ARLINGTON, Texas -- Season-opening results should be wrapped in caution tape, as overreaction can cause embarrassment. But Auburn-Oregon was the type of opener that, no matter how it went, carried potentially long-term consequences for both teams.
Oregon arrived at AT&T Stadium on Saturday carrying the burden of an entire conference, trying to give the beleaguered Pac-12 some good news after several mostly miserable seasons. Behind quarterback Justin Herbert and a gifted offensive line, the Ducks sensed a return to national relevancy.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn arrived carrying the burden of his coaching future, which seemed secure at the end of 2017 but began to loosen last fall. Malzahn, who reclaimed offensive playcalling duties, needed to show he could reboot the unit and develop a quarterback he recruited: Bo Nix, the first Auburn true freshman quarterback to start an opener since 1946.
When the night ended, Malzahn and Nix left the field triumphantly, as No. 16 Auburn scored the final 21 points, including the winning touchdown with 9 seconds left, to stun No. 11 Oregon 27-21. The latest Malzahn miracle in a career largely defined by them propels Auburn forward behind a young quarterback described by teammate Big Kat Bryant as "meant to be here."
Mario Cristobal and the Ducks left bewildered after letting a game they largely controlled slip away.
Here's what the opener could mean for both teams.