If you look back at the history of Auburn football, there were plenty of seasons where they were just underneath the very top of the SEC…aka no man’s land in college football, no matter the conference.
Winning your conference has always been the ticket to the postseason for Saturday’s greatest past-time, and representing your region–the current day ACC notwithstanding as it pretty much does away with any regional uniformity–was always the goal of bringing together the best teams in college football to determine the true champion.
That meant teams that suffered just one loss all season in their conference tournament had no chance of taking home a title. Hell, even the undefeated SEC Champion 2004 Auburn football squad didn’t get to compete for a national championship because of undefeated seasons from Oklahoma and USC.
Neither team had a conference with four ranked teams to end the season like that year’s SEC did, as did the ACC and Big Ten. Both the Big 12 and Pac-10 had just two teams with double-digit wins by the season’s end as compared to the SEC, who had dominant Georgia and Tennessee teams that year. Of course, neither came within two scores in their losses to Tommy Tuberville’s outfit.
Despite the 2004 Tigers’ gridiron puissance, the chance to lay claim to the National Championship never came. By the standards that began in 2015, after Auburn football made the last BCS National Championship before the College Football Playoff, there were several other years where a chance to roll the trees at the corner of College St. and Magnolia Ave were not available due to the lack of an expanded CFP field.
By 247Sports’ Nathan King’s count, six is the exact estimate:
Since 2000, Auburn has placed in the top 12 of either the BCS or CFP rankings heading into bowl season seven times — thrice under Tommy Tuberville, once under Gene Chizik and three times under Gus Malzahn. That would give Auburn six Playoff appearances since then (in 2019, Auburn was ranked No. 12 heading into bowl season, but only five conference champions were represented in the top 12, so No. 17 Memphis, which won the American conference, would take the Tigers’ place).
If Bryan Harsin can get Auburn football back up to the level of having 9-3, or 10-2 seasons once more (and there’s no reason to think he can’t) then the expanded CFP field will only help the Tigers rise back to the top.