The Auburn Tigers, college football’s perennial potential supernova, are currently a ho-hum 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Granted, this is a year of expanding asterisks, and including the context of the 2020 college football season is mandatory when discussing Auburn. Because normally a .500 record on The Plains come October is crisp, autumnal kindling for a bonfire of November Crazy.
COVID’s impact on 2020 is a mitigating factor, because if there’s a concurrent parallel universe operating sans-pandemic right now and that Auburn is also one game over .500, that Gus Malzahn is almost certainly fired by season’s end, meaning Other Earth Auburn’s boosters are plotting to bite down and shell out for one of college football’s most insane buyouts. Or maybe the humans of Other Earth have developed a more sensible economy for college coaching. Or gills. Gills are likelier.
Last week, I joined SB Nation’s College And Magnolia podcast “Orange And True” to talk about the Tigers and, at least ostensibly, politely stump for an appeal to reason with the batshittiest booster corps of a national title contending program not to pull the trigger on a Malzahn buyout in the pandemic economy of 2020 BECAUSE IT IS STILL OVER $20 MILLION, $10.5 OF WHICH IS OWED IMMEDIATELY, YOU PLAINSMANIACS. WHY IS THIS EVEN A CONSIDERATION. JUST RIDE OUT THIS MALFORMED BURNT END OF A FOOTBALL SEASON AND GO TO THE CAP ONE BOWL. YOU CAN LITERALLY GET IN WITH ANY RECORD.
So far, I think cooler heads will prevail between Auburn and Malzahn. The Tigers are fresh off a conference win over Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss and could certainly surprise weakened defending national champ LSU this Saturday.
After all, 3-2 Auburn during a pandemic is a discernible work in progress if you squint. A record like that merits reasonable exceptions that even the most skittish Tiger boosters are peevishly granting Gus.
It’s not like they’re 1-4. Or 0-5. Because then the monied Tigers would most certainly assemble in the smoke-filled rooms — even during a generational pandemic causing catastrophic economic damage not only to the country but to the sport itself — and gin up that $20-ish mil.
Man, that would look horrific for the sport. So bad, in fact, even an Auburn source recognized the potential devastation such a gaudy move could cause:
“There’s no way anyone in Birmingham wants a school spending that kind of cash right now. That should could prompt a Democratic Congress to be properly motivated to blow up this model.”
OH MY GOD LANE KIFFIN IS DEEP THROAT.
This week, Kiffin was both fined by the SEC for his social media reaction (among many of his own messages, he RT’d this) to the missed call and given an explanation for the blunder he couldn’t detail publicly because of league rules.
In case you didn’t happen to watch Malzahn’s unintentionally dumb offense battle Kiffin’s intentionally insane one: With the Rebels leading 28-27 in the fourth quarter, the fingers of Auburn kick returner Shaun Shivers grazed the ball on a kickoff that officials ruled a touchback instead of a fumble Ole Miss recovered for a touchdown. That score would’ve given Ole Miss a 35-27 lead with five minutes left in the game. Instead, Auburn drove the field and won 35-28.
[long drag on Marlboro Light] OK so you remember that whole Arkansas debacle against Auburn two weeks back, right? Remember the wonky pablum excuse the league issued trying to justify ignoring a clear Auburn fumble that would’ve given the Hogs a win?
[wheels in bulletin board riddled with string] Yeah well y’all probably don’t even remember what happened in Auburn’s first game, do you? Down 8-7 to Kentucky before halftime, right here is when UK running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. appears to clearly break the plane of the end zone for a touchdown:
This was ruled as not a touchdown for Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/Pjx5QPaMjS— Cats Coverage (@CatsCoverage_) September 26, 2020
The refs ruled Rodriguez down short. Kentucky would turn the ball over on a Terry Wilson interception two plays later and Auburn would go on to win 29-13, so unlike the Arkansas and Ole Miss games, there’s still a margin of victory for Auburn here even if the Rodriguez TD counted. But: If the refs don’t blunder, Kentucky would’ve led 14-8 at the half and 20-15 at the start of the fourth quarter. That’s an entirely different kind of game for a Wildcat offense that likes to run and is short on explosive plays.
3-2 IS ACTUALLY 0-5.
OK THAT’S A LITTLE BIT OF A STRETCH BUT IT’S 1-4.
We are through the looking glass, and it is covered in toilet paper. Auburn, forever positioning itself as a helpless, second-class citizenry doomed to toil under the league’s favoritism to Alabama, is actually being propped up by noticeably shitty league officiating in a year in which SEC teams are only playing league games. THEY HAVE TOTAL CONTROL, WAKE UP WEEGLES.
“Weegles,” like the Auburn chant, get it? Because I’m joking! Of course I am. There’s absolutely no way the most powerful and resource-laden conference in the entire sport could work the logistics of such a silly conspiracy. And to what possible benefit? Just to nudge Auburn one degree north towards respectability so its bonkers boosters don’t create headlines so galling they spur a Congressional intercession into the banana republic economy of an industry that grists its mill with unpaid minority labor? Of course not.
That would be a crazy notion, and this is Auburn we’re talking about.