It was the year that perfection was not good enough.
In 2004, Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers posted a perfect 13-0 season and proved themselves again and again along the way. Against 10th-ranked Tennessee early in the year. Against fifth-ranked LSU. Against fifth-ranked Georgia in the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.” Against Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game. Every time Tuberville’s team came out on top.
But a spotless season and a conference championship ring were not enough to earn Auburn a shot in the national championship game. Instead, the Bowl Championship Series voters demoted the Tigers from second to third following their success at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. As a result, the Tigers were matched with Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans while the USC Trojans and the Oklahoma Sooners played for the national championship in the Orange Bowl.
The unstoppable USC Trojans proved to be worthy of the top ranking, but an argument to place Auburn over Oklahoma in the BCS selection is quite reasonable. The Sooners were blown out in the championship, 55-19, and many believe the Auburn Tigers were capable of putting up a much better fight. However, it will always remain as nothing more than a “what-if” scenario.
The Auburn players could have hung their heads about not being picked to play for No. 1, but to their credit, they buckled their chinstraps, went to work, and ran the table with a 16-13 victory over the Hokies.
It would have been exciting to watch college football titans such as Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Jason Campbell, Marcus McNeill, and Carlos Rogers take on USC in the Orange Bowl. Given Auburn’s undefeated season and the fact that Oklahoma laid an egg in the championship game, a solid argument exists that the Tigers deserved the opportunity more than the Sooners.
Certainly, in the players’ minds and the minds of Auburn fans everywhere, it was a national championship season.
They just don’t have the trophy to prove it. H&A
2004 SEC Champions
2004 Sugar Bowl Champions
AP Coach of the Year
Marcus McNeill, Carlos Rogers, Junior Rosegreen, Carnell Williams
Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown, Tim Duckworth, Danny Lindsay, Marcus McNeill, Cooper Wallace, Tommy Jackson, Stanley McCover, Travis Winters, Carlos Rogers, Junior Rosegreen, Carnell Williams
All photos courtesy Auburn Athletics