AUBURN, Ala. — The early forecast in New Orleans for Auburn’s Sugar Bowl matchup on Jan. 2 against Oklahoma calls for mild temperatures. Rain would be the only potential problem for the Tigers in the Big Easy.
But the Sugar Bowl takes place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson is ecstatic about that. No cold weather, no precipitation — just two teams playing in ideal conditions.
“I absolutely love the fact that we’re playing in a dome,” Johnson said last week. “Some people may say, ‘Oh, that’s weak.’ I’m going to play football regardless of the conditions, but the fact that you can be inside a dome and it feels like we’re in our indoor practice facility, that’s huge. I love the fact that we’re in a dome.”
Auburn football is used to playing indoors thanks to its practice facility, and it’s also used to winning with a roof over its head.
Since 2000, Auburn is 8-4 in games inside indoor stadiums. Three of those four losses came in the 2000 and 2001 seasons, meaning Auburn is 8-1 inside since the start of the 2004 season.
In 2004, the Tigers beat Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. That perfect season marks Auburn’s last trip to New Orleans for the postseason.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is a perfect 5-0 with the Tigers in indoor games, dating back to the 2010 season. The Tigers’ only indoor loss since 2001 came in the 2012 season opener against Clemson, when Malzahn was the head coach at Arkansas State.
The faster-playing turf inside the Superdome should be a boost for Auburn, which thrives on speed offensively. Even Auburn’s defensive players like the surface, as defensive end Carl Lawson noted ahead of the 2015 opener against Louisville in the Georgia Dome.
“The Georgia Dome is nice and the turf is really, really fast,” Lawson said last year, per Wesley Sinor of AL.com. “I remember playing the SEC Championship Game there and I felt real light on my feet.”
Johnson wouldn’t go so far as saying that Auburn had a clear advantage by playing indoors. But the Alabama native is happy there won’t be any chance of cold weather in the Sugar Bowl next week.
“Coaches, they analyze all that stuff, so they probably think it’s an advantage, which it might be,” Johnson said. “But to players, football is football. We’re going to have to go out there and block, tackle and run the same regardless of the conditions. It’s just the fact that just playing in better temperatures than you normally would, for me, is the golden thing.”
Whether Auburn has a tangible edge playing inside a dome or not, the Tigers can rely on a long streak of indoor success.
Here’s a look at Auburn’s record in indoor football games since the start of the 2000 season:
|2000||Florida||L, 28-6||Georgia Dome (SEC Championship)|
|2001||Syracuse||L, 31-14||Carrier Dome|
|2001||North Carolina||L, 16-10||Georgia Dome (Peach Bowl)|
|2004||Tennessee||W, 38-28||Georgia Dome (SEC Championship)|
|2004||Virginia Tech||W, 16-13||Louisiana Superdome (Sugar Bowl)|
|2007||Clemson||W, 23-20||Georgia Dome (Chick-fil-A Bowl)|
|2010||South Carolina||W, 56-17||Georgia Dome (SEC Championship)|
|2010||Oregon||W, 22-19||Univ. of Phoenix Stadium (BCS Championship)|
|2011||Virginia||W, 43-24||Georgia Dome (Chick-fil-A Bowl)|
|2012||Clemson||L, 26-19||Georgia Dome (Chick-fil-A Kickoff)|
|2013||Missouri||W, 59-42||Georgia Dome (SEC Championship)|
|2015||Louisville||W, 31-24||Georgia Dome (Chick-fil-A Kickoff)|