It’s cool in Birmingham today. It’ll be cold in Oxford tomorrow night. The Rebels received an icy reception in Baton Rouge, and we all saw Colonel Reb’s great grandniece blotting her tears for a vanquished dream.
I’m sure it seemed as much in the moment, but in this newest South, no one’s hopes are ended by only one loss. The Rebels are back up north, so to speak, to defend their home against the pine boxers from Auburn.
Who will stay alive, and who will be relegated to the role of hopeful spoiler? Questions abound, but the question we’re asking right now is, Are we going back to the national championship game?
Why We’re Not Going Back
I've been concerned about 2014 Auburn being an up-and-down team. I still think that’s part of their identity. With the exception of Starkville, they’ve been up when they most needed to be. But now, can we beat any of our remaining opponents—other than Samford—on a down day?
That's not a rhetorical question. It’s possible. There are many degrees of down. Only one non-Samford home game remains—against Texas A&M. If we’re down any game besides that one, or if we don’t make enough up plays to beat the Aggies, we won’t be returning to the national championship game.
Why We Are Going Back
Our defense looked pretty bad against South Carolina—real bad at times. I’d like to say we’ll soon find our infamously absent pass rush; that we’ll hit Bo Wallace a few times, and also the quarterbacks we’ll face later.
Really, I’m just recovering my confidence that we can outscore whomever we need to outscore.
Who We’ll Meet When We Get There
After last night, it appears free shoes will be in the playoff. If we win the games we must win to get into the playoff, we’ll be the one seed, which means the two seed—FSU—will lose to Baylor, and we’ll play the Bears in the championship.
I know we’ve already featured Baylor in this segment, but we’ve reached that point in the season where the contenders are playing themselves out. For example, Ole Miss tomorrow night. By the way, if you’re going to Oxford, don’t forget to not take a shaker!
The Bottom Line
I’ve been down on our chances of returning most of the week, but I’ve finally come around to the popular metanarrative—Steve Spurrier nearly painted his masterpiece last week, but Auburn still won.
You’ve heard of Amen Corner. For Auburn’s 2014, it’s more like an Amen Back Nine. And it’s gonna take some incredible shots to get to Arlington and win there. But we’ve got some incredible players, and I’m ready to see them win the first ever college football playoff. Aren’t you?
Josh Dowdy is a College & Mag contributor. He also writes about Auburn sports and the Auburn Family at heartofauburn.com.