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What now for Auburn?

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn Getty Images

Auburn was thisclose to putting a bow on one of the great turnaround stories in college football history on Monday night.

As it stands, even though the No. 2 Tigers lost to No. 1 Florida State, 34-31, in the final seconds of the BCS national title game, there is plenty for the program to be proud about.

Consider: Last year, the Tigers finished 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC. One year later, they finished 12-2, won the SEC title and finished a hair shy of the BCS championship.

Give credit to head coach Gus Malzhan, perhaps the greatest offensive mind in college football today. He took Nick Marshall, a junior college transfer who was a converted defensive back, and turned him into a legitimate and dangerous offensive weapon. He transformed a respectable running back, Tre Mason, into a Heisman finalist.

Clearly, Malzahn is a coach who knows what he is doing. He understands — perhaps better than any coach in America — how to infuse the talent at hand with the proper scheme. And this bodes well for the Tigers going forward.

The unit that averaged 47 points over the past eight regular season games will be largely intact next season. Marshall returns, as does (potentially) Mason and every other key starter on the Auburn offense. Meanwhile, the defensive side of the ball that held Florida State offense to just 27 points — nearly half its average — returns six starters and a bevy of talented freshmen who contributed to the magical BCS run.

Make no mistake, this is a program that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so long as Malzahn is around to guide it. And it’s likely that Auburn won’t need the kind of miracle finishes it needed this year to make it to the next year’s inaugural playoff, either. The Tigers of 2014 could be a dominant force in the SEC.

For now, this Auburn team will be thinking “What If?” for quite a while. But let’s face it: It was playing with house money and still nearly pulled off one of the great upsets in BCS history. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Tiger fans.

In the pantheon of college football lore, the 2013 season — and the amazing Auburn run that helped define it — is sure to loom large in our collective memories for years to come.

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31 Responses to “What now for Auburn?”
  1. rolltide510 says: Jan 7, 2014 12:37 AM

    “There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Tiger fans.”

    Except for being an auburn fan, of course.

  2. pastabelly says: Jan 7, 2014 12:49 AM

    That term “house money” is a joke. They had as much on the line as FSU and getting back there is not guaranteed.

  3. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 12:53 AM

    Gus has done a heckuva job with this Auburn team. They played a great game tonight, and I don’t think any team–including mine–could have done better. As a Bama diehard, I’m just hoping Nick is in his office, game-planning on how to handle them next year :)

  4. oldschoolnflman says: Jan 7, 2014 12:54 AM

    Good thing florida state has no one returning. Their upside is even brighter than Auburns for next year, and they took home the hardware this year.

  5. floridascuba1 says: Jan 7, 2014 1:15 AM

    Pop warner football can only last so long

  6. ningenito78 says: Jan 7, 2014 1:33 AM

    Until Malzahn is in the NFL shortly.

  7. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 1:34 AM

    That triple option stuff doesn’t play so well in the NFL.

  8. cspsrbums says: Jan 7, 2014 1:38 AM

    What now find someone to take Chris Davis Jrs position that can cover a receiver without interfering with him on 3rd down. Dude would have never caught that ball. Would have been 4th and 3 with the game on the line instead of Davis getting beat to the inside from the 2. Never give the receiver the inside.

  9. timh1955 says: Jan 7, 2014 2:12 AM

    From every team in the SEC, thanks Auburn for breaking our string of BCS National Championships! We knew it would be broken by the cow college.

  10. captn58crunch says: Jan 7, 2014 3:23 AM

    @cspsrbums: I get it that Chris Davis Jr made a huge error and terrible play, but remember Auburn is not here without his 109-yard return vs Bama.

  11. dryzzt23 says: Jan 7, 2014 7:42 AM

    SEC is dead! Thank God, the SEC is dead!

    Yes I know, Auburn lost all by themselves, but if they had won then it would have been reported as “the SEC won their 8th blah blah”.

    Therefore, Auburn’s loss should be reported as “the SEC sucks and chokes in big games”.

    This is why individualism (Big 10) is better than collectivism (SEC).

  12. ozarkannie74 says: Jan 7, 2014 8:09 AM

    Said it before the game and I’ll say it again, Auburn was the toughest team FSU has faced all year – and I didn’t think FSU could come back, but they did – and for that, I do believe the best team won.

    Before this game I didn’t believe Winston deserved the Heisman, but if he can collect himself in the 4th quarter under the pressure he had, in the biggest game he has ever had, and pull out a win – then I have to give him credit.

    In Auburn’s defense, they played an awesome game and it sure wasn’t the blowout it was expected to be!! They’ll be back next year!!

