The emotions shown by Auburn fans since Saturday's loss to LSU have been some of the most intense I've ever seen. It's not surprising. You could feel the passion around campus on Saturday. Tiger Walk was the biggest, loudest and most intense I've seen in years. Yes, it was even louder than last year's Iron Bowl.
Inside the stadium, Auburn students pushed the noise level to something that rivaled an AC/DC concert. Had there been a seismograph on the Plains, it would have registered more than once. Big games are nothing new for Auburn. Since Tommy Tuberville's arrival a decade ago, he's turned winning the big regular season game into an art form.
But why did Saturday's game feel a little bigger? We all know the history of the series and the ramifications of a loss. It's been four years since Auburn has sniffed the Georgia Dome when the SEC logo has been affixed to the 50 yard-line.
Visits to Orlando and Atlanta at the end of the season are nice. But memories are made in New Orleans, Tempe and Miami. Auburn fans are ready for more. It has been four years since the greatest season in school history. Fans have seen Florida and LSU claim national titles in recent years - titles won by teams that were equal to or less than the Auburn squads they faced in the regular season.
Saturday was a start toward that elusive goal - another SEC title. The letdown has been hard and painful. Irrational fans have called for Tuberville's head and believe the spread offense should be scraped four games into the season. Despite a 3-1 record, frustration rivals that of a year ago this time.
It's hard to believe that Tuberville is only 17 wins away from passing Pat Dye for second on the all-time wins list at Auburn, trailing only Shug Jordan. Despite all of Tuberville's successes - winning big against top 10 teams, beating Alabama six in a row and capturing numerous SEC West titles, he continues to struggle at adding another notch in the legend's belt.
He compares favorably with the big names of the SEC coaching fraternity - Meyer, Saban, Miles, Spurrier and Richt. The only thing missing is another conference title. Like it or not, it's what separates him from the others in the eyes of the national media.
What Tuberville does in the next few years will determine whether his name is put on the outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium one day. The only way to make it happen is to win championships. Winning one title in ten years won't get it done.
Auburn fans know it. Tuberville knows it. He's so very close. That's why Saturday night hurt so badly. That's why this new offense is such a tremendous gamble. The Auburn program has never been better or lead by a better man. It's not just about wins and losses anymore. It's about legacy and taking a proud program to a place it has never been.
Nerves are on edge. The stakes have never been higher. We can all taste it. Don't write this year off yet. And whatever you do, don't bet against Thomas Hawley Tuberville.