2004 Auburn team deserved better

June, 11, 2010
6/11/10
2:15
PM ET
The Associated Press says there won’t be a revote for the 2004 national championship.

That’s a shame, too.

I thought at the time that Auburn at least deserved a shot at the championship, and in many ways, was the best team in the country.

After all, go back and check how many times over the past two decades that an SEC team has run the table with an unblemished record.

The answer: Four.

Alabama did it in 1992 and again last season. Both were national championship clubs. Tennessee did it in 1998 and also won the national championship.

The fourth was Auburn in 2004.

It stung then that the Tigers didn’t get piece of college football’s top prize, and it stings even more now that the NCAA says Reggie Bush was ineligible and should have never been allowed to play on that 2004 USC team.

BCS chairman Bill Hancock says if the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee rules that the Trojans should vacate their 2004 national championship, there would be no BCS champion for that particular season.

That’s about as hollow as it gets if you’re walking in Auburn’s shoes, especially when you consider how talented, how balanced and how deserving that 2004 team truly was.

ESPN.com recently took a look back at the past decade in college football, and I ranked that 2004 Auburn team No. 3 in the SEC behind Alabama’s national championship team last season and Florida’s national championship team in 2008.

You want talent?

The Tigers produced four first-round selections in the 2005 NFL draft, including three of the top nine picks. Eight of the 11 starters on defense went on to play in the NFL.

Only two teams in 2004 came within single digits of the Tigers, who beat five top-15 teams nationally on their way to a 13-0 finish. As a comparison, Alabama and Florida each beat just four top-15 teams the past two years en route to their national titles.

One of the things that will always stick out to me about that Auburn team was the incredible speed the Tigers stockpiled on defense. There weren’t marquee names all over the place, but everybody could run.

Maybe that’s why Auburn finished No. 1 nationally that season in scoring defense, allowing just 147 points in 13 games. That’s an average of 11.3 points per game. The second-place team that season (Virginia Tech) was pushing 13 points per game (12.8).

Moreover, Auburn surrendered just four rushing touchdowns all season and didn’t give up any touchdowns on the ground in the first eight games.

The other thing about the 2004 Tigers was how balanced they were. As good as they were on defense –- coordinated by current Auburn coach Gene Chizik -- they were equally potent on offense.

Auburn finished 18th nationally in scoring offense, and Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for 2,078 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Quarterback Jason Campbell passed for 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns.

The Tigers scored 30 points or more in nine of their 13 games.

The only knock against that team was its soft nonconference schedule. The Tigers beat up on Louisiana-Monroe, The Citadel and Louisiana Tech.

Nonetheless, it’s a team to remember and a team that deserved better than it received.

It did then and does so even more now.

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