We've learned before not to take too much away from Auburn's performances in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A lot of us can remember the game in 2007, when bringing Tony Franklin's offense to the Plains looked like a great idea. But still, this one felt more illusory than ever before.
Not that it wasn't impressive. Auburn's 19-point margin of victory in its shellacking of Virginia tied for its highest of the season, against Samford, surpassing its edge against Ole Miss and Florida Atlantic. It was Auburn's highest point total of the season. And the 454 yards of total offense was the most the Tigers gained all year, by almost 20 yards at that. If Gus Malzahn was going out tonight, he was determined to go out reminding Auburn fans why they'll miss him.
But that just underscores the point: How much can Auburn fans take away from this game when they look at 2012? Michael Dyer might or might not be back and might or might not remain in front of Onterio McCalebb, the hero of the bowl, for the starting running back job next season. The quarterback position is still a massive question mark, especially since we don't know who the new offensive coordinator will be. For that matter, we also don't know who the new defensive coordinator will be.
Those questions didn't bother Auburn too much Saturday. The Tigers blocked two punts, one of them leading to Auburn's first touchdown two plays later and the other producing a safety. And while the 435 yards of offense Auburn gave up wasn't exactly sterling, it was enough, and the majority came in the first half. When the opportunity came for the Tigers to close the door in the second half, the defense slammed it shut.
So what if there are plenty of questions for Auburn to answer in the new year. They closed this one out with a bang, and one just big enough to give fans hope about what comes next.