Gus Malzahn is very aware that his seat isn't cool. The verdict is still out on if his return to play-calling is a positive one. Auburn is 32nd in Total Offense, 42nd in Points Per Game, 91st in Passing Yards, and 8th in Rushing Yards. It's obvious that Gus' run first mentality hasn't changed but it still remains unclear how well this pans out with SEC competition. The first test is Texas A&M and the winding twisting schedule only gets more treacherous from there as Gus looks to not only hold onto his job but to solidify it moving forward. Let's look at a game-by-game breakdown for the remainder of the season.
#8 Auburn (3-0) @ #17 Texas A&M
The ESPN FPI has Auburn with a fair 46.3% chance of winning this game. Reasonable considering it is an away game for the Tigers and Texas A&M holds the advantage in most statistical categories; with the only exception being Auburn's rushing offense. Last season the Tigers barely edged out the Aggies 28-24 in a home game that was far from pretty. This year the Tigers are without Jarrett Stidham and struggling with slow starts defensively. This game should come down to whether or not the DL can keep Kellen Mond from being comfortable and if the Auburn OL can keep Bo Nix upright and comfortable in the pocket. Kellen Mond has given up one interception every game this year and against Clemson he was sacked twice; he is a 70% completion passer when protected but a mere 57% when under a fair amount of pressure.
I see this one being another close one for Auburn but without the dramatic flare and heroics of the Oregon game. Auburn 27 Texas A&M 17
Auburn (4-0) vs. Mississippi State
Regardless of the outcome of the TAMU game, Gus can't afford to lost to this years Bulldogs at home; his seat would be hotter than a stove on Mars. The Bulldogs just aren't that good this year. They have some solid stats but even against opponents like Southern Miss and ULM the Bulldogs are allowing 10 points more per game than Auburn. Kylin Hill is a fantastic running back but I can't see him gashing the Auburn front 7 for major gains. I expect Auburn to roll into this game, after beating a solid Texas A&M, and looking like there is a more consistent identity on offense. This should be Bo Nix's coming out party where he finally breaks 250 passing yards in a single game with multiple passing TDs.
Auburn 41 Mississippi State 24
Auburn (5-0) @ Florida
I am not positive but I don't believe Gus has ever "blown out" Dan Mullen. With the Gator's defense it's hard to imagine that we'll get a substantial lead. The Gators are only allowing about 13 points a game but I do believe we'll be the best offense they will have faced. With Feleipe Franks out of the equation it seems like things might be more in our favor. Their replacement, Trask, strikes me as a more consistent passer with less mobility and big play ability. If our DL can live up to their preseason hype this game should be essentially in the bag. Here's hoping we keep our winning streak alive against the Gators and that we leave the Swamp with another "W".
Auburn 24 Florida 13
Auburn (6-0) @ Arkansas
Did the pigs hire the right guy? Honestly, yes. Are they competitive yet? Offensively, yes. Defensively, absolutely not. The Red Razors have given up 30+ points to 5 of their last 6 Power 5 opponents. Gus loves to look good against the Hogs so it's unlikely we'll let off the gas too early. Another great day for Bo and we might see a repeat of our 3-100-yard-rushers. If we lose this one or it's even close than Gus needs to stay in Arky.
Auburn 45 Arkansas 20
Auburn (7-0) @ LSU
At this rate the game will be a top 5 matchup. Unfortunately, LSU has decided to have a dynamic and explosive offense and Joe Burrow has decided that completing passes at higher percentages is way cooler than whatever he was doing last year. I believe LSU's DC is better than our OC and that's the big difference for this game. They're scoring 55 points per game and only allowing 18. Strap up because I think with a freshman quarterback at a stadium we haven't won in for years is a terrible combo and we're going to look bad on national television. Bright side is their defense isn't as dominant as years past. I think our defense starts strong but ultimately gets worn out.
Auburn 17 LSU 41
Auburn (7-1) vs. Ole Miss
This should be another easy home win for Gus and the gang. The Ole Miss Rebel Black Bear Landshark Hipsters have a pass defense that even an average quarterback should be able to torch. They're (2-1) as I'm writing this but that's mostly due to weak opponents so far. This could be coach Luke's last year and Auburn should help boot him out the door with a dominant performance. Great chance to exercise some demons after a disappointing LSU game.
Auburn 52 Ole Miss 13
Auburn (8-1) vs. Georgia
If we're going to beat either Georgia or Alabama than my money is on the Bulldogs. Fromm's numbers aren't as video game like as a Tua/Lawrence/Hurts and Swift isn't a Todd Gurley type that will take the game over. Still, it's hard to gauge a Georgia team that's only played against Vanderbilt, Murray State, and Arkansas State. We should know much more after their game with overrated Notre Dame. As of now their defense looks stifling and George Pickens looks like the receiver we thought he'd be when he was committed to us. I'm not confident we win this one as a balanced Georgia offense is harder to stop than their run heavy squads of the past.
Auburn 20 Georgia 34
Auburn (8-2) vs. Samford
Auburn 42 Samford 6
Auburn (9-2) vs. Alabama
They're not unbeatable, no one is, but I don't think this is one we pull off. Tua is putting up video game numbers through the air and their defense is still tough. I think our offense will do better than SCar's though and our defense should do better as well. So let's tweak that score a little bit.
Auburn 27 Alabama 38
Final record (9-3) which is likely enough for Gus to keep his job considering we will have only lost to three top five teams and only one of them won't be "competitive". We'll play both Alabama and Georgia well at home. Finishing with nine wins, a true freshman quarterback, a recruiting class bordering on top five, and most of our skill player should be returning on the offensive side of the ball (the trenches on both side will need tremendous work to not be in rebuild mode).