AUBURN, Ala. -- Back in April, when I visited with Auburn Tigers first-year defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, he had seen enough to know the Tigers would be a good team. Not a great team, but a good team.
“It’s probably a seven- or eight-win team,” said Johnson, who's as honest as any coach in the country. “I think people here would be happy with that.”
Coming off Auburn's three-win 2012 season, the one that featured zero SEC wins, that was probably a pretty fair assessment.
But the Tigers are probably OK with their current lot in life. Consecutive miracle wins, including Saturday’s Iron Bowl classic, have delivered 11-1 Auburn to the SEC title game. Makes you wish you’d put a buck or two on Auburn at 200-to-1 BCS national title odds back in August, doesn’t it?
As improbable as this current Auburn run has been, there's a legitimate case to be made that the Tigers deserve a shot at the national title if they beat Missouri in the SEC championship game next week.
That’s where we begin this week’s Takeaways, which also include a look at whether Auburn is the early favorite to win a down SEC in 2014, Kevin Sumlin’s new deal at Texas A&M and whether USC should keep Ed Orgeron as its head coach. (Also, Steve Spurrier lets me know he isn’t retiring.)
1. Auburn has more of a case to play for the BCS title than Ohio State
When we briefly kicked around the idea earlier in the week, ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards didn’t seem to think Auburn would have much of a shot at overtaking undefeated Ohio State even if the Tigers got another top-five win next week to claim the SEC title, because there's no precedent for an undefeated power-conference team to be leapfrogged by a one-loss team.
There's certainly more of a discussion about it now, and I am among those who believe that the Tigers have built enough of a case to move ahead of the Buckeyes, if both win their conference championship games next week. And no, that’s not just me sipping the Kool-Aid Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs handed out after the Bama win.