What a difference a year can make

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, November 1, 2008

Yes, it’s a cliché. Yes, it’s a stomach-turner. But the old adage has been proven once again.

What a difference a year can make. One need not look beyond the borders of this state to see evidence of that statement.

For instance, look around at the local football scene. Meadowview made the state title game last year but missed the playoffs this season. Meanwhile, Keith bounced back from a 3-7 record to earn its first winning season in 11 years, clinching its first playoff appearance since 1997 along the way.

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No gambler would’ve bet the house on the change of events.

But moving onto the meat of the story — the SEC — both Alabama and Auburn have witnessed reversals of fortune this season.

Auburn ended 2007 on a high note, winning its sixth straight Iron Bowl and scoring 23 points in a “simplified version” of former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s offense en route to a 23-20 Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over Clemson.

Meanwhile, doom and gloom reigned in Tuscaloosa. A four-game losing streak mired a 6-2 start that prompted Sports Illustrated to declare — only one year early it appears — “Bama is back,” and the Tide had to settle for the Independence Bowl again.

Now, only a year later, much maligned Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson actually looks and plays like a quarterback, and the Tide is poised for its first No. 1 ranking since the 1992 team won the national title.

An Alabama win in Baton Rouge clinches the SEC West title. And even if the Tide loses, it can clinch by beating either Mississippi State or Auburn down the road.

And on the Plains — where optimism was high given the positive ending to a season that started disastrously with losses to MSU and South Florida — things look bleaker than they did when Tommy Tuberville took over the program in 1999.

Franklin was fired after six games, and the loss to Ole Miss extended the losing streak to four games. Two more losses — a probability with Georgia and Alabama looming on the schedule — assure the first losing season since 1999, and the streak is doomed.

From the penthouse to the outhouse, and vice versa.

And in the sweetest bit of revenge for Alabama fans — barring catastrophe of course — the Tide will have the opportunity to drive the death knell in the Tigers’ heart in late November.

But both sides need to take heed. What a difference a year can make.