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A program at a crossroads

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auburn.247sports.com

#PMARSHONAU: A program at a crossroads

ByPhillip Marshall

8-10 minutes

 Ten months after his team was soundly beaten 26-14 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, is Nick Saban, with an assist from Kirby Smart, finally on the verge of breaking Auburn football? That shouldn’t be the case, but warning signs abound.

Auburn football, halfway through a season that has not gone as well as expected, is at a crossroads. Will Auburn people pull together, redouble their commitment to winning at the highest level or will Auburn football be brought down by bickering and infighting? That’s a more important question than how many games this team will win down the stretch.

Can Gus Malzahn, taking some serious heat in his sixth season, be the catalyst? Can Auburn people rally around him and his program? If they can’t, can they move on without upheaval, finger-pointing and name-calling? History says that hasn’t been the Auburn way.

Saban hasn’t been able to break Auburn on the field. Malzahn, beating him twice in five seasons, is the only current SEC coach that has been able to even slow Saban’s march toward being remembered as the greatest coach in college football history. Auburn is the only SEC West program in that period other than Alabama to win anything. And it’s happened amid challenging circumstances.

In his five-plus seasons at Auburn, Malzahn has coached against 11 top-five teams. Pat Dye, whose name is on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium, had coached against nine of them six games into the 1986 season, his sixth. Both took over Auburn programs that were not in good shape, Dye a team that had gone 5-6 the previous season and Malzahn a team that had gone 3-9.

In that span, Dye had won one SEC championship and gone 2-3 against Alabama. He’d had one season of 10 or more wins. That would become two at the end of the 1986 season. Malzahn has won one SEC championship and has gone 2-3 against Alabama. He’s had two seasons in which he won 10-plus games. Malzahn has played the eventual national champion an astonishing four times in his first five seasons. In 12 seasons, Dye played one team that won the national championship, that coming in the final game of his coaching career.

 Tommy Tuberville lost four or more games in seven of his 10 Auburn seasons, but he beat a wounded Alabama six straight times and seven times in 10 years. That overshadowed underachieving teams in 2002 and 2003, two more teams that missed out on the SEC Championship Game by losing games they should have won at LSU, another that followed up a perfect season by losing to Georgia Tech at home in the 2005 season-opener.

Those are facts that can’t be disputed, but they don’t mean the same things now as they did then. The reason they don’t is because of what is going on across the state in Tuscaloosa and to a lesser extent to the east in Athens, Ga. No previous Auburn coach, even in the days of Bear Bryant, has faced anything like it.

The Auburn fan base is in turmoil today because of two losses in the first six games that could have, probably should have, been victories. Losing games that could have or should have been won is certainly not unique to this Auburn program or to any other program. But what makes it different is the specter of No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia waiting on the road at the end of the season.

After the overwhelming joy of beating Georgia 40-17 and Alabama 26-14, both ranked No. 1, at Jordan-Hare Stadium last season, things couldn’t have turned out any worse for Auburn folks. Georgia got revenge 28-7 in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama beat Georgia to win the national championship and Auburn lost 34-27 to Central Florida in the Peach Bowl.

Should that have sucked all the joy out of what happened in November? No, but for a lot of people it did.

So what now? Will there be any joy if Auburn pulls together and beats Tennessee, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Liberty and loses to Georgia and Alabama to finish 8-4? What if it’s worse than that? Where does this program go?

Buyout or not, anything less than 8-4 will no doubt leave many fans screaming for Malzahn’s scalp. Even 8-4 won’t make a lot of people happy, not if it includes losses to Georgia and Alabama.

Will Auburn hold it together? Will people get on the same page and stay on the same page? Or will they splinter into factions of those who demand change and those who oppose it and then further factions who can’t agree on what that change should be?

The odds at the moment are trending toward the latter, and that could signal trouble for Auburn football. It’s hard enough to win anywhere in the SEC. It’s harder still at Auburn, where Alabama and Georgia are constants on the schedule and on the minds of Auburn people.

It’s nearly impossible if administrators, coaches, players and supporters aren’t pulling together in pursuit of a common goal.

***

Without comment, here are records and accomplishments of all SEC head football coaches starting in 2013, Malzahn’s first season at Auburn, until the present.

WEST DIVISION

ALABAMA

Nick Saban: 70-7 (90.9 percent) overall, 39-4 (90.69 percent) SEC, 3 SEC titles, 5 West Division titles (2 shared with Auburn), 5 New Year’s Six bowls, 4 CFP, 2 national titles.

