Defense is supposed to win championships. The SEC is doing its best on a weekly basis to simultaneously prove and disprove that adage.
After Auburn’s crazy loss to Texas A&M and Alabama’s escape at Louisiana State, luck might be the most important factor in the SEC West. And whichever team is lucky enough to survive the SEC West will be the odds-on favorite to win the national title.
Let’s start with the luck factor. When it comes to luck, Auburn has the market cornered. The Tigers certainly were good last season, taking the SEC title and coming within a last-second Florida State touchdown of winning the national title, but they also had two of the luckiest wins in college football history – the 73-yard deflected pass to beat Georgia and the 109-yard missed field-goal return to beat Alabama.
Second-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn’s luck had continued unabated this season with a win at Mississippi last week after the Rebels’ star receiver fumbled the ball into the end zone after he suffered a gruesome leg injury.
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Malzahn’s supply of good football karma seemed to be the lifetime variety after Auburn fumbled at the 2 going in for the winning score with 2 minutes, 37 seconds seconds left in Saturday’s game with Texas A&M, a 23-point underdog.
Auburn, being Auburn, still got another chance to win the game. The Tigers got the ball back with 1:28 left at the Aggies’ 42. Two plays later, Auburn incredibly bungled the snap and gave the ball back to Texas A&M for the final time. Given Malzahn’s luck, it was miraculous that Texas A&M didn’t fumble in victory formation to give Auburn one last chance.
While Auburn’s national title hopes ended, rival Alabama kept its alive with some Auburn-like luck.
Defense certainly was the theme of Alabama’s 20-13 overtime win Saturday night at LSU. The teams, with enough five-star talent between them to fill an NFL roster, managed to find the end zone twice in regulation.
But luck seemingly went LSU’s way – go figure, Les Miles makes Malzahn look like a mush – when star Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon fumbled at his own 6 with 1:13 left in a 10-10 game.
But Miles, who usually finds a way to win in spite of himself and his chronic clock-management problems, couldn’t get out of his own way or that of a stupid 15-yard penalty by offensive lineman Vadal Alexander.
Alabama, which had all three timeouts, managed to force a field goal with 54 seconds. To recap: LSU ran three plays, starting at the Alabama 6, used only 19 seconds and lost 16 yards in the process.
Colby Delahoussaye made the 39-yard field goal to give LSU a 13-10 lead, but the Crimson Tide got the ball and promptly drove down to the LSU 10-yard line in 46 seconds and tied the score in regulation, then won it in overtime.
Good teams make their own luck, of course, but the way this season is going, without any one dominant team, you can’t help but wonder if the first College Football Playoff won’t be decided by which team is the last with the lucky horseshoe.