While Alabama climbs to the top of the college football playoff rankings, Auburn is left scratching their heads and searching for a non-ESPN channel to watch on Tuesday nights.
In the wake of what can only be categorized as embarrassing losses to Texas A&M and Georgia, Auburn is dealing with a case of whiplash after gaining impressive momentum in a season ripe for more miracles, yet fraught with inconsistency.
Even so, Gus Malzahn maintains that, well, things could be worse.
Panning over to Will Muschamp. Gus has a point.
“I’ve coached for twenty-five years. I’ve been through a lot more difficult stretches than this. The bottom line is we haven’t played our best the last two weeks. We’re still a good football team. We’re capable of being a very good football team. That’s the goal, to finish this thing like we can. Which I know we can, which I expect us to,” Malzahn stated in a press conference on Tuesday.
While this may be true, last year’s “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” had lifted Auburn to storybook heights, complete with angels in the end zones and a chorus of “Got a second?” ringing throughout a forest of rolled trees.
A year later, the miracles have seemingly run out for Auburn. The 2014 season, on its own, would be a fine season for the Tigers. Like a sophomore album after a debut hit record, though, it has left fans pining for the classics of 2013.
The once-blaring chants of “There goes Davis!” and “They’re not gonna keep ‘em off the field tonight!” are distant echoes at this point
As such, this year’s Iron Bowl is an even bigger deal for Auburn, which doesn’t bode well for a team that has become known for faltering under pressure. A win over Alabama could salvage the season for the tired Tigers, but it’s not a likely outcome. Auburn’s performance during its last two games will be paired with a Crimson Tide more than ready to silence the “One Second” banter with sixty minutes of unmitigated revenge.
It could get ugly—really ugly.
Of course, Malzahn is doing his best to inspire his players to keep their heads up, telling them to be “big boys” as they face what stands to be a painful end to the regular season in Tuscaloosa.
Defensive back Jonathan Jones explained Malzahn’s mandate to AuburnTigers.com by saying, “He’s just being honest with you. You can take it two ways: you can take it as a challenge, or pity yourself and put your head down and give up on the rest of the season. Or you can be a big boy and become a man and face the season with your head up and keep working. We just really took it as a challenge. You have to.”
Though the fairy tale endings have escaped them this season, the Auburn Tigers are determined to face the final games of 2014 with dignity. Win or lose, that is a brand of leadership to be respected. In these final weeks of SEC football, Gus Malzahn epitomizes the Auburn Creed’s focus on allowing sports to develop the qualities of a sound mind and body—and “a spirit that is not afraid.”
“We are always going to have high goals,” Malzahn said, via 247Sports.com. “You don’t always reach your goals. That’s the way life works, too. The true champions and the true winners come back and bounce back.”