A final thought on each team before the 2012 season begins. Inspired by Off Tackle Empire
At least for now, this appears to have the makings of a very special season for Auburn football. No, not because of wins or losses -- though there's nothing to say that the Tigers can't make history in that respect in 2012. And not because the team is stacking with a lot of what you might consider to be star players.
Instead, Auburn is about to do something almost completely unprecedented since Gene Chizik took over the team in late 2008: They might actually have something approaching a normal season. One without a rival coach having called for an NCAA investigation based on bad information from a reporter, and one without reports of an actual NCAA investigation into Cam Newton's recruitment.
You doubt that this might be special to Auburn fans and to Chizik? Here's a look at some of the things that have happened since it became clear Chizik was Auburn's target.
December 2008: Gene Chizik is hired by Auburn, apparently after or right around the time that a fan meets Jay Jacobs' plane to protest that "we want a leader not a loser."
April-May 2009: Auburn uses limousines to help with its recruiting effort. Urban Meyer calls for an NCAA investigation. Only, not really.
January 2010: After Chizik's first bowl game as Auburn head coach, our recap included these stats: "1,044 yards of offense, 53 first downs, 164 penalty yards, nine turnovers, 111 pass attempts, three blocked or missed kicks and one potentially stupid call."
November 2010: In the middle of a national championship run by Auburn, the NCAA begins investigating the recruitment of star quarterback Cam Newton. Newton and Auburn are pretty much cleared, but only after months and months of NCAA checking.
December 2010: Cam Newton is ruled eligible for the SEC Championship Game against South Carolina. Auburn wins, giving the Tigers an SEC title and a chance for the crystal football. The Washington Post reports that Gus Malzahn has taken the head coaching job at Vanderbilt; he has not.
January 2011: Auburn wins the national championship. Then, the trees at Toomer's Corner are poisoned, an act later blamed on an Alabama fan with a lack of any sense of reason or proportionality.
March 2011: HBO airs a special investigation into Auburn football that includes allegations of pay-for-play. All of the on-the-record allegations, though, are from former players.
April 2011: Cam Newton is the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
July 2011: The NCAA confirms it is still investigating Auburn. It does so in an argument with Gene Chizik. Danny Sheridan, who is not yet widely known for making things up, says the NCAA has found a bagman for Auburn. Gene Chizik, who has the great misfortune of being at SEC Media Days the next day, doesn't really deny the report but does say Newton and Auburn have done nothing wrong.
August 2011: The NCAA essentially says that Danny Sheridan is making stuff up.
September 2011: Auburn comes thisclose to losing its home opener. To Utah State.
October 2011: Auburn is essentially cleared in the Cam Newton investigation. Everyone just believes what they wanted to believe in the first place anyway.
December 2011: Gus Malzahn is reportedly hired by Arkansas State not long after a bizarre interview by his wife hits the Internet. This time, it's true. By this point, Ted Roof has been hired by UCF and will later be hired by Penn State.
So, yeah, being normal would be a little special for Auburn fans this year. And probably just fine with most of them.
Earlier: Tennessee's relevance; Jeff Long's interesting season; Mississippi State's futility; Missouri's first SEC season