History of Heartache for Auburn, but Three Time’s a Charm?

August 31, 2018 By Skye Underwood

Auburn Football’s 2018 Schedule/Auburn Athletics

 

Perhaps no fan base in college football can better exemplify the highest of highs — trouncing your two hated rivals Alabama and Georgia in the regular season while they were both undefeated and ranked No. 1 — and the lowest of lows — watching those same two red cladded rivals advance to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game.

Such is the life of an Auburn fan.

The exuberance of witnessing a victory like Kick-Six can always be mirrored with a memory of an equally gut-wrenching defeat like the 2013 BCS National Championship, when Kelvin Benjamin caught the game winning touchdown over Kick-Six hero Chris Davis with just thirteen seconds left in the game.

Such is the life of an Auburn fan.

On Saturday, September 1 at 2:30 p.m. central inside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the 2018 Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game, the No. 9 Auburn Tigers will meet the No. 6 Washington Huskies for college football’s only Top-10, non-conference matchup of the 2018 regular season.

Will this be a day of jubilation for Auburn fans or dread, sulking and downright sheer pain?

Such is the life of an Auburn fan.

Even the Washington Post tried to encapsulate the guarded optimism Auburn fans share each year knowing the treacherous schedule that always awaits their Tigers — “They’re (Washington) the first true test for Auburn, which plays its usual demonic schedule…”

But certainly there’s a badge of honor and sense of pride in knowing that your school always plays one of the most difficult schedules in the country each and every season, right, Auburn fans?

Not only are the Tigers in the SEC West with the likes of Alabama, LSU, and Mississippi State, considered the toughest division in college football, but the team the Tigers play every season from the Eastern Division happens to be its best team, Georgia, also considered one of the top programs in America under Kirby Smart.

And if you didn’t think that was tough enough, Auburn’s schedule typically features a non-conference power like a Clemson, or Washington, or as indicated in its future slates with Oregon and Penn State.

In other words, Auburn ain’t skeered.

Tiger fans, if you take nothing away from this column, I hope that you will remember this. If Auburn happens to take the “L” vs. a very good Washington team, it’s not the end of the world. The College Football Playoff committee proved to us last season that they favor teams with difficult schedules, even if the said team has multiple losses. How could anyone forget that a two-loss Auburn team would have 100% made the CFB Playoff had the Tigers defeated Georgia in Atlanta. A very similar scenario could very well play out this season.

Besides, on paper, the Tigers have every bit of talent as anyone in college football as recently referenced by a couple tweets from two well known media figures, the SEC Network’s Peter Burns and Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis picking both Alabama and Auburn to make the CFB Playoff.

Your schedule might seem like a curse now, Tiger fans, but believe you me that it most definitely could turn into a blessing, especially in the eyes of the CFB Playoff committee.

No. 9 Auburn’s battle with No. 6 Washington will only be the third time in the history of Auburn Football that it’s opened the season in an AP Top-10, non-conference matchup and as you might guess, the hearts of Tiger fans were ripped out in the two previous games.

Third time’s a charm, Auburn?

The Tigers certainly hope that’s the case because not only does history prove that the Tigers took two painful losses in its only opening weekend games that featured an AP Top-10, non-conference matchup in 1984 and 2003, the program has actually lost its last two ballgames going back to the end of last season. And to make things even weirder, those two ball games were in alas Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Georgia in the SEC Championship and UCF in the Peach Bowl.

I’ll say it again — third time’s a charm, right, Auburn?

Can you imagine the excitement for Auburn fans leading up to the 1984 season? Good-gosh-almighty, even if you didn’t realize it at the time, you had the greatest athlete in the world (Bo Jackson) on your sideline and your squad was ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation. Tiger fans had to be on cloud nine and ready for their team to enact revenge after enduring heartbreak to end the 1983 campaign (more on that in a second).

I’m sure when Auburn fans walked into Toomer’s Drugs to order a lemonade, they likely had their chests poked out a little prior to the start of the 1984 season, which featured an opening Top-10, non-conference matchup in the “1984 Kickoff Classic” at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, featuring No. 10 Miami versus No. 1 Auburn.

