Maybe people will figure out why Alabama has had a definitive dominance over Auburn during the Saban years. No matter how hard one pulls for Auburn, no matter what the pre-season prognostications are, no matter how many Heisman Trophy candidates Coach Gus Malzahn has at his disposal, no matter how many new coaches Malzahn hires, no matter how many coaches Nick Saban loses, no matter what the schedule difficulty is, in ten years Coach Nick Saban has lost only three games to Auburn, one to Tommy Tuberville in 2007, one to Cam Newton in 2010 and one to Gus Malzahn in 2013.
Auburn folks get very excited every spring as Coach Malzahn shows us what he has coming back in the fall, including new signees and transfers. Some of my best friends tell me, “Auburn is gonna’ be tough this year.” They tell me how the offensive and defensive lines average 325 lbs. They tell me that Auburn has several backs that can run 4.3 40 yard dashes. They tell me about the new linebackers that are agile, mobile and hostile. They tell me about how the defensive backs and the wide receivers can jump higher than the tigers they are named for. They tell me about the new punter who averages 49.5 yards per punt. They tell me about the place-kicker who can hit the eye of an eagle flying behind the goal post at over 50 yards most of the time...Wait, that last sentence happens to be true!
Then, after losing again to Alabama, the coaches at Auburn are excited about where the players that are going on to the NFL will be drafted. Then the draft comes around and Auburn has three low to middle round draft choices. Alabama has ten players drafted, four in the first round and three in the second round. Hypothetically, can Auburn take its three drafted players, choose nineteen seniors who were not drafted and match them up with an Alabama? Can Alabama choose 12 seniors that were not drafted, add in the ten players that were drafted and match up with Auburn’s hypothetical team? Would Alabama be favored heavily in a game between these two make believe teams? Of course Bama would be favored. Why? They have more good players than Auburn does! Why? They sign better players than Auburn does! Why? Nick Saban is the greatest recruiter in the history of college football! Why? I don’t know!
The NCAA has passed a resolution allowing college football teams to have an early signing date beginning in 2018. That will occur on the second Wednesday in December which will be December 15th in 2018. Saban is unhappy about this change in recruiting. Will it affect his recruiting success? Probably not. Saban will adjust!
Is the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa a better location to want to play football than on the “Loveliest Village on the Plains?” Probably not! I spent five years of my young life at Auburn, during which time I visited some of my friends in Tuscaloosa on a few weekends. At that time there were more fun things to do at Auburn than there were at Tuscaloosa. Has this changed over the last 50 years? Probably not! So, what is going on in Tuscaloosa that is not going on in Auburn? I don’t know.
It is my belief that Alabama’s 1926 Rose Bowl win over a great Washington State team was the beginning of an “aura of invincibility myth” that exists to this day. The “Bama Machine”, for a lack of a better terminology, has been highly successful in playing Alabama’s Rose Bowl wins into a masterful advertising campaign for the Crimson Tide since that victory in 1926. Most of the college football fans and media at this time were in the east, midwest and the west coast. They were aware that Alabama fought for the South in the Civil War, but for the most part knew little about southern football. Alabama was a huge underdog to Washington State in 1926. However Coach Wallace Wade had the “Red Elephants” totally prepared. A halfback named Johnny “Mack” Brown from Dothan was unstoppable as were the rest of Wade’s team. Alabama shocked the football world in 1926 by beating the “best team” in football 20-19. A legend was born and a myth created.
Auburn, on the other hand, went to its first bowl game in 1937, beating Villanova 6-0 in a bowl game in Havana, Cuba. The bowl didn’t last long. This became know fondly as the “Rhumba Bowl”. Coach Jack Meagher (Mauer) has gotten very little credit for the coaching job he did at Auburn. World War II interrupted what was becoming a brilliant career for Meagher. I was fortunate to know his son Pat who played halfback on the 1957 Auburn National Championship Team. I was unfortunate in not meeting Coach Meagher. Even though Auburn and Villanova were the first football teams to play outside the Continental United States, “Meagher’s Marauders”, as they later became known, didn’t get as much attention nationwide as they should have gotten by beating a very good Villanova team. It just didn’t stack up at the time to Alabama’s Rose Bowl teams. Undaunted, Coach Meagher kept recruiting, kept coaching and kept Auburn in the college football news. In 1938, Auburn was invited to the Orange Bowl to play Michigan State. This got the attention of football fans and newspaper writers around the country. Of course Michigan State was favored to beat the “upstart” Auburn Tigers. But Jack Meagher was a better coach than most people realized. He had also been building a football program that would match the best in the country. One must realize that playing in the Orange Bowl was a big deal in 1938. The only bowl games at this time were the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. Auburn did not win the game but gained the respect of the college football world by tying Michigan State 6-6, thus beginning a tradition of is own. Because of WWII, many players and coaches were called into the military, including Coach Meagher. All of college football declined over the next five or six years, except for Notre Dame and the two service academies.
Auburn did not reach the glory days of the 30’s until Coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan from Selma was hired off of Coach “Wally” Butts’ staff at Georgia. Since the hiring of Coach Jordan in 1951, Auburn has had a nationally respected football program. Auburn has built quite a tradition, winning many SEC Championships and two National Championships. Not many teams have won one national championship, let alone two.
But... maybe...“Remember the Rose Bowl we’ll win” is just easier to sell than “War Eagle fly down the field.” Who knows?