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Mizzou Moves To The SEC: Auburn Football, From Sullivan To Beasley To Cam

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We began SEC Week(s) with the defending national champions. It's only fair, then, that we next head 160 miles southeast to the 2010 champions. Let Auburn Week begin!

Auburn's Percentile Performance Since 1921 (according to S&P+ and Est. S&P+).
The dotted black line is the school's ten-year average.
For more on Est. S&P+, start here.

(Original helmet photo via

Auburn has spent most of the last 50 years as a Top 25-caliber program. There have been droughts -- the mid-1960s were not particularly kind, the Doug Barfield era (1976-80) was mostly mediocre, and the Tigers went 8-14 in 1998-99 -- but AU has been consistently solid. Of course, "solid" doesn't necessarily cut it in the state of Alabama. Much of Auburn's history has been spent chasing Alabama's shadow, but the program that produced Bo Jackson and Cam Newton has had its moments. Auburn won national titles in 1957 and 2010 and has claimed seven SEC titles through the years, and, to its credit, the program has produced more Heisman winners than its neighbor to the west (Pat Sullivan in 1971, Jackson in 1985, Newton in 2010). In almost any other state in the union, Auburn would be the standard-bearer, and it still stands as one of college football's iconic programs.

Worst Five-Year Span

1926-30. Through the 1920s and much of the 1930s, the South just wasn't very good at football. Alabama rose to prominence in the 1920s, and Georgia Tech was strong before that, but as we will see, much of what now constitutes the SEC West was a non-entity in college football's early days as a national sport. Following Mike Donahue's departure in 1923, Auburn's program spent much of the following decades aimless. The Tigers went 17-14-5 from 1923-26, then fell apart, winning just six games in four seasons from 1927-30. The Tigers were not playing Alabama in these years, but against Georgia and Georgia Tech, AU went 0-15-1 from 1923-30. Combined score of these 16 games: Opponents 308, Auburn 48. Auburn saw some success under Jack Meagher in the late-1930s -- the Tigers attended the Bacardi Bowl in 1936 and the Orange Bowl in 1937 and finished ranked 16th in 1942 -- but the program bottomed out in three seasons under Earl Brown from 1948-50. Combined record: 3-22-4.

In 1951, Ralph "Shug" Jordan entered the premises. His success was relatively sporadic, but he made Auburn a household name in the football universe. Auburn went 7-13 in his first two seasons but improved quickly thereafter. Auburn went 30-10-2 from 1953-56, then broke through in a major way. They went 10-0 and won the national title in 1957, then went 9-0-1 in 1958, missing out on a second title thanks to a 7-7 tie versus Georgia Tech. In 25 seasons under Jordan (after whom Auburn's stadium is named), Auburn finished in the Top 10 seven times, in the Top Five three times. Though his predecessor, Doug Barfield, did not see the same success (in five seasons, Auburn went 29-25-1 -- 27-27-1 on the field, plus two forfeited wins from Mississippi State -- attended no bowls and never beat Alabama), the table was still set for a lovely run in the 1980s.

Best Five-Year Span

1985-89. In Pat Dye's first five seasons in charge (1981-85), Auburn went 42-18, finished 1983 ranked third in the country (they were named national champions by Billingsley and the New York Times), and found itself ranked No. 1 for portions of both 1984 and 1985. And then, really, the program got even better. From 1986-89, Auburn never ranked higher than third, but the Tigers went a combined 39-7-2, finished in the Top 10 all four years, beat Alabama all four years, and claimed at least a share of the SEC title three times. That's ... not bad.

Of course, the NCAA then came calling. Dye became the Jim Tressel of his day, finding trouble when he sat on information of illegal benefits. Dye's tenure came to a close with NCAA punishment and back-to-back five-win seasons. The punishment wasn't enough to prevent Auburn from naming their playing field after him, of course. (If you're wondering why Larry Blakeney never found a big-time coaching job after a large run of success at Troy, refer to the presence of his name in the two articles linked above.)

