Auburn Hopes to Repeat 2004 Season

HOOVER, Ala. -- The similarities are hard to ignore, but it remains to be seen if the results will be the same.

In 2004, Auburn had arguably the nation's best backfield with future NFL first-round picks Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown sharing the load, as well as the glory and the headlines.

Now jump ahead two years.

Running back Kenny Irons is considered one of the preseason favorites to win the Heisman Trophy Award, and it's no secret that Auburn will again rely on a senior tailback to power its offense.

At times, Irons even runs like a Cadillac.

"I think his running style is very similar to Carnell's," Auburn linebacker Will Herring said at last month's Southeastern Conference media days. "He runs real low to the ground just like a motorboat out there. His motor just never stops running."

In 2004, Auburn entered the season under a cloud of controversy that came when school officials were caught trying to replace coach Tommy Tuberville with Louisville's Bobby Petrino.

Now jump ahead two years.

The Tigers again had to face tough questions and negative publicity when a New York Times story revealed this summer that a sociology professor had given 18 players from the 2004 team -- including Williams -- high grades for classes that required no attendance or little work.

Auburn absolved its athletic department in a university investigation, but controversy still hangs over the start of the season like it did two years ago.

"(I) appreciate the target you put on my back," Tuberville joked with reporters. "Last time you did that, you almost got me fired."

Despite the similarities, there is no telling whether this year's Auburn team will be able to match the one from 2004, which finished the season 13-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation.

But at least the consensus expects much of the same.

The Tigers were the overwhelming choice at the SEC media days to win the league, and they enter the season ranked No. 6 in the USA Today coaches' preseason poll. They also received one first-place vote.

If Auburn can adjust to changes along the defensive line -- as well as a 12-game schedule that includes no open dates -- its players could have a chance to do something that eluded the team from two years ago:

Playing in the BCS national championship game.

"I think about it every day," Tuberville said. "I know how good a football team we've had."

Is there a chance for some deja vu?

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