So I guess it’s going to be a “Fire Gus” kind of year.
Like any college football fanbase, Auburn fans are emotional and reactive, particularly after bad losses. Still, even in a sport where anger and “fire the coach!!” are weekly occurrences, Auburn’s passion for wanting to fire its coach has always seemed to stand out. Tommy Tuberville was seen as a hero in 2004 when Auburn went 13-0, and the fanbase felt jilted when the team was left out of the BCS Championship. He would spend most of his final two seasons on The Plains (2007 and 2008) feeling like he was on the hot seat before finally “resigning” after the 2008 season.
After Tuberville came Gene Chizik, who won a national title during a magical season with Cam Newton in 2010, only to find himself fired after a 3-9 record in 2012. That’s when Gus Malzahn entered the picture. You’d think that a coach might be hesitant to take a job where the previous head coach was fired two seasons after winning a national title, but Malzahn wasn’t, and he’s been a frog in a simmering pot of water ever since.
In his first year, he led the Tigers to a 12-2 record and a loss to Florida State in the BCS Championship Game. Perhaps it was not winning that game that has allowed Malzahn the chance to begin an eighth season on The Plains while only being 61-31 overall and 28-24 in the SEC since. Or maybe it’s the three wins against Alabama at the most opportune times. Or maybe it’s having a great agent and the Arkansas job coming open at opportune times. It’s probably a combination of all of it.
Whatever the case, Gus is still at Auburn. But after Saturday’s loss to South Carolina, I’m starting to wonder how much longer that will be the case. In a way, Malzahn’s tenure at Auburn and the drama that’s come with it has always felt fun. As if it were part of the appeal for everybody involved. This year, however, I get the sense that the emotional rollercoaster is starting to get boring. It’s a natural occurrence that tends to happen when a coach has been at a school as long as Malzahn has been without winning numerous titles.
That’s why when you Google Gus Malzahn’s name right now, headlines about hot seats show up as the top results. If you go on Twitter and search for the words “Hugh Freeze” and “Auburn,” you’ll find a lot of matching tweets. If you head to Auburn message boards, you find topics with subjects like “I don’t see any way you keep Gus,” “The buyout dilemma,” and “Potential Head Coach List 2021-22.”
Still, there have been plenty of “Fire Gus” years over the last eight, and Malzahn always seems to make it through. The Tigers are 2-2 with plenty of winnable games coming up on the schedule. It’s not entirely crazy to think that by the time Auburn lines up to face Alabama in the Iron Bowl the Saturday after Thanksgiving that the Tigers could be 6-2. It could be crazy to think, though, that Auburn could pull off another Gus-saving miracle against Alabama based on what we’ve seen this year. Of course, that’s been the case before. They’re not miracles because we see them coming.
So what might save Gus Malzahn in 2020? I don’t know, but for a start, I’d stop having Bo Nix throw 47 passes on the road.
Team of the Week
Oh, and another thing that won’t help save Malzahn at Auburn is it doesn’t look like the Arkansas job will be coming open any time soon. The Razorbacks won again Saturday, beating Ole Miss 33-21 to pick up their first home win in the SEC since 2016. That improves the Razorbacks to 2-2 this season, giving them more SEC wins in the last three weeks than they had in the last three years. Oh, and the Hogs could conceivably be 3-1 if officials hadn’t botched a call against Auburn.
Still, even with the sour taste of that Auburn ending still lingering in Arkansas’ mouth, it’s hard not to feel good about the state of the program under Sam Pittman. He’s brought an energy to the Razorbacks that just wasn’t there under former coach (and current Auburn offensive coordinator) Chad Morris, and (former Missouri coach) Barry Odom’s defense did a much better job against Lane Kiffin’s offense than any other SEC team has done so far, including Alabama and Florida. In a year where it feels like a lot of SEC fanbases are going to be disappointed, the 2020 Arkansas season already feels like a success.
Social Media Team of the Week
Yeah, this one goes to Arkansas too.
Catch of the Week
The truth is that wide receivers are getting too good. Every single week, we’re seeing guys make ridiculous plays that a decade ago would have caused us to fall on the ground convulsing, speaking in tongues. With so many impressive grabs each week, I need to see something that’s not only attention-grabbing, but also unique. This catch from NC State’s Thayer Thomas qualifies.
Losing Effort of the Week
Stop for a moment and try to imagine what it would feel like to be the quarterback of a major program. Now, imagine that you’re in a huge conference game, and you go out there and throw for 601 yards while averaging 12.3 yards per attempt. Imagine that, in that same game, you throw five touchdown passes and don’t turn the ball over a single time. Now, imagine you did all that, and your team lost.
UCF’s Dillon Gabriel doesn’t have to imagine it as the Knights lost 50-49 to Memphis on Saturday. The game saw 1,501 yards of offense between both teams, and the loss leaves UCF at 1-2 in conference play despite averaging 42 points per game against AAC opponents.
Long Memory of the Week
How crazy is 2020? Well, 2020 is a year when Florida State is no longer the top-five team suffering upset losses on the road to ACC bottom-dwellers, but is instead now the ACC bottom-dweller at home upsetting the top-five team.
Stat of the Week
Over the last two weeks, the Kentucky defense has allowed nine points, which is the same amount of interceptions they’ve had in that time. Yep, a week after picking off six passes against Mississippi State, the Wildcats defense intercepted another three against Tennessee during a 34-7 win in Knoxville. Oh, and two of the three interceptions were pick-sixes, and all three came on consecutive possessions.
They’re what helped bury the Vols early, and the 27-point win was the program’s largest margin of victory against a ranked team in history. The previous best had been a 33-13 win on the road against No. 13 LSU in 1977.
Full Moon of the Week
I assure you that this was the most exciting thing that happened during Notre Dame’s 12-7 win over Louisville.
Fan of the Week
Honestly, can we just declare Clemson the 2020 ACC Champion now and give it a spot in the playoff so it can rest its players and stay healthy?
Rankings Rant of the Week
When the new AP Top 25 poll came out on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised at first. Georgia only fell a spot from No. 3 to No. 4 after its 41-24 loss to No. 2 Alabama. I was worried that the typical practice of dropping a team at least a few spots would happen to the Bulldogs, but it didn’t. I mean, there aren’t many teams that should be ranked ahead of Georgia. In fact, I’d argue that if you’re moving Georgia to No. 4, it should be an Ohio State team that hasn’t played at No. 3 instead of Notre Dame, but I digress.
What bothers me this week is further down where I find No. 9 Cincinnati and No. 12 BYU. Clearly, our AP voters have not watched much of either team this season because if they had, there’s no way they’d have Cincinnati three spots ahead of BYU.
To recap each team’s season, BYU is 5-0 and has beaten Navy, Troy, Louisiana Tech, UTSA and Houston by an average margin of 29.6 points. It has a QB in Zach Wilson who would be a Heisman Trophy finalist alongside Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence if ballots were turned in this weekend.
Cincinnati is 3-0 with wins over Austin Peay, Army and South Florida. Those wins have come by an average margin of 23.3 points. The Bearcats are a good team. I am not writing this with the purpose of saying they don’t deserve to be ranked highly. But they don’t deserve to be ranked ahead of BYU. This year, anybody who has watched the two teams would tell you that BYU has been the more impressive and dominant team.
The only reason Cincinnati is ranked ahead of BYU is that Cincinnati began the season at No. 20 in the AP Top 25 poll while BYU was unranked. Not enough voters refresh the slate and reconsider things every week. They just move teams up or down a few spots based on results.
At least they finally ranked Coastal Carolina.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
- Ohio State
Until the next Monday After!