To anybody paying attention, it is pretty clear that sometime after the disastrous 2012 Auburn football season, when the Tigers went 0-8 in the SEC after having won a BCS Championship only two years before, the Tigers made a deal with the devil, or found favor with a powerful angel, or just learned how to cook up a little black magic to make the ball bounce its way. How else to explain going from worst in the SEC to the BCS championship game in one season, with basically the same footballers as stunk up the field the year before? An alternative theory is that Gus Malzahn, whose first season as Auburn’s head coach was last year’s inexplicable turn-around, is the new evil genius of football, not even requiring talented players in order to put a world-beating team on the field. Yeah, right. I think it’s more plausible to figure that Auburn, or maybe just Malzahn, offered some sacrifices to a voodoo god, especially considering the way things had to break (literally, with the last game) for them to have enjoyed the success they’ve had.
The black magic started last season with last second luck at Mississippi State that helped the Tigers squeeze out an early-season victory. Then it was Johnny Manziel looking less than Heisman-worthy to get the win in College Station. Then came the miracle tip at Georgia on a fourth and forever play that would have wrapped up Georgia’s own somewhat miraculous comeback, but instead gave the victory to the Tigers. Things just got ridiculous the following week, when hated Alabama’s Nick Saban plead with the ref’s to have one second added to the clock so that the Tide might try a field goal to break the tie before overtime. The attempt fell short and was promptly returned for a game winning touchdown that set the Jordan Hare rafters to rattling for the ages. It was a second that will last forever. Excepting the LSU game, the magic only failed once for Auburn last season. It came when Florida State’s Jameis Winston marched his team down the field for the winning touchdown as the last seconds ticked off the clock in the BCS Championship Game. Considering how many scrapes Winston has gotten into off the field but somehow manages to still play, he may have a closer relationship to the voodoo god than Auburn. Or, perhaps the god was exhausted, having taken Auburn from a season without a single SEC victory to the cusp of the national title over the span of just two years.
The voodoo god resurfaced Saturday night in Oxford, Mississippi, but this time revealing its ugly side. How else to explain it? What other team snatches a victory from the jaws of defeat by having an opposing player’s leg break just before he crosses the goal line? This is getting scary. If Auburn can command the god break an opponent’s leg to preserve a win, what can’t it do? What won’t it do? Saturday night showed that Auburn’s god is a merciless god that will stop at nothing to preserve a victory. Think about it–breaking a player’s leg, and in such a painful manner that he drops the ball six inches before he falls into the endzone, writhing in agony? What if Auburn’s god decides Nick Saban needs a heart attack? What if it directs its ire towards the Saban family, like a Mafia don might? This could get ugly.
In hindsight, it seems that Mississippi State must be really, really good, to have beaten Auburn and the power of its voodoo god earlier this season. Or, maybe Auburn’s voodoo god is lazy, sort of like its defense, and hadn’t awakened to the danger that the Tigers might lose that day before it was too late. Or, considering that Mississippi State gave up five turnovers that day and still managed to win, maybe Auburn’s voodoo god was displeased with the Tigers for some reason, and wanted to teach them that relying on luck is not always a sound strategy, even when you have plenty of it. Whatever was the cause of the stumbling, bumbling effort at Mississippi State, the god made amends Saturday in Oxford.
However, it could be argued that the god who broke Treadwell’s ankle was not Auburn’s god at all, but was the mad god that delivered three of the last five BCS Championships to Alabama. Remember 2009’s championship? It took two blocked field goals to beat Tennessee that year. Two blocked field goals in one game? Who does that, without supernatural help? Remember 2011? It took a string of unpredictable losses, culminating in Iowa State’s defeat of Oklahoma State, to reposition Bama for the title game after having lost to LSU in the regular season. The Tide won the BCS Championship in 2011 without even winning its own conference title. And it won the 2012 BCS Championship after losing a game early in the season to Texas A & M. So the Tide has had plenty of help in its recent return to luminance in the college football firmament. Besides, consider its head coach—Nick Saban. Could it be just a coincidence that his name sounds so much like “Satan”? Saban would say that there’s no such thing as coincidence, which he would probably follow up with one of his half-crooked Grinchy-looking grins. And if he dropped from a heart attack just before the Auburn game, his point would be proved.
After losing to Ole Miss earlier in the season, Alabama needed Ole Miss to lose at least two games to give the Tide a chance at the SEC championship. Done (LSU the week prior) and done (Auburn this week). Now Alabama again controls its destiny. If it wins out (LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn remain), it will go to the SEC championship game with one loss, even if Mississippi State’s only loss is to Bama. So it might have been Alabama voodoo that did Ole Miss in. Auburn needs Mississippi State to lose two games if it is to go to the SEC championship game. The only real chance of that is if Alabama and Ole Miss beat them. I doubt Vandy’s gonna get it done if one or the other of those fails. Incidentally, who has the toughest remaining schedule in the SEC, just going on present rankings? Yes, of course, it is Bama, not Auburn, contrary to what the voodoo queen likes to claim. Bama has the first (Mississippi State), third (Auburn) and fourteenth ranked team (LSU) left on its schedule. Auburn has only Texas A & M (unranked) Georgia (17th) and Alabama (4rd) left. So shut up already, Gus.
We’ll know more about whose voodoo, Alabama’s or Auburn’s, beat Ole Miss when the Tide plays LSU this Saturday. If Bama loses to LSU, we’ll know it was Auburn’s (because Bama will be all but eliminated with another loss). LSU, which started out looking like a cream puff this year, has really turned its season around. But with two losses already (to Auburn and Mississippi State), LSU is almost certainly not going to win the SEC West. Auburn would have to lose two of its last three games (Texas A & M, Georgia and Alabama remain) and Mississippi State would have to lose all three of its remaining games (Alabama, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss). And LSU would have to win all its remaining games (Alabama, Texas A & M and Arkansas), which is not impossible, but is unlikely. LSU ain’t winning the West. And if it somehow happens anyway, it could be reasonably assumed that Les Miles upped the ante on the voodoo god’s favor, because it sure as hell wouldn’t make any football sense.
Over in the SEC East, things haven’t made sense for a while. Texas A & M crushed South Carolina to start the season, then South Carolina beat Georgia. Georgia hands Missouri its only loss, and then gets beaten by a Florida team that was embarrassed by Missouri. Kentucky becomes a dark horse in the hunt for the title, but gets beaten by Missouri and Florida and Mississippi State and LSU. The only team that controls its destiny in the SEC East is Missouri. If it wins out against its weak remaining schedule (Texas A & M, Tennessee and Arkansas), it will win the East. But if it loses any one of those games and Georgia (Kentucky and Auburn remain) wins out, Georgia will go. Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are all out of the running. Florida could win the East, if it wins the rest of its games (Vanderbilt and Kentucky—very doable) and Missouri loses all three of its remaining games (Texas A & M, Tennessee, Arkansas—most unlikely). If Florida won the East, it would be a football mystery for the ages (Georgia would still have to lose another game). But it wouldn’t matter anyway—Will Muschamp is still getting fired, no matter how many voodoo dolls he sticks pins in.
The homestretch ought to be fun. It’s looking like a possible rematch between Auburn and Mizzou in the SEC Championship Game. Or, maybe Mississippi State and Mizzou. Or, Mississippi State and Georgia. Or, Auburn and Georgia. Or, Alabama and Georgia. Or, Alabama and Mizzou. Or, LSU and Georgia. Or, LSU and Mizzou. Whatever happens, I think the West beats the East again. It seems about now to enjoy something of a closer communion with the mad gods controlling the football fates.