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When experience counts the most

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How those “gut check” games will define a season…

From 1992-2010, Auburn has competed in 233 games of which 88 were decided by 7-pts or less (38 percent). Of those 88 “close” games, Auburn has won 63 percent of them. Bottom line, Auburn will normally have 4-5 games per season decided by 7-pts or less.

In 2009, Auburn was 2-3 in games decided by 7-pts or less and 6-0 in 2010.

Over the past 5 seasons, 29 of Auburn’s 65 games were decided by 7-pts or less (45 percent). Auburn won 19 of the 29 “close” games (66 percent).

During the 3 seasons prior to Auburn winning the BCS National Championship, 47 percent of Auburn’s games were decided by 7-pts or less and the Tigers won only 8 of those 18 games.

Like most seasons, how Auburn fares in their close games in 2011, will likely define the type of season they have. During the 2006 season, Auburn was 5-0 in “close” games on their way to an 11-2 finish. The following season, the Tigers were 4-3 in “close” games, finishing with a 9-4 record. Not much difference in the talent level of both teams but the 2006 squad was far more successful in their close ball games than the 2007 team.

Check out the number of scholarship seniors on the roster compared to each team’s record in games decided by 7-pts or less.

2002: 13 seniors / 3-3 record

2003: 11 seniors / 3-1 record

2004: 15 seniors / 2-0 record

2005: 13 seniors / 1-1 record

2006: 17 seniors / 5-0 record

2007: 13 seniors / 4-3 record

2008: 11 seniors / 2-4 record

2009: 10 seniors / 2-3 record

2010: 21 seniors / 6-0 record

2011: 8 seniors / ???

Talent, experience and depth will play a major role in the outcome of close ball games. Having players that are battle tested and the depth to dig down into until that final snap was the primary difference between 2009 and 2010, when it came to the “gut check” games. Players like Cameron Newton and Nick Fairley were the type of talent very few teams had at two of the most critical positions in football.

Auburn will be talented in 2011 but will lack the comfort zone of having experience, especially when it’s needed the most. You would have to go back to the early 1970’s, the last time Auburn had back-to-back seasons, where they won all of their close games. From 1970-1972, Auburn was a combined 8-0 in games decided by 7-pts or less. Based on recent history, 2011 will likely be a season full of growing pains, especially when it comes to games going down to the final whistle.

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