BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn

What now for Auburn?


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.

Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil to return for Texas A&M on Oct. 24

Associated Press

As if this day wasn’t busy enough, Ole Miss announced late Monday evening star-crossed offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil‘s suspension has been capped at seven games, meaning he’ll miss Saturday’s trip to Memphis but return in time for Texas A&M visit to The Grove on Oct. 24.

From the university:

The University initially withheld Tunsil from competition at the start of the season as both the NCAA and the University examined several alleged improper benefits.  During the course of the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.  In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles.  He later corrected his account and since apologized. 

As part of his reinstatement conditions, the NCAA imposed a seven-game suspension, ordered Tunsil to pay the value of the extra benefits to a charity, perform community service, and he will also make the vehicle down payment.

Said Tunsil: “I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program. This was a learning experience, and I’m looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself. The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else. I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.”

The news is, obviously, great for Tunsil and head coach Hugh Freeze personally, as well as the entire Ole Miss football program. It’s also a nice plus for NFL scouts, as it means Tunsil’s first live action of 2015 will come against possible future No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett.

Hope he’s been practicing.

Report: Steve Spurrier set to retire

Steve Spurrier

Say it ain’t so, Steve.

According to a report from Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated Monday evening, Steve Spurrier is set to retire.

Spurrier, 70, is a legend the likes college football has never seen before and never will again.

He was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, then returned to his alma mater and turned the program into a juggernaut, leading the Gators to 122-27-1 record from 1990-01 and a national championship in 1996. After a stint with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Spurrier landed at South Carolina, where since 2005 he’s racked up a school record 86 wins.

But those wins slowed down of late. After an SEC East championship in 2010 and three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13, the Gamecocks fell to 7-6 in 2014, and are off to a 2-4 mark this fall. With the possibility of losses to nemeses old and new like Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson ahead, Spurrier, it appears, would rather fade away quietly to the putting green.

Perhaps no two sentences summarize Spurrier, then and now, more precisely than this:

Combined with his three years at Duke, Spurrier closes up shop with a 228-89-2 mark, and a bust in the coaches’ wing of the Hall of Fame waiting for him.