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What to Do When Your Rivals Are In the National Title Game

The Case for Not Caring

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night, Auburn fans watched their two biggest rivals, Georgia and Alabama, secure berths in the National Championship game. This, combined with our dismal showing against UCF, caused a meltdown on #AuburnTwitter. Some called it the worst day in the history of Auburn football.

Admittedly, it’s never a good day when you lose to a team from a minor conference, undefeated or not. But your reaction to that day and the season at large should not depend on the outcome of another team’s season.

Auburn had a very good season. We went to our third major bowl in five years. We won the Iron Bowl. Our defense looked like Auburn again. Our offense was balanced and dangerous. Everybody danced. We played four games against the top four teams in America and went 2-2. That’s a very good season by any standard.

It wasn’t a great season. We blew a game in Baton Rouge and fell short of the SEC Title and Playoff. We looked flat again in the bowl game. There are reasons to be disappointed. Alabama’s and Georgia’s success aren’t one of them.

This is not a call for Auburn fans to rally around their state or their conference. It’s not a call to root for our “friendly” rival over our “bitter” rival. Root for someone Monday night if you’d like, or not; watch the game, or not. Do whatever makes you happy but the outcome of the game shouldn’t affect your satisfaction with Auburn or the season we just had.

This is not a call for Auburn fans to accept mediocrity. Auburn fans should expect to compete for SEC and national titles. We should expect to play in major bowl games. We should expect to beat their rivals. We have done these things regularly in the past; we should expect them to keep happening.

Since 2004, Auburn has won a national title, played for another, and been wrongfully excluded from a third. Only Alabama has more SEC Titles than Auburn since 2004. Auburn is 19-17 against Bama since Bo Over the Top. Auburn is 18-18-1 against Georgia in the same span. Since 2001, Auburn is a combined 10-1 against Florida and Tennessee. The only conference team that has consistently had our number is LSU.

We’ve been successful even though our neighbors have also been successful. Five SEC teams won a national title in the BCS era and Georgia (bless their hearts) got close several times. Auburn continued to get the recruits and coaches we needed to be successful despite stiff competition. We (reasonably) expect Auburn to continue competing against and beating the best teams in football.

If Auburn isn’t the National Champion, I couldn’t care less who is. Georgia had a great season. Alabama’s season will be great with a win (it may already be great in light of the injuries they overcame to make it this far). Both squads earned their way into the title game. One of them will receive a ring that says “2018 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.” Because of Auburn, no matter who wins, somewhere on that ring will be the inscription “-1.”

Don’t let comparison to others rob you of the joy you had watching a fun Auburn team make an improbable run to the SEC Championship Game. Sure, I wish we would have beaten Georgia twice and gotten into the playoff. I wish our season was “great” and not “very good.” But we didn’t and it wasn’t. And sometimes “very good” has to be good enough.

All you can do is get ready to whip them both again next year.

It’s always a good day to be an Auburn Tiger. War Eagle, Always.