  13. pastabelly says: Jan 7, 2014 8:43 AM

    timh1955 says:
    Jan 7, 2014 2:12 AM
    From every team in the SEC, thanks Auburn for breaking our string of BCS National Championships! We knew it would be broken by the cow college
    =================================
    You should be thanking FSU because they would have beaten any other team in the SEC as well. They just happened to beat the best SEC team available.

  14. amosalanzostagg says: Jan 7, 2014 8:49 AM

    Auburn, Thanks for a great year!

    RTR

  15. bucrightoff says: Jan 7, 2014 9:32 AM

    Malzahn will be NFL bound in the next two seasons. Like Chip Kelly he’s not beholden to a certain system, he’s a brilliant offensive mind who can adapt. And someone is going to throw $5-7 million a year at him, which is always tough to turn down.

  16. tylerjoh says: Jan 7, 2014 9:55 AM

    @captn58crunch Auburn still could have won the Iron Bowl in OT.

    CDJr also gave up the 49 yard pass play to Greene to put FSU on the 23 yard line with less than a minute to go. He way overran the initial tackle that should have kept that at a minimal gain, instead taking out another defender and letting Greene run free down the sideline. Then of course the aforementioned PI call in the endzone and subsequent easy jump ball to Benjamin.

    He got abused most of the game, especially the last drive, and I bet (hope) he’d give back that missed FG return for another chance at making a single defensive play with the title on the line.

    (Disclaimer: I’m an SEC fan that lives in ACC country, so in general just wanted to see a good game last night – and got my wish. I always was screaming loudly, from excitement, during Davis’s 109 yd FG return and appreciate it as an awesome play in CFB history).

  17. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 10:30 AM

    dryzzt23 says:

    This is why individualism (Big 10) is better than collectivism (SEC).
    ——————————————–

    Oh, I’m a big believer in individualism. And when an individual Big 10 team actually wins something, I’ll applaud.

  18. tdub821 says: Jan 7, 2014 11:27 AM

    C’mon Auburn fans…you really didn’t deserve to be there in the first place…you didn’t even use the front door, you had to use the back door to get in…that’s right, you only got in because “Little Brother” (aka Michigan State) beat O$U and you sneak into the championship game…plus, we’re all tired of the over hyped “ESPN Love Fest” with the $EC.

  19. rolltide510 says: Jan 7, 2014 11:40 AM

    “This is why individualism (Big 10) is better than collectivism (SEC).”

    It’s really amazing how in the heads of the Big 10 the SEC is.

  20. skids003 says: Jan 7, 2014 12:46 PM

    It amazes me how Auburn can take criminals and convert them to good players, and good citizens.

  21. wabbitslayer says: Jan 7, 2014 1:24 PM

    Regarding the opening line of this story….so what?

    Auburn was “thisclose” to losing to both Georgia and
    Alabama. NCAA records (and the BCS rankings) show that Auburn won those games, there’s no “last play miracle” asterisk by them. UGA and Bama sucked it up and moved on….which is what Auburn needs to do now.

    They lost; suck it up and move on.

  22. chicago240 says: Jan 7, 2014 3:03 PM

    Tre Mason jinxed them. He had a huge game, both teams put on a show, and then he had to strike the Heisman pose and point to himself after his 4th quarter TD. Jinxed ‘em. Football Gods prefer humility in cases like that and Winston did a legendary follow-up we’ll long remember.

  23. ukeone says: Jan 7, 2014 4:44 PM

    Deb said:
    Jan 7, 2014 10:30 AM

    “Oh, I’m a big believer in individualism. And when an individual Big 10 team actually wins something, I’ll applaud.”
    ————————————————–

    Michigan State beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and finished #3 in the final polls (right behind Auburn and way ahead of Alabama @ #8). Nebraska beat Georgia in the Gator Bowl (getting back into the polls while dropping Georgia back out).

    These were ‘individual’ accomplishments in the B1G, and no one here is gawking at the final conference stats, either. Yes, it’s individualism!

    I’m waiting for your ‘applause’ right about now!

  24. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 4:58 PM

    @ukeone …

    Was referring to national titles, but if you want to nitpick, I rooted for Michigan State in the B1G Championship and applauded for the Spartans all over the place. Very happy for them on their #3 finish in the coaches poll. I really don’t have a problem with the B1G … only with those obnoxious B1G fans who constantly mouth off about the SEC on CFT.

    As for Nebraska … I’m a Mizzou grad and wil probably never think of the Cornhuskers as a B1G team. Sorry. It’s been much easier to adjust to the Tigers joining the SEC. Nebraska is about as suited to the B1G as the University of Havana.

  25. ukeone says: Jan 7, 2014 8:29 PM

    @Deb

    I was about to ‘thank you’ for rooting for Michigan State, when you had to ruin it with your snide remark about Nebraska. Nebraska left the Big 12 for the same reason as Missouri (your Alma Mater) did; therefore, getting this kind of “shit-assed” remark from someone who has little business doing so is really uncalled for.

