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Revisionist History of the 2004 Auburn Tigers

"Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can't think of anything better." - Mark Twain

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that every year, some Auburn fan tries to push this narrative of the Tigers getting "robbed" of their shot at a National Championship in 2004. This time, it is some blowhard State Senator who thinks that this is a good use of government legislation time and of Alabama taxpayers' money. I guess these ignorant people figure that if they keep whining enough that the details will change. Let me take a moment to set them straight.

The record books say that Auburn went 13–0 (8–0 SEC) in 2004. It is SO easy to look at a number and hang a banner based on that stat alone. But the numbers go a little deeper than just one team's record. Just look at Baylor and TCU from a season ago. Or even more appropriate, Penn State from 1994.


The Nittany Lions went 12–0 (8–0 Big Ten) in 1994, however, the dinosaurs of the Big Ten continued to cling tightly to the Rose Bowl match-up of Big Ten vs. Pac 10. Instead of making a bold move surpassing this outdated tradition and agreeing to meet undefeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, PSU and their conference went to Pasadena and faced a twelfth-ranked 3-loss Oregon team. Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers faced the next in line, #3 Miami who was 10-1.

Furthermore, Penn State's schedule was less than formidable:

Opponent Score Opponents Final Record
at Minnesota W 56–3 3–8
USC W 38–14 8–3–1
Iowa W 61–21 5-5-1
Rutgers W 55–27 5-5-1
at Temple W 48–21 2-9
at Michigan W 31–24 8–4
Ohio State W 63–14 9–4
at Indiana W 35–29 7–4
at Illinois W 35–31 7–5
Northwestern W 45–17 3–7–1
Michigan State W 59–31 5–6
Oregon W 38–20 9–4

A few Nittany Lions fans still cry about that season, but most of them have moved on.

This chain of events helped usher in the BCS. (Compared to what CFB was, the BCS was a godsend.)


So, I told you that story to tell you this one. Auburn's undefeated season of 2004 parallels greatly to the one had by PSU ten years earlier.

2004 SEC

To begin with, 2004 was a down year for the SEC. A few facts on that season to forget:

  • Only four SEC teams finished ranked in the top 25.
  • Only four SEC teams finished with more than 7 wins.
  • Five had losing seasons with Bama finishing at .500.
  • Only seven SEC teams went to bowl games.
  • As a conference, the SEC went 77-63 or a 55% winning percentage and 29-15 out of conference (66%). Compare to 2014: 112-69 (62%); 56-13 (81%).

Eastern Division SEC Overall
#13 Tennessee x 7 – 1 10 – 3
#7 Georgia 6 – 2 10 – 2
Florida 4 – 4 7 – 5
South Carolina 4 – 4 7 – 5
Kentucky 1 – 7 2 – 9
Vanderbilt 1 – 7 2 – 9
Western Division SEC Overall
#2 Auburn 8 – 0 13 – 0
#16 LSU 6 – 2 9 – 3
Alabama 3 – 5 6 – 6
Arkansas 3 – 5 5 – 6
Ole Miss 3 – 5 4 – 7
Mississippi State 2 – 6 3 – 8


Strength of schedule has long been a factor when coming down to the end of the season. A look at the Tigers' 2004 OOC:

Opponent Score Opponents Final Record
Louisiana–Monroe W 31–0 5–6
The Citadel (I-AA) W 33–3 3–7
Louisiana Tech W 52–7 6–6

Impressed? Neither were the voters. The Tigers had one last chance to plead their case...


It was not the greatest of match-ups for Auburn as they headed to New Orleans to face ninth-ranked Virginia Tech (10–2). If they wanted to impress anyone, they would have to pummel the Hokies and hope for a sloppy ugly finish in the BCS Championship Game.

The final score from the Superdome was Auburn 16, Va Tech 13 in one of the more boring Sugar Bowls in the game's epic history. Voters were so unimpressed with the Tigers win that the Hokies dropped only one spot to #10.


Now, forget for a moment the fact that Southern Cal RB Reggie Bush's parents were living rent free in a mansion and being ushered around in a limousine. The Trojans were far and away the best team in the land in 2004. Clearly Oklahoma, whose victories came at an average of 36-14, was the second best. Bob Stoops' squad had 11 Sooners drafted into the NFL later that spring including two in the first round and three in the second. The Trojans destroyed Okie 55-19.

So Cal was later stripped of their championship due to NCAA sanctions, though the 2004 AP title remains in place. IMHO, if a school wants to leap up and grab that vacated BCS trophy, it is pretty lame and desperate. If anyone can claim it, it would be Oklahoma. 'Cuz that game didn't count, right?

(For the record, Urban Meyer's Utah team with Alex Smith at the helm finished 12-0 as well. Their schedule was pretty darn weak.)


The State Senator who has introduced this waste of time is named Thomas Whatley. He was arrested last December for grabbing his  fiancée "by the arm and forcefully shoved her down on the brick steps and concrete porch." Can you guess what happened to him? The charges were dropped by Auburn prosecutor Rick Davidson who said  "I didn't feel the case warranted prosecution." Must be nice.