard season for Super Mario.
With the system AU runs and how good it is at running the ball, you could say ALF could have 1,000 yards if he started. Mario Fannin, Onterio McCelebb, and Micheal Dyer headline the RB corp, and don't forget Eric Smith, who was an excellent Wheel Route Runner last season.
AU's defense will look nothing in 2010 like it did in 2009. A new scheme has been placed and depth issues have been met with five star talent. Expect Auburn to be Auburn again on this side of the ball, especially if AU is able to have more sustained drives on offense than last year.
Then again, how tired can you be after three plays? That's what Tiger fans hope for.
10 wins is the benchmark for Auburn this year. Unlike with Tubs..... Auburn would be bitterly disappointed with eight wins.