Auburn's fall unlikely to end against Alabama
NOV 20, 2012 9:28p ET
In a season such as this, even a victory brings nothing but a blaze of sorrow.
Auburn fans have to feel like the fire burned more than their treasured landmarks. It burned what was left of their dreams.
Just how bad is this Auburn football team?
If they lose to Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, a fete accompli almost as certain as the sun rising in the East, they will be the worst team two years removed from a national championship in the history of college football.
As if that were not enough, the losses have been humiliating while the wins have shown very little in the way of bright spots. From the opening week when the Tiger defense gave up 528 yards to Clemson, 320 of it on the ground, to the 38-0 drubbing they took against Georgia, every defeat has looked worse than the one before.
They have won zero conference games, and were one overtime field goal away from losing at home to Louisiana-Monroe. The only real blowouts have been against “payday” teams New Mexico State and Alabama A&M. Even Ole Miss beat the Tigers by three touchdowns.
So, how did this happen? How can players who have both SEC Championship and BCS National Championship rings also have played on the worst team in Auburn's record-keeping history?
Talent played a role, to be sure. The quarterback situation never worked itself out, so for the second straight year the guy taking snaps struggled from start to finish.
Kiehl Frazier threw only two touchdowns and eight interceptions in the eight games where he saw action. And while Jonathan Wallace, who replaced Frazier in the starting role, appeared more comfortable in the backfield, throwing for 649 yards, he has only thrown for four touchdowns all year to go with two picks.
For some context, Texas A&M freshman QB Johnny Manziel has thrown for 3,047 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 17 more TDs.
But one player, even at a position as critical as quarterback, didn't cause this tailspin. There was the Michael Dyer dismissal, and the recruiting battles that were too often lost to Alabama – remember Cyrus Kouandjio originally committed to Auburn before changing his mind and signing with the Crimson Tide – but the real problem has been one of coaching philosophy.
From the moment Gus Malzahn's eyes began wandering to greener pastures, the fast-paced spread offense that worked so beautifully when Cam Newton was around, gave way to a slower, more deliberate pro-style set that now ranks 116th in scoring.
In hindsight, you could have seen it coming from the Georgia state line. In his opening comments upon being announced as offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler said, “The majority of head coaches that I've been around are defensive guys, so I understand the mentality to win a championship is based around great defense and great special teams. It's our job as an offense to protect the defense and make sure our players are highly involved in special teams. At the end of the day, it's our job to score football points. That's what we are going to do here.”
Except they haven't. An offense that thinks its role is to protect the defense is not an offense.
Because of that conscious decision on the part of the coaching staff, the most important and telling quote today comes from Auburn's president Jay Gogue, who said, “Just like all of us, (the fans) have been disappointed with the performance this year with the football team. That's certainly legitimate. At the end of the season, we'll have a chance to sit down and review where we are. … It's a decision I have to make.”
Alabama is a 31 point favorite in the Iron Bowl. Given where they are as a football team, Auburn will be fortunate if it's that close.
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