(Note, too, the presence of Bobby Lowder, one of the most notorious boosters in the history of college football who remained a presence on Auburn's board of trustees until this past April.)

Retired Numbers And Statues

Retired Numbers
7. Pat Sullivan
34. Bo Jackson
88. Terry Beasley

Two Heisman winners and the receiver (Beasley) whose prolific connection with Sullivan likely earned Sullivan his Heisman. The three Heisman winners -- Sullivan, Jackson and Newton -- were also honored with statues in April.


Auburn plays its home games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which is after Shug Jordan and Cliff Hare, a member of Auburn's first football team and eventual dean. Its capacity: 87,451. (The population of Auburn, Alabama: 53,380.)

Auburn On YouTube

Ten semi-random highlights via the YouTubes:

1957 National Champions
"The Sullivan to Beasley Express"
More Bo Jackson? More Bo Jackson!
Iron Bowl 1989 Pre-Game
Iron Bowl 1989 Post-Game
Police dog v. Auburn defensive back
The 2010 Auburn Football Tunnel Video
Iron Bowl 2010
2010 National Champions


View their statistical profile here. Auburn lost so much from its 2010 title team and predictably took a hefty step backwards in 2011. The Tigers return almost their entire defense this fall, though we'll see what kind of impact the losses of both offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and running back Michael Dyer have on the offense.

Five Interesting Returnees On Offense
RB Onterio McCalebb (641 rushing yards, plus-6.3 Adj. POE; 344 receiving yards, 7.3 per target)
WR Emory Blake (613 receiving yards, 10.2 per target)
C Reese Dismukes (13 starts as a freshman)
RB Tre Mason (64 rushing yards and a touchdown in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl)
QB Clint Moseley (800 passing yards, 5.5 per pass attempt)

Five Interesting Returnees On Defense
DE Corey Lemonier (13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, five forced fumbles)
DB T'Sharvan Bell (40.0 tackles, two interceptions, seven passes broken up in just 10 games)
LB Daren Bates (81.5 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three passes broken up)
DT Jeffrey Whitaker (312 pounds, former high four-star recruit)
LB Jake Holland (34.5 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss)


Missouri's All-Time Series Versus Auburn

  • December 29, 1973: Missouri 34, Auburn 17 (Sun Bowl) (Photos here)

    John Moseley, who’s no more than knee-high to a powder keg but goes off just like one, rocked the Sun Bowl only once Saturday. The one time he did, however, the Auburn Tigers came right out of their stripes, never to find their way back to the game again.

    Generating all kinds of electricity with an 84-yard kickoff return in the fading seconds of the first half, Moseley dealt Auburn the fatal blow with his scoring run and Missouri University went through the formality of the second half to clinch a 34-17 victory in the 39th annual Sun Bowl Football game before 30,127 locals and a national TV audience.

    The pulsating gallop by the 160-pound Moseley carried him across the goal line with no time left showing on the clock. It came on the heels of Auburn’s happiest moment and completely turned the tide of the first-ever meeting between two longtime bowl travelers.

    Auburn had beaten the clock and Missouri out of a touchdown seconds before when freshman quarterback Phil Gargis rifled a fourth-down 17-yard scoring pass to Thomas Gossom making it a 21-10 game in Mizzou’s favor.

    Gossom’s catch came with just eight seconds remaining in the first half and from the looks of the Auburn bench at the time it appeared there would be no stopping them in the second half.

    But the War Eagles got caught up in their own momentum as they failed to play out the clock. Auburn assumed there was no way Missouri could retaliate in only eight seconds.

    But they underestimated this little guy named Moseley by a mile—or 84 yards. Fielding the Auburn kickoff at his 16, Moseley—the man Gossom beat on his TD catch—saw a wedge of blockers form before him, cut to their left and in no time he saw he was sailing up the left sideline. He crossed midfield at full throttle and then the countdown to a touchdown began: 40. 30. 20. 10. There was no catching him. Missouri’s big play man had produced again.