Joe Medley: Lesson of ’13 season? Not so fast, my friends
by Joe Medley
Jan 11, 2014 | 3369 views |  0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn posted a 12-2 record in 2013. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn posted a 12-2 record in 2013. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Take everything that seems apparent after the 2013 college football season and throw it out, fans of Alabama, Auburn and Jacksonville State.

Know that, a year from now, things could look and feel quite differently.

That’s the lesson of the 2013 season, which ended Monday with Auburn -- yes, Auburn -- coming within 13 seconds of a national championship in what was literally and figuratively the Bowl Championship Series title game to end all BCS title games.

The Tigers lost 34-31 to Florida State, the first non-SEC national champion since the 2005 season. Jameis Winston, the second straight redshirt freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, led a game-winning drive, starting with 1:19 to play.

Oh, and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is the consensus national coach of the year after his second season as a college head coach, first at Auburn.

Oh, and Lane Kiffin is the new offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Oh, and Jacksonville State just had a player declare early for the NFL draft. This after the Gamecocks posted double-digit victories, including playoff victories, for the first time since the school bid farewell to Division II in 1992.

It’s all just like everybody predicted a year ago, right?

Apologies to any college football fan that just awoke from a 12-month coma. It must come as a shock to know that what was down is up, and what was up is trying to get back to up as it was.

Confused? Lemme 'splain.

The two schools among our “Big 3” that fired coaches a year ago did so to immediate and stunning success. Malzahn replaced Gene Chizik and led Auburn to a 12-2 season, complete with an SEC championship. JSU’s Bill Clark worked wonders after replacing Jack Crowe, going 11-4 and reaching the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.

Malzahn, sounding like Chizik after the 2011 season, declared Friday that Auburn’s football future is “very bright.” Chizik used those words after 2011 and went 3-9 in 2012, but “very bright” rings truer, coming from Malzahn.

Clark has UAB fans fitting him for that job immediately after his first season as a college head coach. It’s hard to see him leaving his appreciative alma mater for a program that’s seemingly doomed by design, but people are talking about JSU’s coach.

Junior safety Pierre Warren just declared for the NFL draft, so first-world problems must feel nice for a JSU program that seemed stuck in FCS mediocrity a year ago.

Meanwhile, the school among our “Big 3” that won its third national title in four years a year ago? That looked on course to make it four in five years in 2013?

Yes, Alabama and Nick Saban are, relatively speaking, rebuilding after a title-free season.

Rebuilding is relative for a program that recruits in the top five annually and considers an 11-2 finish disappointing, but Saban himself said it’s 2007 all over again. Time to start over.

Alabama just lost one of its legendary quarterbacks in AJ McCarron, the starter through two national titles and the guy who had the 2013 Tide at 11-0, ranked No. 1 and leading the Iron Bowl 28-21 after a 99-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.

Four juniors declared for the NFL draft.

Saban, meanwhile, seems to be cashing in well-earned chips. Visions of him wearing Texas burnt orange helped his camp leverage a $2 million raise after losing everything in the Iron Bowl, and what other coach carries the credibility to say, trust me when I hire Lane Kiffin?

That’s the state of “Big 3” football after a season of surprises. The 2013 season left us loathed to predict anything but likely to wonder how things will look and feel a year from now.

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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