Behind Enemy Lines – Part 5

After an unexplained week off, Will returns with some ridiculous comparisons between this year’s Alabama squad and the magic that was 2004 Auburn. Please…let him have it.

Part 5 – Is it possible that Alabama 2008 is Auburn 2004?
by Will

Please note, I don’t bring this up to rub any salt in your wounds. Auburn fans are suffering enough this season.

Actually, the first person to bring it up was my friend Zach, an avowed Auburn guy since the womb. He first raised the possibility after the thrashing of UGA, when Alabama played a first half and seemingly could do no wrong. “It reminded me a lot of the Tennessee game (in 2004),” he said. “We just ripped them that night.”

Saturday night in Baton Rouge made me think about Auburn, ’04. Auburn’s signature moment that season came against the Bengal Tigers (coached by Nick Saban, yes) who came in as the defending national champs. Watch the replay of that game — Auburn did everything that day to lose and somehow won anyway, when Jason Campbell found Courtney Taylor on fourth-and-15, then again for the TD (I don’t need to tell you guys this, obviously). When I think of Auburn ’04, the first thing I think of is that game.

Ten years from now, when we think of Alabama ’08, we may very well think first of Saturday night in Baton Rouge. Everything was working against the Tide in that game — the venom of the fans, a lousy first half (almost exactly in opposition to their MO this season), LSU running for over 4 yards a pop. Each time Alabama did something positive, they seemed to find a way to negate it. And yet, they kept coming back. LSU’s fourth-quarter, gut-tough drive — give Les Miles credit: those guys have a lot of pride — could’ve sunk Alabama. So could that ticky holding call against Andre Smith on the ensuing drive. And the blocked FG on the last play of regulation damn sure should’ve been the end of the line. Only it wasn’t. Alabama simply shrugged its shoulders, forced an INT in overtime and then won the game the right way: by being aggressive and scoring a TD.

Both teams knew how to win. Both teams came out of nowhere. Both teams have a first-year OC who came from the West Coast. And both teams were lucky with schedule — it’s easy to forget this now, but Alabama looked like a tough out in ’04 until Brodie Croyle got hurt, and LSU was a quarterback away from defending its championship (sound familiar?).

The parallels aren’t perfect. Auburn’s ’04 team featured six eventual first-round draft picks; this Alabama team doesn’t have nearly that amount of talent. And ‘Bama has a potential juggernaut left on the schedule in the SEC Championship Game, also (Tennessee was good, but not that good).

The ironic thing is that what happened to Auburn in ’04 — left out of the championship game — has likely bolstered the cases of other SEC contenders (Florida in ’06, LSU in ’07) and has definitely helped bolster Alabama’s ranking, despite howls of protest from the nation in favor of Texas Tech. Is it a comfort to Auburn people that their misfortune may have helped out their rivals? I’m guessing no. But I am glad we’re having this discussion.