AUBURN

Gus Malzahn: 49-24 (67.12 percent) overall, 26-17 (60.46 percent) SEC, 1 SEC title, 2 West Division titles, 3 New Year’s Six bowls,  runnerup BCS Championship Game.

LSU

Les Miles: 29-13 (69.04 percent) overall, 15-11 (57.6 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 West Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowl games, 0 CFP.

Ed Orgeron 20-7 (74.07 percent) overall, 12-5 (70.58 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 West Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Dan Mullen:  40-24 (62.5 percent) overall, 20-20  (50 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 West Division titles, 1 New Year’s Six bowl, 0 CFP.

Joe Moorhead (first year): 5-2 overall, 1-2 SEC.

OLE MISS

Hugh Freeze: 32-19 (62.74 percent) overall, 16-16 (50 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 West Division titles, 2 New Year’s Six bowls, O CFP.

Matt Luke: 10-8 (55.55 percent), 3-7 SEC (30 percent), 0 SEC titles, 0 West Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

ARKANSAS

Brett Bielema: 29-34 (53.96 percent) overall, 11-29 (27.5 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 West Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

Chad Morris (first season): 1-5 overall, 0-3 SEC.

TEXAS A&M

Kevin Sumlin: 40-24 (62.5 percent) overall, 19-21 (47.5 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 West Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

Jimbo Fisher (first season): 4-2 overall, 2-1 SEC.

EAST DIVISION

GEORGIA

Mark Richt: 27-12 (69.23 percent) overall, 16-8 (66.66 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP

Kirby Smart: 27-7 (79.41 percent) overall, 15-5 SEC (75 percent), 1 SEC title, 1 East Division title, 1 New Year’s 6 bowl, CFP runnerup.

FLORIDA

Will Muschamp 10-13 (43.47 percent) overall, 7-9 (43.75 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s 6 bowls, 0 CFP.

Jim McElwain: 22-12 overall (64.7 percent), 16-8 (66.66 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 2 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

Dan Mullen (first season): 5-1 overall, 3-1 SEC.

TENNESSEE

Butch Jones: 34-27 (55.73 percent) overall, 14-24 (36.85 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

Jeremy Pruitt (first season): 2-3 overall, 0-2 SEC.

KENTUCKY

Mark Stoops: 31-37 (45.58 percent) overall, 15-29 (34.09 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

MISSOURI

Gary Pinkel: 28-12 overall (70 percent), 15-9 (62.5 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 2 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

Barry Odom: 14-16 (46.66 percent) overall, 6-12 (33.3 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles,0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

VANDERBILT

James Franklin: 9-4 overall, 4-4 SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

Derek Mason: 21-34 (46.66 percent) overall, 6-28 (17.64 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Steve Spurrier: 20-12 overall (62.5 percent), 9-11 (45 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

Will Muschamp: 18-13 (58.06 percent) overall, 10-10 (50 percent) SEC, 0 SEC titles, 0 East Division titles, 0 New Year’s Six bowls, 0 CFP.

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Just now, DAG said:

Yeah I am trying to figure out the point here. I am not taking a dig at  @aubiefifty , thanks for the wonderful article. But I got to say, this pursuit of how we do against Nick Saban needs to stop. Okay he has done a good job battling Nick Saban. He is in the tough SEC West. He also gets highly touted recruits for being in such a conference. He also gets paid high end dollars for it. Oh, he also has pretty dang good resources. It’s pretty much a wash if you can handle NS but lose to a UCF, a downtrotten LSU team or the likes of Mississippi State.

Furthermore, most of the fan base aren’t expecting to beat Alabama every year. We are just asking for freaking consistency. Last year he beat UGA and Alabama..he gets a higher contract. Since then , I believe he is 4-4 now. That won’t cut it.

i think this is in response to brandon marsmellows insider stuff about trouble in the locker room. it is posted on the aubbbburn team oard on the rant. want me to pm you the basics since it is already out? as an aside every single time i see that pic of marsmellow recording statements with a recorder and his hair messed up and clothing choice always makes me think if michael myers of halloween.

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and yes dag i have worked on not being as upset when folks do not care for what i post. darn shame to be a sissy at 64......and especially on a message board. lol

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1 minute ago, aubiefifty said:

and yes dag i have worked on not being as upset when folks do not care for what i post. darn shame to be a sissy at 64......and especially on a message board. lol

At least you are posting content. Hardly a sissy. Very wise of you to provide and over look the complaining.

