Shane: AU family vs. Crimson empire

The Auburn Family versus the Crimson Empire- A juxtaposition
By Shane from Centerpoint

I have information coming from a usually reliable source telling me that the Auburn football program is well on its way back to national prominence. That same source also tells me that head coach Gene Chizik believes that his team is loaded with enough talent (right now) to compete with the best. The Tiger fan base has been on cloud nine since their first top-five recruiting class signed on. And, thanks to Trooper Taylor, Auburn appears ready to improve this class over the last one by leaps and bounds.

My correspondent over on the western front tells me that all is well with the Crimson Tide. All facets of the program are running in high order. Nick Saban has his young team focused. His patented “process” for the 2010 campaign is well under way. The Tide fan base is riding high and carries the confidence that winning a championship brings. Don’t forget, Coach Saban reeled in another top-ranked class as well.

Auburn’s Chizik made a couple of brilliant hires from a recruiting standpoint. Team Trooper and Luper are (by far) Auburn’s best weapons. As long as they stay, Auburn will continue to bring in its share of the best talent America has to offer.

Meanwhile, it has to help Bama’s assistants immensely to know that Nick Saban – probably the best closer in the business – is going to come in when things get down to the wire and seal the deal. The truly amazing part about Saban is his consistent ability to stack his teams with layers of superior players.

Auburn fans in general are the same as they ever were. They spend the off-season defending their Tigers’ honor on the Internet and airwaves. Even after being jerked around by the institution’s power–brokers for years and a running–through a carousel of different coaches – they remain some of the most loyal and faithful football fans on the face of the earth.

Did anybody bedsides me notice that Alabama fans have almost taken the national crown “for granted” right alongside Nick Saban and his team? Most Crimson Tide fans completely understand what it means to be a champion. They also understand all the nuances involved with being a fan of the best program in the country.

Auburn is a team searching for its true identity on the national front. It is rapidly rebuilding under Coach Chizik’s watchful eye. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s offensive schemes took the nation by storm, giving Auburn the reputation of being a scoring machine — but the defense (traditionally stout) lacked in basic fundamentals – like tackling. Chizik must define his team’s personality in year-two if he wants long-term success.

It may sound like an agonizing reappraisal to Crimson Tide opponents, but everything Alabama has done goes back to the original mission statement Saban laid out when he arrived at the Capstone. Alabama has become that team nobody wants to play. They are relentless, very physical, and use both assets to enforce a team attitude that dominates the competition for sixty minutes.

Questions to ponder:

Does the War Eagle clan have the patience to allow Chizik time (minimum 3yrs.) to rebuild the program? Tuberville left the system in shambles. How will Auburn fans handle losing a third game in a row to Alabama? Can Auburn coaches and players stay focused on improving their program without measuring themselves against their cross-state rival that is currently enjoying one of the greatest periods in its storied history?

Will Nick Saban lead Alabama to a third (record–setting) undefeated regular season in a row? Can the Crimson Tide maintain the edge that’s taken them to 26 wins in the last 28 games? Can Alabama impose the same will on opponents that enabled them to win the SEC title and the national crown in 2009?

One thing is as certain as the sunrise: September’s coming and all the answers will start rolling in by then.

Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.