Auburn will contend in 2010

Despite an unproven (but trendy) quarterback, a mid-SEC level defense and depth issues all over the field, the fact that Auburn played Alabama close in 2009 and won an emotional New Year’s Day bowl translates to the Tigers being a major contender in the SEC West, certain to vie for a spot in Phoenix next January.

You heard it here first.

Or maybe not.  All you need is a short memory to remember another trendy team that was all the rage this time last summer.

Remember Ole Miss in 2009? Remember the powerful Jevan Snead? Remember the game of the century that was to take place in early October in Oxford?  Don’t worry; nobody else does either.

In 2009, Ole Miss was Phil Steele’s pick to win the West, lose to Florida in Atlanta and play in the Sugar Bowl.  These days Steele has indicated that one of his models for the upcoming 2010 season has Auburn being the surprise team in the West, leading to feverish anticipation not seen since, well, last year.

In fact, almost a year ago to the day, here was his bowl predictions for SEC teams for the 2009 season (ten total):

Now, here were the results: 2009 season bowl results

To save time, of the ten games and twenty participants from the SEC he predicted, he got four right.  Not match-ups.  He didn’t get any of the ten match-ups correct (Team A vs. Team B).

Instead, Steele “nailed” four of the twenty participants.  That’s 4 out of 20.  20%.

Can you imagine your doctor telling you he was 20% certain what was wrong with you?  Or your HVAC technician?  Or your mechanic?  How confident would you be moving forward?

Getting back to the grind, as for the No. 6 finish he predicted for the Rebs?  Heck, let’s just look at the entire Top 25. Here’s how it played out in real life.  The left poll shows the final BCS standings.  On the right you’ll see the Sporting News, Athlon’s, Lindy’s and Phil Steele’s predictions for ’09:

Notice anybody missing?  But for a little more fun, let’s see what else we have here…

  • Steele “nailed” three of the top 25 finishers (Texas at No. 2, Virginia Tech at No. 11 and Nebraska at No. 22) but missed on the other 22.  That’s a 12% success rate.
  • Steele didn’t rank Oregon (No. 7), Georgia Tech (No. 9), Oregon State (No. 18) or Utah (No. 23).
  • Steele had Notre Dame as a dark horse to compete for all the marbles, projecting a reasonable finish at No. 7.  The Irish finished 6-6 and didn’t play in a bowl.
  • And of course, Steele had Ole Miss finishing at No. 6…but the Rebs didn’t even make it into the final poll.

So what led to the Ole Miss love at the beginning of last season, besides a fan-crazed hunger for football prognostications this time of year?  Well, it’s simple:

A trendy quarterback, a strong finish in 2008 and an emotional New Year’s Day Cotton Bowl win.

Sound familiar?  Notice a trend?

Look, one can argue that Phil Steele’s body of work holds water.  But his predictions are no better than yours if you had enough time to sit down, analyze the schedules and data and submit your predictions to a publisher.  The rest of us get paid to do something else.

For what it’s worth, Steele had Bama being great in ’08 and good in 2009, finishing behind the Rebs in the West.  But for some reason I remember a different scene from last January .

The most fun last summer any of us had was getting to participate in pumping sunshine into our Rebel friends who believed the pie in the sky that the pundits like Steele, Tim Brando and other talking heads were selling.  Now that pie has an interlocking AU on it, and it tastes good to any orange and blue pallets out there willing to take a bite.

But ask only our friends in Oxford about the aftertaste that crusty old pie can leave.

So let me be the first to say, Auburn will win the West this year, finish 12-0 and face the Gators in the Georgia Dome.  Anything less than a 10-win season and BCS bowl appearance will be a monumental disappointment.  The Tigers’ time has come.  No one can stop them this season! (Spread the word…)