How did Auburn go from being a good team to a title contender these last few years? There are many reasons but it's worth singling out one particular data point: road wins.
Look at Auburn's record under coach Tommy Tuberville from 2000 to 2003 for a moment. The Tigers went:
Then, something clicked, because in the next three years, they've gone:
I don't know every reason for why this happened (many aren't quantifiable), but something stood out while flipping through my Phil Steele 2007 College Football Preview.
Here is Auburn's home record in those two time periods:
Ignoring for the moment the fact that they're playing a majority of their seasons with seven or more home games, both splits are fairly similar. Auburn tends to be a successful program at home.
Now, let us look at Auburn's road record in the same time period:
Auburn is 11-1 on the road the last three seasons! Tommy Tuberville has clearly gone from being an average coach on the road to a dominant one. How much of that is due to a decline in road opponent strength, I don't know. Maybe opponents have improved but Auburn's improved even more. That analysis is for another day. But what a trend, no?
I've singled this out because Steele is a bit down on the Tigers this year. He has them fourth in the SEC West, ahead of only Mississippi State and Mississippi. Pehaps Steele's onto something here, but if form holds on the road for Auburn, they're going to be part king maker, part spoiler in national championship talks.
Look at Auburn's road slate this year:
@ Florida (Sept. 29)
@ Arkansas (Oct. 13)
@ LSU (Oct. 20)
@ Georgia (Nov. 10)
I'd be shocked to see Auburn go 0-4 on the road this year, so someone or several someone's are likely to have their title shot fall at home.
Who will it be?