Like you’ve never been hurt: It’s time to believe in Auburn football again

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If you’re an Auburn football fan who can’t bring yourself believe in the 2017 Tigers just yet, no one will blame you.

Drubbing Missouri was reassuring. Destroying Mississippi State was a blast. But there’s still plenty of ammunition for the skeptics. Auburn enjoyed those kinds of wins last year, too. (The surprising level of respect from Las Vegas followed by a surprising demolition of a ranked SEC West rival strongly echoed 2016’s 56-3 obliteration of Arkansas.)

The running game’s struggles could keep the Tigers’ ceiling at a sub-2016 level even as Jarrett Stidham improves. However much Auburn ran up the score on the Tigers and Bulldogs, its one performance against legitimate top-20 competition ended in the special misery that comes with averaging 1.8 yards a play.

In short, if you want proof Auburn has improved on last season, it’s fair to argue the Tigers haven’t offered it yet. If 2016 wasn’t good enough, we don’t know yet that 2017 will be.

Then again, there’s this:

It’s true that Missouri could rank among the weakest SEC teams in the league’s recent history, and it’s true that Mississippi State’s reputation was vastly overinflated by thumping what’s proven to be a rotten LSU team. But there’s a lot of fine, fine Auburn football teams included in those past 30 years that faced some lousy opponents and didn’t match this accomplishment.

Which forces Auburn fans to answer the question: If the old “love like you’ve never been hurt” adage applies to football, back-to-back SEC wins by an average of 38 points surely gets us into putting-ourselves-out-there-again-and-damn-the-consequences territory, right? If Auburn’s playing like this, surely as a fan base we shouldn’t be so bitter over the past three seasons that we can’t summon some optimism in response?

If we’re so jaded that even a 49-10 annihilation of a team many Auburn fans didn’t expect to beat at all two weeks ago can’t move the expectations needle, then why even watch the Mississippi State game in the first place?

Believing in this Auburn team is a risk, yes. Another 2015 could be around the corner, another Georgia loss, another Clemson loss. But it’s time to believe anyway.

There are reasons beyond just rejecting numbness and skepticism, too:

This Auburn defense compels you

There are 130 FBS teams. Only one hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in any game. In net terms, that defense only allowed 3 points on Saturday:

This is Auburn football, still the same program helmed by Pat Dye and Tommy Tuberville. Whatever the current head coach’s area of expertise, winning games with one of the nation’s best defenses and however much offense happens to be on hand on a given Saturday should be welcomed with open arms.

This SEC is weak, weak sauce

No one in orange-and-blue will even begin to take a visit to Baton Rouge for granted. (That’ll happen when you haven’t won in a venue since 1999.) But if Troy can win in Tiger Stadium this season, surely Auburn can too. Depending on how Texas A&M fares during the month of October, it’s possible Auburn will be favored in every game between now and Georgia.

If that’s the case, and the Tigers can avoid being upset, going into the season-defining showdown with the Dawgs at 8-1 wouldn’t be so bad. It’s a possibility.

2016’s midseason rejuvenation only ended with a quarterback injury

If Jarrett Stidham remains healthy, would a redux of last season be so bad?

After repairing the damage from the Clemson and Texas A&M egg-layings, Gus Malzahn likely would have finished the regular season 9-1 against non-national championship game participants if Sean White had not hurt his shoulder. If Auburn’s offense is now on a similar trajectory — it appears to be — and Stidham stays in the lineup, there’s no reason the Tigers can’t finish the job they started last year.

Yes, belief is risky. Belief could hurt. There’s no guarantee Auburn won’t spit the bit this coming Saturday against Ole Miss, much less hit the 9- or 10-win heights that would make this season a success.

But however overrated Mississippi State may or may not have been, they remain a worthy measuring stick for whether it’s time for Auburn fans to give in to hope. A 49-10 win says yes, it’s time. Hurt or no hurt, risk or no risk, it’s alright to believe again.

The post Like you’ve never been hurt: It’s time to believe in Auburn football again appeared first on SEC Country.

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