As decisive as Alabama’s win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl was last Saturday, I somehow left the stadium with more questions than I did answers.
“Why isn’t Devonta Smith the real Heisman Trophy leader?”
The Alabama wide receiver has been nothing short of uncoverable this season and continued his torrid pace by torching the Auburn defense. While his quarterback gets plenty of attention — and rightfully so — it seems Smith is a little more than an afterthought when it comes to the games’ most prestigious individual award. Earlier in the year, Smith said he wanted to go down in history as Alabama’s greatest wide out. Even when stacked against the likes Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith makes a compelling case.
“Is Bo Nix really the quarterback to lead Auburn?”
Nix looked like a sure-fire eventual NFL draft pick when he was at Pinson Valley High School and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t shine at Auburn. His career started with a last-second win over Oregon, but since then it is safe to say he has underwhelmed. At least, relative to the expectations placed upon him — and maybe those expectations weren’t fair, but such is sports-life. To date, Nix has been good, not great. There are certainly times when he flashes potential, but those are countered quickly with very questionable decision making. It hasn’t helped former Auburn QB Malik Willis has been amazing while helming Liberty, either, as some AU fans watch Willis’ play and longingly think, “what if?” Regardless, the jury is still out on if Nix is the right quarterback for the Tigers, but the good news is he has two years to grow.
“Was stand-in coach Steve Sarkisian auditioning for ’Bama’s leading man of the future?”
If he was, he should when an Oscar because that was a Yul Brenner-esque performance. The guy who follows in Nick Saban’s footsteps will have a huge cross to bear. But given the money and fame, there will also be many suitors for the gig. That said, Coach Sark made a huge impression Saturday and my guess he is the leader in the clubhouse to succeed Saban. The only issue is, the clubhouse may be more than a back nine away as Alabama’s current coach has shown no indication he wants to retire.
“Should Gus Malzahn get another year at Auburn?”
There are strong cases to be made for both answers here. At this point, we have a large enough sample size to know Malzahn is a four-loss coach; it’s just what he does. However, he has also done as well against Nick Saban as anyone could hope for given ’Bama’s run. Auburn also should return a very talented and experienced squad in 2021. Therein lies the rub, though: If you assume Auburn will be very good in ’21, but you also factor in Gus is likely to lose four games again, it stands to reason he will then, in fact, be fired after that season. If you agree with that statement, then doesn’t it make sense to move on now? Of course, there are other factors at play like his expensive buyout — during a pandemic, no less — and the possibility of fighting greater traditional powers like Texas and Michigan for new coaches. Either way Auburn goes, it is a huge gamble at this point.
Luke Robinson is a regular columnist, contributor to BMetro, AHSAA Radio Network broadcaster and Sportz Blitz team member.