With USC's Title Stripped, Is Auburn College Football's 2004 National Champion?
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The news of the day in college football is, in a way, hardly news.
Stemming from an NCAA ruling that former USC running back Reggie Bush was ineligible, the BCS officially vacated the Trojans' 2004 National Championship.
This was an expected result, especially since it's been nearly a year since the NCAA ruled Bush ineligible and USC would have to vacate 14 wins from 2004 and 2005. Bush was accused of receiving improper benefits from an agent during his time with the Trojans, and the results have been devastating for the school's football program.
Bush was the Trojans' best weapon during 2004 and 2005. The Trojans went unbeaten during the regular season both years, won the BCS title in 2004 and were one Vince Young Rose Bowl performance from three consecutive National Championships. The 2004 season ended with the Trojans thumping second-ranked Oklahoma 55-19 in one of the most lopsided bowl games of all time.
In a nutshell, along with all the sanctions USC has received, they have now lost the 2005 Heisman Trophy and the 2004 BCS title. The Pac-12 is now the only conference without a BCS championship.
One particular squad that's happy to hear this is the Auburn Tigers.
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The eventual 2010 national champions could have ended the long championship drought back in 2004 when they went 13-0 and won the SEC title. But the Tigers were excluded from the Orange Bowl in favor of the Sooners and Trojans.
The BCS said in a statement the title will remain vacant, so for right now, one shiny crystal ball in the Auburn Arena museum will have to do. But should the Tigers claim the 2004 season as a national title anyway?
This was a very good team.
The Tigers had one of the best backfields in SEC history with QB Jason Campbell and a RB duo of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. All three players were drafted in the top 10 of the 2005 NFL Draft. Also, the WR corps was strong with the likes of Devin Aromashodu and Courtney Taylor. The offensive line was strong as well, anchored by Marcus McNeill.
Along with the great offense, the Tigers had the best defense in the country, giving up 11 points per game with a defensive line that included Jay Ratliff and Bret Eddins. The linebacking corps was anchored by Travis Williams, and the secondary was the nation's finest with Carlos Rogers and Junior Rosegreen.
Should Auburn claim 2004 as a national championship?
There's no proof Auburn would have won the title game against any opponent, whether it was USC, Oklahoma or Utah. Against Utah and Oklahoma, I personally like the Tigers' chances, but that isn't enough. There's no head-to-head proof Auburn could beat every single team in America.
Auburn wouldn't be the first team in the state of Alabama to claim this type of championship.
Yes, I'm going to hear from Alabama fans about this one, but hey, there's proof to back me up.
If Alabama can claim a three-loss 1941 season (one in which the Crimson Tide finished 20th in the AP Poll), I don't see what would stop Auburn from claiming this undefeated season as a national title, especially since there is now no true champion from that year to provide a counter-argument.
If they haven't claimed it yet, they probably won't—ever.
If Auburn was serious about putting up a banner for this 2004 season, they would have done it already, without a word from the BCS or anyone else. That's just the way Auburn's athletic department does business.
The Tigers had a National Championship-caliber body of work.
Against No. 5 LSU, the Tigers drove down the field late in the game, and Campbell threw the game-winning TD pass to Courtney Taylor. Auburn won 10-9 and wouldn't be really challenged again the rest of the season.
In a night game at No. 8 Tennessee, the Tigers rolled to a 31-3 halftime lead and went on to win 34-10.
Another notable performance was at home against No. 8 Georgia. Auburn jumped out to a 24-0 lead and went on to win 24-6—THAT is how you hold on to a 24-0 lead.
Okay, okay—no more Alabama jokes.
Speaking of Alabama, the Tigers beat the Tide in Bryant-Denny by a 21-13 score to finish 11-0. Auburn then beat Tennessee (again) 38-28 for the SEC title and finished the season with a 16-13 win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl—looks close, but Auburn led 16-0 in the fourth quarter.
Should Auburn claim 2004 as a National Championship? Yes.
They have the right to, and they deserve it.
Former coach Tommy Tuberville said today the title should be awarded to the Tigers. But will Auburn claim 2004 as a National Championship?
Unless the AP or BCS has a change of heart and awards it, Auburn's 2004 team will remain the best team ever to not win the national title.
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