"Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard. Huckleberry was cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle, and lawless, and vulgar and bad -- and because all their children admired him so, and delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like him. Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys, in that he envied Huckleberry his gaudy outcast condition, and was under strict orders not to play with him. So he played with him every time he got a chance." - Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
I'm not sure anyone admires them, but Auburn is certainly idle, lawless, vulgar and bad. For those reasons, they are easy to root against. Tonight, Auburn will play for it's second National Championship in four seasons. Your inclination is likely to root against the men of many mascots from the Plains. I doubt I'll be successful in dissuading you from that opinion, but I'm gonna give five good reasons to root for them anyhow.
1) ESSS EEEE CEEE
The whole "root for your own conference" has been given the kissing your cousin treatment of late, but for my money, there's still merit to it. Their appearance alone netted a cool $18,000,000, a portion of which will be re-distributed right into the pockets of us and other conference mates. We just spent the past few weeks bantering with some B1G folk that are absolutely disgusted by the "SEC is the best 'mythology,'" and while a fair amount of it is drummed up narratives that garner easy clicks and TV ratings... it becomes harder and harder to argue against when the conference pumps out National Champion after National Champion, from now five different schools in the BCS era. Say you hate us all you like, but it's clear we're must see TV, as eight of our conference's 14 teams rank in the top 12 most watched in ALL of college football this season.
The SEC hype machine is a residual net-positive for LSU in just about every way. We get to play on National Television a lot... virtually every weekend, typically in a prime-time spot. If you want to know how to transform your recruiting base from in-state and near-regional only to plucking players from California, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Illinois, playing in any living room across the nation certainly helps that.
For the SEC, Auburn will attempt to secure eight consecutive National Titles and 10 in the 16 years of the BCS. A win only builds upon the conference's lofty reputation, something that helps LSU.
2) Rooting for Underdogs is Fun
Auburn opened as 6.5 dogs, a number that's grown to 8.5 points as of now. The BCS computers predicted them to lose by two touchdowns. If Twitter talk means anything, the bulk of what I've seen from the FSU faithful is that Auburn doesn't even belong on the field with a team so accomplished and amazing as FSU. The Seminoles have blown the doors off opponents big and small, including capping the regular season blasting the Gators in Gainesville. The Gators did hold them to a season low in points, but when that total is 37, you aren't exactly talking domination.
But those reasons all make it a little more fun to pull for Auburn. What's better than the SEC winning another Natty? Proving the masses wrong, while doing so. Auburn boasts the best defensive front FSU's seen all season, and while they aren't statistically impressive, much like their 2010 squad, they flash moments of dominance because of the athletes up front.
3) We Beat Them
The whole Team A beat Team B who beat Team C who beat Team D, so Team A is clearly > Team logic never works, but here, we have a direct comparison. We beat Auburn... rather handily. At the time, it was a win we weren't overly impressed with. "Auburn is feisty, but still not a very good team." I called it a game "Auburn could build upon," and boy did they. I was thinking big picture, years from now, type of building. Malzahn himself cites the game as one that brought about self-evaluation.
It's quite clear that the Auburn team that will take the field tonight is markedly better than the one we beat in September of last year, but you know what? We still beat 'em. And it'd be fun to say that Les has regular season victories over the National Championship winner from two of the past three seasons (even if one of those resulted in arguably the most painful loss in LSU history).
4) One Step Closer to "Gus Malzahn, NFL Head Coach"
When news broke that Auburn hired Malzahn, my response was more or less, "Well, shit." I've long been a huge fan of Gus, dating back to his early work at Arkansas. Frankly, he's on a superstar coaches' trajectory, much like we've seen from Chip Kelly. While the Auburn job is quite good, it's not in that "coaches retire here" pantheon, and at just 48 years old, it's doubtful we've seen his last stop. Gus is already drawing NFL interest, and even though he's already denied interest, Gus strikes me as the type of guy that will proceed like Chip Kelly... awaiting the NFL job that truly piques his interest.
Winning a National Title would only expedite this process, in my mind. Firstly, it improves his already impressive résumé, something that may assuage the concerns of stodgy, old-timey NFL types that think he runs a "gimmicky offense that would never work in the NFL." Secondly, for Gus, it's the highest accomplishment at this level, and could be enough to assure him that he's ready to move on to "bigger things." And frankly, getting Gus the hell out of the SEC, particularly the hell out of the SEC West, is a good thing.
5) Auburn is just damn fun, y'all