Shane: ‘What if?’

By Shane from Centerpoint
Let’s play a game of “What if?”. The topic for today’s game is the final records of both the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers. How will the supporters of each university feel when the season is completed and the final records are assessed? Can one game change the perception of an entire season?

First we’ll look at the Alabama Crimson Tide. We can start at the top by using the using the unrealistic goal of an undefeated season. If that happens (and hell freezes-over), the empty spot beside Gene Stallings in front of Bryant-Denny is about to be occupied. Can you say “statue”?

A one-loss season, also unobtainable, would have Tide fans claiming the top spot in every 2009 pre-season poll. The optimism meter would explode and the nation would know the Tide is back. Crimson Tide Sports Marketing would enjoy record-setting profits.

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An eleven-win season would put Alabama within reach of a top five finish in the national polls and would probably mean Alabama had played in the SEC championship game. This scenario is not totally impossible. I’ve seen the Tide produce similar results under Stallings in his second year. The talk of a national title in 2009 would dominate talk-radio and the Internet. Bama fans would re-define arrogance.

The “traditional standard” ten-win season, including a victory that shuts the “cow college” up for an entire year, would be about where Crimson Tide fans should expect this talented, but young, team to be at this stage in Saban’s “process”. Some road losses are understandable playing the caliber of opponents the Tide will face in hostile territory. There is a fine line between seven and ten wins – Bama should walk it straight in 2008.

If Alabama wins nine games and beats Tubby, the fans will give Saban a nod and start talking openly about expecting more progress next year. If the Tide wins nine but Tubby’s “streak” goes to seven, the media’s view will be that Saban isn’t making enough progress and the off-season will be tough for sure. This is about where Nick’s detractors begin to see a chink in his armor and the Auburn issue appears larger than it should be.

Eight victories is not an option. This is where one game can change the entire perception of a team’s success. A one-win improvement over last year’s record isn’t what Nick Saban and the “process” is about. Even a victory to end Auburn’s streak couldn’t change the average look of the
season’s end, and some changes might need to be made in the coaching staff.

Another seven-win performance by the Crimson Tide this year would be considered a complete melt-down. Not progressing would be disastrous for Nick Saban’s system.

Next we’ll take a look at the Auburn Tigers. We will start with the magical (remember 2004?) undefeated season. Auburn caught lightning-in-a-bottle once and still claims they were cheated out of a shot for the title. If they did win every game this time around, they would surely get a shot. Anyway, it is not going to happen, so why worry about it.

A one or two-loss season is out of the question as well. No team with a “greenhorn” signal-caller who hasn’t faced talented SEC defenses on the road can play well enough to win eleven or twelve games. If a scenario such as the Tigers’ losing only one or two games occurs it would be due to Auburn’s defense. That’s not going to happen since their prime motivator and architect, Will Muschamp, is coaching the Texas Longhorns.

Ten and three is a remote possibility for Tubby and his troops. If Auburn reaches the ten-win plateau, Tiger fans should thank Tuberville and his staff for a job well done. A record of this quality coupled with a victory over Bama will entrench Tubby in the hearts of Aubies everywhere.

Have you ever heard this catch phrase – “Nine-win Tubby”? If Auburn wins nine games in the 2008 campaign then Tommy Tuberville is operating on all cylinders. It doesn’t get any better with coach Tub. Again, a victory over the Tide evokes talk of a statue for Tuberville on Toomer’s Corner.

An eight-win outing is about what Auburn fans should expect from this year’s team. With youth and inexperience at the most important position (quarterback) and new coordinators on both sides of the ball, lack of continuity and consistency will produce some bad results. However – and here we go again – a win over Alabama washes the slate clean.

Auburn fans should consider seven wins or less to be a total disaster, but – knowing what I know about the Auburn Family – if Tommy beats Bama for the seventh time in a row, he lives to farm (I mean coach) another year. I know that it is almost embarrassing to admit that beating Alabama means that much to Auburn fans, but it is what it is. Yes, one game can definitely change the perception of an entire season.

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