Since this is “What-If” week on SB Nation, we’re going to actually contribute.
There are a multitude of what-if questions that an Auburn fan could ponder, and many of them come from the recent past.
What if Auburn beats Florida State and wins a national championship in Gus Malzahn’s first year, the second title in four seasons for the Tigers?
What if Auburn doesn’t fall apart against Texas A&M and collapses late in 2014? There’s definitely a shot at a Playoff bid that year if we don’t lose our steam against the Aggies.
What if Jeremy Johnson pans out? Ugh.
What if we don’t have quarterback injuries, running back injuries, all sorts of injuries late in the 2016 and 2017 seasons? Do we spoil someone else’s season or become the first two-loss Playoff attendee? Probably, yeah.
WHAT IF THEY CALL THE FREAKING DOUBLE DRIBBLE GAHHHHHHHHD.
That one might be the worst.
However, it’s a different sport than the previous few. We want to go back to the source, poke around in the roots of all of these other queries. None of the above (aside from the Virginia Swindle) are questions if Auburn does something different in December of 2012.
Remember hiring Gus Malzahn? Despite what some have said, it’s worked out pretty well. He’s by far the most successful coach in college football against the top program (Alabama — 3-4 record against Nick Saban), and he’s gotten Auburn two SEC West Championships, one SEC Championship, and a bid to the final BCS Championship Game, where he was 13 seconds away from winning Auburn’s second title of the new millennium. He’s given Auburn maybe the most stability we’ve had since the Pat Dye era. It’s been pretty good, and he’s had to go against some of the most powerful programs year in and year out on his schedule.
Do you remember the other candidate? The other finalist?
That guy. Mr. Bowl Cut himself.
Auburn could’ve hired Kirby Smart in December of 2012, but instead went with the former offensive coordinator, the man who let Cam Newton off the leash and (in many minds) was the actual wizard behind the school’s first national title in 53 years.
Man, what in the world happens if we actually do hire Kirby Smart?
Aside from the easy answer... probation... we can dive a little deeper...
Okay, so Auburn takes Kirby. He almost came to the Plains, if you remember, but he wasn’t a fan of Jay Jacobs not being comfortable with him coaching Alabama in the national championship game. To be fair, I’m with Jay. No, the Auburn coach cannot stick around and help the Tide win a title. No. It’s not going to happen. Still, what if we figure out a way to make it work?
First of all, you’ve seen what Kirby has done at Georgia. Fantastic recruiting classes, maybe the most actual talent assembled on one roster in the country. And he’s got a single championship to his credit in four seasons. He CAN’T figure out what to do against his former boss. Cannot do it. “Let me run this antiquated offense against a team with similar athletes”. Yeah, that’s not working.
If Kirby’s at Auburn, there’s no wins against Alabama in 2013, 2017, or 2019. Those wins were ALL Gus Malzahn throwing that year’s kitchen sink at the Tide. Pop pass, jump pass, trick-fake-punt-twelve-men-penalty-play. You name it, Gus has schemed it for the Tide. In the years we didn’t beat Alabama, only one year was really out of hand. Kirby doesn’t win any of those games.
Let’s pretend that Kirby goes 0-4 against Alabama, gets no Miracle at Jordan-Hare to beat Georgia, and goes a combine 0-8 against the two biggies from 2013-2016. He gets fired. You know who we hire? One of two options... either a ridiculously successful and highly-coveted Arkansas State coach named Gus Malzahn, or somebody like Jimbo Fisher, who’s tired of being at Florida State and comes to Auburn where he once coached quarterbacks.
Oh my goodness, back on recruiting, we probably get way better players, but we have no idea how to use them. Think of every blue chip that chose Georgia over Auburn in recent years. Imagine how mad we’d be if somehow Justin Fields came to Auburn — a CAM NEWTON CLONE CAME TO AUBURN — and we didn’t know how to use him and he left. We might fire Kirby on the spot.
Around the SEC, after Mark Richt leaves Georgia in 2015, the Bulldogs are looking for an alum to fill the void. We strayed outside the family, and it’s time to make amends. So, who’s a moderately successful Georgia grad with SEC coaching experience and a full head o’ hair?
The SEC East is turned UPSIDE DOWN y’all. Nick Saban probably has an even tighter grip on the SEC West and the conference as a whole, and they might win a third straight title in 2013 without pesky ole Auburn getting in the way.
Alright, that’s all I have right now. It’s a dark timeline, ponder it lightly.