It’s becoming increasingly difficult to envision a scenario where Gus Malzahn’s tenure as head coach at Auburn University end’s on a positive note. It might be this year, next year or even the year after due to an exorbitant buyout, but I sense Auburn powerbrokers coming to a breaking point.
After six years and 10 games, Tiger fans know exactly who Malzahn is and what his program is all about. There is little to no chance Malzahn would ever do anything obscene, like drop an F-bomb at a press conference or get a DUI, to embarrass the University. He runs a clean program. He recruits very well and he wins a lot more football games than he loses. Malzahn’s record at Auburn is 60-30. We’re all familiar by now with his idiosyncrasies and paranoid behavior, but victories trump personality quirks. All these things are documented and would certainly fall into the “pro” category.
Unfortunately, Malzahn’s record against Alabama, Georgia and LSU is 6-15. He has never beaten any of the three away from Jordan-Hare Stadium. His offense was innovative and explosive in his first two years but has since been very unproductive against above average teams. His passing offense is woefully inadequate for 21st-century football and he is extraordinarily stubborn in all the wrong ways.
I was thrilled Auburn finally woke up Saturday night and put a couple of touchdowns on the board against Georgia. If the Tigers had tied the game late in the fourth quarter, I have no doubt they would have gone on to win in regulation or overtime. The momentum and electricity in the stadium was phenomenal. However, the late comeback making the score respectable only masked the utter ineptness of the first three quarters on offense. The Bulldogs have a tremendous defense, but Auburn had two weeks to prepare and could not manage a single point until the fourth quarter.
It was the same song Malzahn has been singing against good teams for the last five years. Auburn has lost three games on the season and they have all been against top-10 teams. No one likes to lose, but even the most delusional fan could understand — if not condone — losses like those.
So, why is everybody so upset? The general consensus is the Tigers would be undefeated if they had only put a reasonably competent offense on the field. That’s why everyone is so upset and becoming more and more discontent all the time.
I am certainly not advocating for anyone to be fired. Those decisions are far above my pay grade and I am ridiculously unqualified to make such a judgment. It’s not like anyone is going to listen to me anyway. Auburn isn’t in any danger of falling off the college football map. They were in the playoff discussion this year with two losses. I’ve just come to a point I believe Malzahn has taken the program as far as he can take it.
The Tigers play Samford on Saturday and will close out the regular season with the Iron Bowl. A win over Alabama would mean a great deal under any circumstances, but it will have no transformative power over the Auburn program. The fans want a perennial 10-win team. That’s a lot to ask in the toughest conference in the toughest division in all of college football, but unreasonable expectations tend to go hand in hand with $7 million a year.