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40 minutes ago, aubiefifty said:

The Auburn fan base is in turmoil today because of two losses in the first six games that could have, probably should have, been victories. Losing games that could have or should have been won is certainly not unique to this Auburn program or to any other program. But what makes it different is the specter of No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia waiting on the road at the end of the season.

Thanks for the post '50.

I'm just not sure I understand the point of PM's article?   

Gus Malzhan was basically given a "do-over" last fall in the wake of those monumental beat downs of our two biggest rivals.  The AU Administration, BOT/PTB chose to take a firm stand of support for their HC.  They gave him a clean slate, a long and lucrative contract with ample job security.  That should've relieved a ton of anxiety and nervousness on CGM's part because he is immune to the annual baying for his blood that comes from media/message board posters/radio call-in folks.

I'm seriously having a hard time understanding how UAT-Saban/UGA-Smart had a hand AU-Malzhan's losses to LSU-Orgeron/MSU-Moorehead?

PM makes it sound like the Auburn football program and it's leaders are so weak minded that "the specter" of UAT/UGA are affecting the very core of this team to the point where it's ruining the season even before we've faced them on the field.

 

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I just expect Auburn to win the games we are supposed to and look competent and competitive in the games that we are supposed to lose.  A mess up here and there should be an anomaly, not multiple games per season where we look completely disorganized, oblivious of the game plan and no real attempts to adjust in the game. 

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2 minutes ago, DAG said:

At least you are posting content. Hardly a sissy. Very wise of you to provide and over look the complaining.

well i did whine a lot and still might. but posters like you make me feel good when i take the time to post something.....

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7 minutes ago, keesler said:

Thanks for the post '50.

I'm just not sure I understand the point of PM's article?   

Gus Malzhan was basically given a "do-over" last fall in the wake of those monumental beat downs of our two biggest rivals.  The AU Administration, BOT/PTB chose to take a firm stand of support for their HC.  They gave him a clean slate, a long and lucrative contract with ample job security.  That should've relieved a ton of anxiety and nervousness on CGM's part because he is immune to the annual baying for his blood that comes from media/message board posters/radio call-in folks.

I'm seriously having a hard time understanding how UAT-Saban/UGA-Smart had a hand AU-Malzhan's losses to LSU-Orgeron/MSU-Moorehead?

PM makes it sound like the Auburn football program and it's leaders are so weak minded that "the specter" of UAT/UGA are affecting the very core of this team to the point where it's ruining the season even before we've faced them on the field.

 

I am pretty sure there is not a point to understand.   All I got was rubbble, rubble, Auburn, rubbble, rubble, Gus, rubble, rubble, Saban rubble rubble rubble

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I hate to say it but Bama and Georgia being so good does effect us. It has put us in panic mode thinking we are not keeping up with the them. Well at least I feel that way.

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1 minute ago, wcware said:

I hate to say it but Bama and Georgia being so good does effect us. It has put us in panic mode thinking we are not keeping up with the them. Well at least I feel that way.

Exactly. I imagine if a poll was put out, majority of the fans aren’t so obsessed with Saban and Kirby. 

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1 minute ago, DAG said:

Exactly. I imagine if a poll was put out, majority of the fans aren’t so obsessed with Saban and Kirby. 

 

1 minute ago, DAG said:

Exactly. I imagine if a poll was put out, majority of the fans aren’t so obsessed with Saban and Kirby. 

I mean name another school that their success effects more than us.

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34 minutes ago, auburnphan said:

I am pretty sure there is not a point to understand.   All I got was rubbble, rubble, Auburn, rubbble, rubble, Gus, rubble, rubble, Saban rubble rubble rubble

So, you read an interview by this guy...

 

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5 minutes ago, wcware said:

 

I mean name another school that their success effects more than us.

Their success has nothing to do with us losing to Mississippi state last week. Like what does Alabama beating people by 50 have to do with how Auburn prepares and competes for opponents? That’s an Auburn problem. I never understand that mindset.

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40 minutes ago, auburnphan said:

I am pretty sure there is not a point to understand.   All I got was rubbble, rubble, Auburn, rubbble, rubble, Gus, rubble, rubble, Saban rubble rubble rubble

I think the point is that Auburn fans should enjoy the Gus rollercoaster. No thank you PM, it's making us nauseous and quesey with every little drop and turn. 

