Season Of Disappointment

What went wrong with the Auburn Tigers this season may be a microcosm of the game of college football these days.

I never expected Auburn to win the national championship this season. I thought even the Southeastern Conference championship was an iffy proposition. But I'll readily admit I never expected the Tigers to be 6-4 after 10 games.

I don't claim to have any answers in the wake of a disappointing 24-20 loss to Ole Miss, but I do have some questions.

Among them:

*Why does an offense with perhaps the nation's best running back go through so many periods in which it seems helpless?

*When Ole Miss stacked up against the running game, why did Auburn throw only two passes in the second quarter against a pass defense ranked 115th in the country?

*Most teams have a favorite two-point conversion play they practice every week in case it's needed. Does Auburn have one, and if it does, wasn't third or fourth down at the 3-yard line with the game on the line the time to use it?

*Why did Carnell Williams, who was running with fire, speed and power, sit out almost the entire second quarter?

*Why have short field goals been such adventures, and often bad ones, in recent years? In Tommy Tuberville's five seasons, missed field goal tries have figured directly into at least five losses, including Saturday's.

*How does Auburn beat a team (Tennessee) that is good enough to beat Miami at the Orange Bowl and lose to one (Georgia Tech) that is bad enough to lose to Duke?

*What would Auburn's record be if Bobby Petrino had not left to become head coach at Louisville?

*Can Auburn players overcome the emotional devastation of Saturday's loss in time to be ready for Georgia and Alabama?

KUDOS TO OBOMANU

Ben Obomanu will never forget what happened to him Saturday. He'd had a career day before he dropped what would have been the winning touchdown pass.

But he earned the respect of all of us who cover this football team when he came to the media room to answer questions. No one would have blamed him if he'd declined, but he came and he made no excuses and dodged no questions.

The dropped pass notwithstanding, Obomanu looks to be rapidly becoming the big-play man he was expected to be when he signed out of Selma High School. He's an outstanding student with a good outlook on life. Something tells me he'll overcome the disappointment of one dropped pass and move on.

DARK CLOUDS LOOMING

This Auburn season is already a disappointment, no matter what happens Saturday at Georgia or a week later against Alabama. It is not yet a disaster, but it could be.

If this season of so much promise ends with three straight losses, including losses to rivals Georgia and Alabama, it would have to go down as one of the truly dark years in Auburn's football history.

Could it happen? It could. Georgia is itching to end its five-year losing streak at Sanford Stadium and has a defense that is far superior to the one the Tigers saw against Ole Miss. Alabama seems to be hitting its stride, and beating Auburn would put a pretty face on what has been a rough season.

On the other hand, Auburn could win both games, get a nice bowl bid and everyone connected with the football program would at least feel better. At Auburn, it would be hard to feel overly disappointed about a season that included wins over the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide.

The Tigers, by the way, will go to a bowl regardless of what happens the next two games.

A WILD AND CRAZY SEASON

Just how wild and crazy has this season been? Last week, Wake Forest crushed Clemson 45-17. This week, Clemson dominated No. 3 Florida State 26-10 and Wake Forest lost to North Carolina, which went into the game 1-8.

TEAM OF DESTINY?

The SEC West race is down to LSU and Ole Miss now. Ole Miss can end it on Nov. 22 with a win in Baton Rouge, regardless of what LSU does at Alabama on Saturday. LSU must win two of its last three, including the game against Ole Miss.

Ole Miss doesn't have the kind of athletes LSU has, but it doesn't have the kind of athletes Auburn has either. What the Rebels do have is Eli Manning and a sense that somehow, someway they are going to find a way to win.

Maybe they really are a team of destiny. We shall see.

Until next time …


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