Countdown to Football

40 Days

What makes a successful season?

There are 120 FBS teams competing to win their conference championship; however, most fans understand that this is not possible every season.

It’s extremely rare in the SEC for a team to win the conference two years in a row.  Almost unheard of to do it three years in a row.  It’s a remarkable feat to win it two out of three years.  It’s downright respectable to reach the SEC championship game two years in a row.

So while the players are shooting for the stars, fans must have reasonable expectations.

Some schools struggle with that.  Some schools expect championships every year, and if they don’t reach their lofty goals, they pinpoint the problems and demand they be fixed.

Some schools are more levelheaded and understand that each season and each team has a personal goal that must be met.

Auburn is in a rebuilding year.  After losing 17 starters from their undefeated 2010 championship team, it’s going to be a struggle to get back to Atlanta.  It would take a miracle to get to New Orleans.

So as fans, what are the expectations for this season?  What would make it successful?

In 2009, Chizik arrived to rebuild a decrepit program coming off of a tumultuous season.  Many consider his first season a success even though he lost 5 SEC games.

The success of that season relied on:

1. Staying competitive
2. Finding players who are driven and motivated to compete and win
3. Not fearing anyone
4. Playing with heart through the end of the game
5. Not allowing a setback to stop you

2009 was successful because Auburn:

1. Stayed competitive by keeping most losses close and winning games expected to lose
2. Found a core group of players who would return to win the BCS championship
3. Refused to lay down to powerhouses like Alabama and pushed them to the wire
4. Played with heart even after a torrential downpour against an athletic West Virginia team and came back to win after a shaky start
5. Not allowing a 31-3 start against LSU to ruin the season (won two in a row after that debacle)

2011 has different goals, however.

What would make this season a success?

It relies on the following:

1. Competing in every game with confidence
– Auburn is the king of college football right now no matter what the media says or what the scoreboard ends up saying.  Even if Auburn has lost four games going into the Iron Bowl, AU still has to play like defending champions.

2. Finding young talent to contribute and learn
– Auburn no longer has to find motivation.  Auburn is in a position to hold intense, spirited competitions in practice to see which highly talented player can play in the game.  Mental mistakes are not to be ridiculed as long as they are learned from.

3. No setbacks
– This is a more difficult expectation.  In 2009, setbacks were allowed as long as they didn’t ruin the season.  This Auburn team has no reason to be blown out.  They have no reason to give up.  They have no reason to perform poorly.  This should be a machine that is rebuilding.  Not a broken machine that is trying to be fixed.

4. Beat two rivals
– LSU, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Alabama are all considered rivals in some form or fashion.  It is imperative that Auburn use its talent and coaching to beat two of these teams.  The team must send a message that no matter how much rebuilding we may need to do, we are still the force to be reckoned with during the season.

5. Respectable bowl game vs. respectable team AND the victory
– This is the SEC, and we pride ourselves as being the best.  Auburn may take a few lumps in conference, but AU still has amassed more talent than just about anyone else.  By the time the bowl game rolls around, the freshmen are experienced.  The new starters are veterans.  And it’s time the coaching puts it together and heads into spring on a roll.

Because the expectations this year should set up for an explosive 2012 season.

40 Days

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