Auburn coach Gene Chizik has said several times this season that the Tigers have been far from perfect defensively, but they’ve been good enough when it counted.
Indeed, they’ve made a living out of coming up with key stops and key turnovers in the fourth quarter.
And when you look at the Tigers’ fourth-quarter numbers this season, it’s been a total mismatch.
Maybe they’re living on the edge defensively, and it’s eventually going to catch up with them. Maybe they’re not. Maybe they just man up when the game’s on the line.
Even so, the question remains to be whether Auburn is good enough defensively to win a national championship.
These next two games against Alabama on Friday and South Carolina on Dec. 4 in the SEC championship game will determine whether or not the Tigers get that shot.
But judging by defensive numbers alone of every other BCS national champion, Auburn faces an uphill climb.
Auburn this week is ranked 50th nationally in total defense and 60th nationally in scoring defense.
No national champion in the BCS era has ever finished lower than 23rd nationally in total defense or 17th nationally in scoring defense.
In 2002, Ohio State gave up 320.9 yards per game, ranking 23rd nationally, and wound up going 14-0 on its way to the national championship.
Heading into Friday’s game at Alabama, Auburn is giving up an average of 355.7 yards per game in total offense.
In 2007, LSU allowed an average of 19.9 points per game, ranking 17th nationally, on its way to the national title.
Auburn is allowing five more points per game this season than LSU did in 2007. Through 11 games, Auburn is giving up an average of 24.9 points per game.
Of the 12 BCS national champions, only one didn’t finish the season ranked among the top 10 teams nationally in scoring defense.
And in terms of total defense, nine of the 12 BCS national champions finished among the top 10 teams nationally.
Auburn’s biggest Achilles this season has been stopping the pass. The Tigers are ranked 100th in pass defense, giving up an average of 244.1 yards per game, and 74th in pass efficiency defense.
The Tigers wouldn’t be the first team in the BCS era to win a national championship with a porous pass defense.
Ohio State in 2002 was ranked 95th nationally in pass defense.
Offensively, it may be that Auburn is simply good enough to make up for its deficiencies on defense. The Tigers are ranked fifth nationally this week in scoring offense and sixth in total offense.