More than once last night and today, in the wake of Auburn’s 28-10 loss to Mississippi State and 0-2 start, I’ve read something along the lines of “disappointing beginning. Now Auburn has to keep the wheels from coming off.”
Folks, Auburn’s wheels are already off. This is a team in free fall. Auburn won’t get to .500. A 5-7 finish may be doable. I think 4-8 is likely. It could be as bad as 2-10. (Surely Auburn can handle New Mexico State and Alabama A&M.)
But aren’t those the only gimmes? You going to chalk Louisiana-Monroe, who beat #8 Arkansas on the road in overtime last night, as a W? You ready to say Vandy’s defensive line won’t give Auburn fits?
Last year the wheels were coming off. Dropping from 14-0 in 2010 to 8-5 in 2011 was itself notable, but Auburn’s margins of victory and defeat were remarkable. When Auburn won, they tiptoed by teams they should have blasted. When they lost, they did so by scores like 45-7 and 42-14. Auburn’s average margin of defeat in 2011 was just short of 28 points.
Last year the defending national champion lost five times—by an average of four touchdowns. I couldn’t easily corroborate such an esoteric statistic, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that margin of defeat for a defending national champion is an NCAA record.
So, shake the staff up. How’s that going? This year, in its first two games, Auburn has allowed an average of 458 yards, while generating only 295 itself. Auburn has seven turnovers; its opponents, two. Most alarming is how lost they look. This is simply not a team lining up with a plan. It’s a team wondering what’s going to happen next, not a team asserting itself and dictating its course.
At the line of scrimmage, surely “bewildered” is near the top of the list of ways not to look.
Have I mentioned Auburn still has to play Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, and Alabama? Not to mention Texas A&M and Vanderbilt?
Auburn, listen: you don’t have your guy. The sooner you believe that, the better off you’ll be. Gene Chizik seems like a nice man, but a freakishly talented, once-in-a-lifetime athlete nearly singlehandedly delivered his only national title. He’s not winning another one. In fact, an occasional ten-win season is probably too much to expect. Without Cam Newton under center, Chizik is 16-12. You have the second coming of Larry Coker on your hands, not of Bob Stoops.