Shoppers and football fans got quite the surprise Friday morning in downtown Auburn: Paul Finebaum explaining why the Crimson Tide will beat the Tigers on Saturday.
Finebaum, the SEC broadcaster famous for riling up college football die-hards, set up in a booth between Toomer’s oak trees marked with a big Crimson appeal for Alabama to be in the College Football Playoff.
War Eagle faithful took their best shots, and Finebaum waved them off — all in good fun.
“He was like, ‘Who’s No. 1 in your opinion right now?’” said Austin Cristiaan, who was there with his mom (and former Auburn cheerleader) Jennifer Stevenson.
“I said ‘Ohio State,’ and he just told me to go get some Kleenex because Alabama is going to beat Auburn,” Christiann added, laughing.
Carol Harrell of Auburn and her friend Kristin Weems of Atlanta didn’t get any further with Finebaum
“What he told us was that yes, the (playoff) committee is biased, and yes, he is biased, too, and that if Alabama were 0-12 they should still be in the playoff,” said Harrell, whose bemused response was, “Really?”
Bradford Boney came up with his parents from Boca Grande, Florida, to root for Auburn. He wasn’t having it from the outspoken broadcaster.
“He thinks Alabama is good, but I think they’re just beating all these easy teams,” countered Boney.
Nancy Ellis and Finebaum agreed to disagree, but she didn’t understand how he could choose Alabama.
“Oh, my God, how could you not fall in love with Auburn?” Ellis said, smiling. “You’ve got God on your side and Auburn on your side.”
Ellis, a Lakeland native, did agree with Finebaum that it would be a tight game. Her prediction? Auburn 28, Alabama 21.
Finebaum took on dozens of comers from the lunchtime crowd, culminating with him shouting back and forth with them for the television cameras.
Afterward, he graciously stayed behind to take selfies with the grateful fans. He also acknowledged that his faith in Alabama could be just that: faith.
“There’s not really a scientific way to vet my theory,” Finebaum said. “When you defend Alabama this year, you have to stretch the imagination.”
Scheduling may have undone Auburn’s title hopes this year, he said.
“Auburn would be undefeated with Clemson’s schedule,” he added, smirking. “The problem with Auburn is that they’ve just had a really bad schedule.”
Finebaum predicted a good Iron Bowl, with the Tide winning, 27-21 over a stout Auburn defense.
Fans who want to see the back-and-forth between Finebaum and the Auburn faithful can tune into the SEC Network between 9-11 a.m. Saturday before the game.