By Shane from Centerpoint
Letâ€™s play a game of â€œWhat if?â€. The topic for todayâ€™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 weâ€™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 â€œstatueâ€?
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.
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. Iâ€™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 â€œtraditional standardâ€ ten-win season, including a victory that shuts the â€œcow collegeâ€ 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 Sabanâ€™s â€œprocessâ€. 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 â€“ 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 Tubbyâ€™s â€œstreakâ€ goes to seven, the mediaâ€™s view will be that Saban isnâ€™t making enough progress and the off-season will be tough for sure. This is about where Nickâ€™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 teamâ€™s success. A one-win improvement over last yearâ€™s record isnâ€™t what Nick Saban and the â€œprocessâ€ is about. Even a victory to end Auburnâ€™s streak couldnâ€™t change the average look of the
seasonâ€™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 Sabanâ€™s system.
Next weâ€™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 â€œgreenhornâ€ signal-caller who hasnâ€™t faced talented SEC defenses on the road can play well enough to win eleven or twelve games. If a scenario such as the Tigersâ€™ losing only one or two games occurs it would be due to Auburnâ€™s defense. Thatâ€™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 â€“ â€œNine-win Tubbyâ€? If Auburn wins nine games in the 2008 campaign then Tommy Tuberville is operating on all cylinders. It doesnâ€™t get any better with coach Tub. Again, a victory over the Tide evokes talk of a statue for Tuberville on Toomerâ€™s Corner.
An eight-win outing is about what Auburn fans should expect from this yearâ€™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.