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Berry Tramel

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OU football: Sooners vs. Auburn?

by Berry Tramel Published: June 9, 2011

Tommy Tuberville, who now works in Lubbock, Texas, but in 2004 coached Auburn to an undefeated season, wants those Tigers awarded the national championship vacated by Southern Cal’s scandals.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville celebrates the Tigers 21-13 victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl Saturday Nov. 20, 2004 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/John David Mercer)
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville celebrates the Tigers 21-13 victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl Saturday Nov. 20, 2004 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/John David Mercer)

Tuberville isn’t all wet. It’s nonsensical, of course, that any team should step into the void. But Tuberville makes a solid point on a human level. He said last summer that a team ought to be designated as champ so it could enjoy the fruits of a title — rings, a celebration, memories, etc.

Of course, I would argue that a team already did and does get to enjoy such fruits. Southern Cal.

Anyway, it’s clear that the BCS has decided to leave its 2004 title vacant. And while Auburn — and maybe Utah, too, who knows? — clearly would be interested in some sort of championship designation, the Sooners are not. Bob Stoops said so, his players have said so and OU’s 55-19 loss to USC in that season’s Orange Bowl clearly removed the Sooners from any kind of championship thought.

But for fantasy, how would an Oklahoma-Auburn game have turned out? Crazy as it seems, that’s easy to know. Auburn would have won and probably easily.

That 55-19 verdict was produced by co-conspirators. Southern Cal was great, but the Sooners were not innocent bystanders. They contributed to half the reasons why America got such a dud of a game.

Years later, Bob Stoops and others admitted those ’04 Sooners lost focus on their final game, that he sensed many (unnamed) marquee players seemed to have one foot out the door in the weeks leading up to that Orange Bowl. NFL careers and paydays, not the Trojans, were at the forefront of OU’s psyche.

Auburn's Carnell Williams (24) breaks away from Georgia's Brian Jordan as he returns a punt in the third quarter in Auburn, Ala. Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004. Auburn won 24-6. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Auburn's Carnell Williams (24) breaks away from Georgia's Brian Jordan as he returns a punt in the third quarter in Auburn, Ala. Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004. Auburn won 24-6. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

That’s a character flaw in a team and completely unrelated to USC. If the Sooners couldn’t get ready to compete with the Trojans, how could OU get ready to compete with Auburn?

That Auburn team was dominant in an unspectacular way. In the regular season, the Tigers played just two games decided by single digits — 10-9 over defending national champion LSU and 21-13 at Alabama, which finished 6-6. Auburn’s non-conference schedule was weak — Louisiana-Monroe, the Citadel and Louisiana Tech — which explains why USC and OU were picked to play in the title game.

But clearly, Auburn was a top-shelf team. Any squad that goes unbeaten through the SEC in the 21st century is a championship-caliber team, capable of winning game, much less a showdown against a team with the flaws exposed by USC in the Orange Bowl.

The 2004 national title should not be vacated — you can’t rewrite history — and if it is vacated, probably best to keep it vacant. But if you demand a replacement for USC, the choice is clear: Auburn.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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