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It has nothing to do with game planning or execution but I guarantee you it is on the mind of the ptb. I think that creates an atmosphere of we have to win now or make a change. I don’t know maybe I just feel and think that way... anyway WDE guys

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I think the point of the article is in the title, the content just fills space.  The season is at a crossroads with the UT game.  What we have seen so far is a great defense and an offense that has digressed since week 1.  

With this game this weekend, does the defense maintain it’s dominance if the offense does not control the game?  Can the defense rebound if the TOP is as lopsided as it was in the MSU game?

Last year Gus was motivated after the LSU loss as his job was on the line.  This year, with the contract he has, will he be as motivated to improve his team going forward as he did last year?  Is Gus the type of coach that can rise to the occasion when his job is not on the line?  

Yep, we are at a crossroads, but at this point it has nothing to do with UGA or Bama.  It’s all on how the Auburn team’s plays against UT.

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15 minutes ago, wcware said:

 

I mean name another school that their success effects more than us.

Tennessee?  LSU?  Both of those teams have to play both Bama/UGA this season.  

I just can't believe the mentality of the Auburn Administration or our Coaching staff has become so weak that the success or failure of their two biggest rivals hinges on the success or failure our own football team?  (UAT/UGA didn't cause AU to lose to LSU/MSU or to look inept vs SoMiss/Arky)

PMarshall sounds like bunch of mealy-mouthed whining and belly-aching - blaming uat/uga and their coaches for Auburn's own failures and inadequacies.

I just hate like hell that he makes it seem like this is the mentality of the entire fan base and the Auburn Family as a whole.  Because it's damn sure not my mentality nor that of my kids who are currently AU students.  It was never the mentality of the 2 generations of AU alum that came before me.

It's a defeatist attitude in the worst way.  It's like they've beat Auburn mentally before they've even physically taken the field,  I hate that attitude. 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, wcware said:

It has nothing to do with game planning or execution but I guarantee you it is on the mind of the ptb. I think that creates an atmosphere of we have to win now or make a change. I don’t know maybe I just feel and think that way... anyway WDE guys

The minds of the PTB that gave Gus years of job security with a 7yr guaranteed contract less than 10 months ago? 

The PTB backed by the $$ Donors and signed by the BOT, President? 

Where the hell were their minds when they all agreed to cement this program to contract that quite literally handcuffs them for years? 

The atmosphere hasn't changed one iota since that contract was inked.  AU's two biggest rivals are fighting tooth and nail to stay on top without ever looking back at the rest of the conference or what those programs are doing - it's full steam ahead for them. 

And you're now telling us that the atmosphere created by the PTB is a win now or make a change attitude?

 

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1 minute ago, lca408 said:

I couldn't care less what the scores of Alabama's and Georgia's games are - they didn't matter last year when we beat the hell out of both of them in the regular season, even after losing 2 games. It doesn't matter this year.

Alabama's or Georgia's success has no bearing on why Auburn lost to MSU or LSU for that matter. People use the "Malzahn has had to do all of this in the era of Saban" crutch as if to excuse the poor performances of his last 4 teams down the stretch. That's two games out of the year - only two games where we play those teams directly. Those teams have no impact or control over the other 10 games we play prior to them. Yes Alabama is historically good right now. So what? If it was just losing 2 or 3 in a row to Alabama, I'm not sure tempers would be so high. Don't forget that prior to last year, Georgia was a steaming pile of mediocre in all of those seasons. The Dwags fell hard after 2012 and all 4 of those subsequent teams were average at best - and we went 1-3 vs those Georgia teams. No one is calling for Malzahn's head for losing more than he wins vs. Saban and Alabama. We hold him to the fire for inexplicably squandering the 2016 and 2017 Clemson games, finding a way to completely mismanage the 2015 and 2016 Georgia games, and somehow torpedoing a 20 point lead on the road in Baton Rouge to lose to LSU last year - all games that Alabama had NOTHING to do with.

:bow:

Preach Brother! (I've harped on this for YEARS on here)

If only UAT/Saban & UGA/Richt-Smart were the thorn in Auburn's side and those were the only losses on the books then Auburn would have cemented their place at an annual championship contender.  AU would be pulling 10+ win seasons consistently every damn year. 

