The 2011 Auburn Tigers were picked to finish near the bottom of the league. Yet the Tigers defied those preseason odds and finished in the middle of the South Eastern Conference.
After going through a 7-4 season that saw blow out losses to LSU and Georgia, few gave Auburn any chance to win the 76th Iron Bowl. However, they forgot to tell Auburn's young squad... and they played their hearts out.
Much has been made this year about that "young team." So much so that many have to be tired of hearing about the the Tigers' youth. After 11 games that certainly can't be offered as an excuse. However, when you basically have a bunch of high school all stars playing against the number two team in the nation, you can't realistically expect a much different outcome to the Iron Bowl.
Coach Chizik knew at the end of last year that the long-term building process was just beginning. He knew the 2011 season was going to be tough. He tried to prepare us in his press conferences. But we fans were still wrapped up in the euphoria of a national championship and didn't or wouldn't listen. With more than 30 players missing from that championship team, the Tigers won seven games, which was more than the preseason gurus had expected.
Debate has raged on message boards since Saturday about what Auburn should do about getting back to the top (including possible coaching changes).
I believe Gene Chizik will do whatever is necessary to make sure that Auburn is in the best position to improve the program and that everyone is on the same page going forward. It is the only thing he can do. It's the one thing he must do; because success in the SEC West demands it.
But I'm not here today to discuss the youth vs. the talent level, the coaching vs. the execution, the play calling vs. the defensive schemes, or any other 'what if's' of the Tiger 2011 season.
I just simply want to say that Saturday night as I stood yelling at the top of my voice in Jordan-Hare Stadium... I still felt it was "Great To Be An Auburn Tiger!"
I don't know how it felt watching it on TV. I probably could not have endured viewing it over that medium. But I can say that being at the game, I was not entirely despondent over the loss. I was actually encouraged by the fight in our Tigers. There was never any doubt as to how proud and loud the Auburn faithful were of their effort. The Tigers never seemed to give up. They kept scratching and clawing and fighting against a superior opponent.
And what was particularly important to me was the crowd stayed loud in the game all the way through. At one point during a commercial break the faithful started chanting, "It's Great - to be - an Auburn Tiger!" It filled my heart with joy to see my four year old granddaughter joining in that chant to the top of her lungs.
I talked with people in the stadium and afterwards with folks around our tailgate spot and to a person, the general feeling was one of being proud that this team (which was so outmanned and outgunned) never seemed to quit.
That says a lot about the team, the coaches, and the indomitable Auburn Spirit. I for one feel like we are in good hands; the future is bright, and Auburn will be back. To quote our Editor, Jay Coulter... "Auburn will be back (and) soon."