    However, since we’re both now in the mood to determine the validity of our ‘out-of-territory school affiliations’, I’ll go ahead and say that ‘the University of Alabama is as suited for the SEC as you being married to your brother!’ And don’t cry “this is racial” because being a Southerner or a member of the SEC has NOTHING to do with RACE (especially with a group of hillbilly hocums who DEFINED and continue to define RACISM in AMERICA). The birthplace of ‘Republicans,’ sheesh! Let’s re-burn-down Atlanta! (Please notice that I chose NOT to put-down Missouri.)

    In terms of the “obnoxious B1G fans who constantly mouth off about the SEC on CFT”, I seem to recall this time last year, when YOU and all your ‘Bama-trolls’ bad-mouthed all the Notre Dame fans on CFT AFTER besting them in the NC game. DEB, YOU FUCKIN’ HYPOCRITE!!! You can dish it out, but you can’t take your own medicine. So, choke on it, bitch!

    Admit it…because of Alabama and Auburn, the SEC is finally DEAD, thank GOD!!! SEC-ya…and drop dead, DEB! You and your fellow SEC online trolls are the absolute ‘epitome’ (the most perfect examples) of what most people hate about the South!!!

    Keep it up, Deb, so that all your FRIENDS on CFT can see who you really are!

  26. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 10:16 PM

    ukeone …

    It’s kinda sad watching a guy have a nervous breakdown on a college football Web site … especially for no reason whatsoever.

    I didn’t make any nasty comment about Nebraska or the Big 10, but simply offered the opinion that the two aren’t a good fit. And they arent. Nebraska isn’t geographically aligned with the other B1G schools and is the only B1G school that isn’t a member of the Association of American Universities–which had previously been a requirement for entrance into the Big 10.

    That’s not a knock on Nebraska, which is a fine school. Although Mizzou is a member of the AAU, Alabama is not. I was just making an observation that the marriage of Nebraska and the Big 10 seems unnatural. Frankly, I have no idea why you have gone off half-cocked simply because I’ve stated–as have many B1G fans–that Nebraska was an odd choice to expand that specific conference. As for Nebraska leaving the Big 12 … I have no problem with that. Why would I?

    Alabama is a founding member of the SEC, so your rant that Alabama isn’t suited to the SEC is nonsensical. So is your rant about the South being the birthplace of Republicanism. The Republican party was the party of Lincoln, the party that freed the slaves. During the 1960s, it was virtually impossible to find registered Republicans in the Heart of Dixie. It’s only been in modern history–since the Democratic party became aligned with the civil rights movement–that Republicanism has become the primary party of the South.

    I’m responsible only for my views, not the historically held views of the region, and I’m not exactly conservative. And since I play myself on the blogs, I’m quite sure everyone’s got a pretty good idea who I am, good and bad.

  27. ukeone says: Jan 8, 2014 12:12 AM

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSER!!!

  28. ukeone says: Jan 8, 2014 12:18 AM

    @ Deb

    Oh, and another thing I forgot to mention: you need to go back to U of Missouri and learn some GEOGRAPHY. Nebraska is next to IOWA, which is next to…and so on, and so on…

    And, only U of AUBURN is relevant to the state of Alabama. TuscaLOSER needs to fall off the map!

  29. ukeone says: Jan 8, 2014 12:25 AM

    @ Deb

    You said: “…is the only B1G school that isn’t a member of the Association of American Universities–which had previously been a requirement for entrance into the Big 10.”

    Nebraska was among the 1st members in the AAU and was removed (through interference of the U of Texas) because our research facilities are in Omaha rather than in Lincoln. Those facilities remain, and a new research facility (built adjacent to the East side of the stadium) houses the nation’s first research facility studying and treating sports trauma (head)…and is now boasting hundreds of millions of $$$ in support grants (from all over the country). The AAU membership issue is being ‘currently’ resolved.

  30. ukeone says: Jan 8, 2014 12:27 AM

    @ Deb

    GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT!!!

  31. Deb says: Jan 8, 2014 11:08 AM

    After scanning a couple of paragraphs, there’s no point reading the rest of this craziness. You ridicule Alabama all the time and I don’t behave like a raving lunatic about it. It’s mind-boggling that you’ve lost your mind over a simple observation that was not a slam against Nebraska or the Big 10 and are continuing to unravel all over the blog. Who cares about Nebraska?? I just said they seemed a poor fit for the B1G–something many others have said.

    It’s a mystery why my comments have generated all this angst on your part. You’ve gone to a scary and completely irrational place over nothing, dude. Consider therapy.

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