But those inexplicable losses you mentioned and a damn 1-4 bowl record solidifies the FACT that UAT/UGA are most definitely NOT Auburn't problem and people (Phillip Marshall) need to stop whining and laying Auburn's woe's at the feet of those programs.  

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3 hours ago, DAG said:

Yeah I am trying to figure out the point here. I am not taking a dig at  @aubiefifty , thanks for the wonderful article. But I got to say, this pursuit of how we do against Nick Saban needs to stop. Okay he has done a good job battling Nick Saban. He is in the tough SEC West. He also gets highly touted recruits for being in such a conference. He also gets paid high end dollars for it. Oh, he also has pretty dang good resources. It’s pretty much a wash if you can handle NS but lose to a UCF, a downtrotten LSU team or the likes of Mississippi State.

Furthermore, most of the fan base aren’t expecting to beat Alabama every year. We are just asking for freaking consistency. Last year he beat UGA and Alabama..he gets a higher contract. Since then , I believe he is 4-4 now. That won’t cut it.

great points. I am sick of hearing about Alabama. We have done the best in 5 years with them than any other SEC team.

second, Auburn can still win 10-11 games each year, lose to Alabama in those years, and still be playing for a NC, especially if they move it to 8 teams in the playoffs.

That is where we need to be as DAG has said.

Just be consistent, don't have the issues a program that consistently finishes in the top 10 of recruiting.

OL issues, QB issues in recruiting and developing, RB issues, and play calling issues. This is where we have the greatest inconsistencies. 

 

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1 hour ago, keesler said:

The minds of the PTB that gave Gus years of job security with a 7yr guaranteed contract less than 10 months ago? 

The PTB backed by the $$ Donors and signed by the BOT, President? 

Where the hell were their minds when they all agreed to cement this program to contract that quite literally handcuffs them for years? 

The atmosphere hasn't changed one iota since that contract was inked.  AU's two biggest rivals are fighting tooth and nail to stay on top without ever looking back at the rest of the conference or what those programs are doing - it's full steam ahead for them. 

And you're now telling us that the atmosphere created by the PTB is a win now or make a change attitude?

 

I believe the atmosphere has changed. At that moment in time we were winning.... well we thought we were. Look I really don’t know what they were thinking then or what they are thinking now. I hope whatever they do or don’t do for that matter is a decision made not in haste or under pressure. Do I think Gus’s new contract was the right decision, NO. Do I think we should fire him now, NO. I just want to enjoy my Tigers playing good football again. Whatever has to happen, that is the End Game, WIN. I have lurked here a long time and just started posting, sorry if this was out of line. I am just running my trap about footballs I really enjoy most everyone’s post even if I don’t agree sometimes. WDE everyone 

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2 hours ago, DAG said:

Exactly. I imagine if a poll was put out, majority of the fans aren’t so obsessed with Saban and Kirby. 

I think that misses the point.  I don't think it has anything to be obsessed with either coach. I think the below point is the main concept.

 

3 hours ago, The Freak said:

I just expect Auburn to win the games we are supposed to and look competent and competitive in the games that we are supposed to lose.  A mess up here and there should be an anomaly, not multiple games per season where we look completely disorganized, oblivious of the game plan and no real attempts to adjust in the game. 

Auburn has not shown consistency in being prepared for the season or for major games in quite some time. This season is a complete cluster gaggle in terms of readiness. Every season as of lately, we come out "trying to find ourselves". That is a scapegoat of an excuse if I have ever heard one.  I expect some changes to be needed, but an entire rework of the offense is unacceptable.  If I deliver a half-assed product to a client, which I don't; I expect to be chewed out and compared to other companies. Comparisons amongst competitors is natural and to be expected. You strive to grow and get better. If that doesn't happen, you get replaced/termed.

 

People focus on Saban and Kirby because their teams are an example of what Auburn fans are expecting. Consistency, planning, forecasting, and delivery.  At a high level, Gus has shown an inability to be adaptable, forward thinking, and prepared. These are inexcusable with this many years under his belt. People will respond "Well, if you think you can do better..", but that is a logical fallacy. Coaching football isn't my specialty; so, I am no expert. You don't have to be an expert to see issues with project management though.  This isn't a team new to being at a crossroad; this is a team that is consistently at a crossroad due to more planning. A team in flux with a fan base seeking as much direction and reassurance as the players appear to be seeking.

Edited by Scottie
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