1984 Kickoff Classic program featuring No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 10 Miami

But to understand the true context and buildup of this game, you would only have to look back to the end of the previous season in 1983, which saw Auburn snubbed for the national championship after No. 5 Miami leapfrogged the No. 3 Tigers in the final polls all the way up to No. 1 after the Hurricanes defeated top-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

A debate ensued as to who was the real 1983 national champion, Miami or Auburn. Enter the “1984 Kickoff Classic” pitting the two teams against one another to settle the debate once and for all.

Unfortunately, the ice-cold lemonade served at Toomer’s Drugs wasn’t nearly as ice-cold as the scoreboard, which read “No. 10 Miami 20 — No.1 Auburn 18.” Literally reach into a Barner’s chest, remove their heart, throw it to floor and trample on it repeatedly.

Such is the life of an Auburn fan.

Not to pile on, but the opening weekend of the 2003 season wasn’t any kinder to the Auburn Family as No. 8 USC traveled to the Loveliest Village on the Plains to face No. 6 Auburn in what was arguably the hottest, most muggy game I’ve ever attended.

In 2003, No. 6 Auburn opened the season at home against No. 8 USC in the Tigers last AP Top-Ten, non-conference matchup to open the season (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

I can remember the incredible hype and build-up for the Top-10, non-conference game like I remember the agony and disappointment of Auburn fans after the Pete Carroll led Trojans shutout their Tigers, 23-0.

Such is the life of an Auburn fan.

But that was then and this is now. Maybe three-times will be a charm for Auburn as the Tigers look to end it’s two game losing streak in Top-10, non-conference matchups to open the season, as well as its current two game skid that ended 2017, which is the very reason the Tigers have a current two game losing streak in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Auburn will play its third consecutive game dating back to last season.

While history hasn’t been kind to Auburn, especially when discussing the specific talking points of this particular column, with a win over Washington, the Tigers have a chance to change the perception of the program and entrench itself as a legitimate national championship contender in 2018. And not to mention, save its fans from additional heartache because can’t we all agree that they’ve been through enough.

It’s time for Auburn to start living up to the hype and there’s no bigger stage than what you’ll see on Saturday in MB Stadium when the Tigers meet the Huskies, a popular pick to make the 2018 CFB Playoff.

There’s no doubt that the Tigers and its fanbase are hungry for a win considering how the 2017 season ended.

Auburn boasts its first ever returning starting quarterback who threw for over 3,000 yards the previous season in Jarrett Stidham. The redshirt junior will have a talented group of receivers to target. Not to mention, the Tigers will trot out arguably the best front-seven in college football, returning 9 of its top 10 defensive linemen from 2017.

However, the Tigers face a formidable opponent on the other side in No. 6 Washington, led by head coach Chris Petersen, considered one of the best in college football, similar to his four-year starting quarterback Jake Browning, and four-year starting runningback Myles Gaskin, who has eclipsed 1,300 yards rushing in each of his last three seasons. Not to mention, the Huskies defensive backfield, which features 3 of 4 starters who were named to the preseason 1st team ALL-PAC-12 defense and widely considered the best secondary in college football.

Of course Washington has to travel 2,500 miles across the United States deep into SEC country to play the Tigers in a “neautral-site” matchup that will undoubtedly feel like an Auburn home game when your eyes pander the number of fans wearing orange and blue throughout the stadium. According to Vegas, that’s why Auburn is a 1.5 – 2 point favorite, which should tell you just how equal the two teams are viewed in the eyes of the public.

Yes, Auburn Football has broken its fans hearts in the past, but it has also given them some of the most memorable moments for any college football fanbase.

However, Tiger fans hope the old adage of “three time’s a charm” holds true this weekend resulting in a memorable moment, because the agony of defeat is as equally as memorable for all the wrong reasons, but such is the life of an Auburn fan.

 

Editor’s Note: Check out Justin Ferguson of The Athletic’s column highlighting the previous eight opening game matchups that featured Auburn versus a ranked opponent. If you’re not already a subscriber to The Athletic, I highly recommend it.

https://theathletic.com/481054/2018/08/20/auburn-washington-ranked-matchup-opener-context-tigers/