If you talk to any Auburn fan this season, you’ll invariably hear “We’re in a rebuilding year” or “Wait until our quarterbacks mature a little” or “It’s going to take some time to learn the systems of a new coordinator”. I’d like to add one more to that list.
“Auburn is the new whipping boy of the SEC.”
That position was realized in full today when Auburn (1-6) managed to score only one offensive touchdown against Vanderbilt (3-4) in a 13-17 loss, sending the Tigers on the way to their worst start since 1952 and their first 0-5 start in conference play in the school’s history.
The Auburn offense had looked weak in the first six games of the season, but were absolutely hapless against a Commodores defense that had been allowing 149 rushing yards and 216 passing yards per game. Auburn only managed 103 and 109.
After today’s loss, Auburn now ranks 115th in the nation in passing yards (162 ypg), 96th in rushing yards (125.5 ypg) and 117th in points for (16.2 ppg). Even in a conference built on defensive strength like the SEC, those kind of numbers won’t win many games, particularly conference games.
For years, Vanderbilt used to be thought of as the kind of “bye week” during conference play. Teams would schedule the Commodores for homecoming or look at it as an opportunity to rest some of their key players.
But over the past 10 seasons, Vanderbilt has slowly moved their way into a position of being taken seriously and is no longer considered the cream-puff of the conference. It would now appear that just two years removed from an Auburn national championship, Vandy has passed that baton back to the Tigers and wished them well.
Embattled Auburn head coach Gene Chizik didn’t do himself any favors with today’s loss. If ever there were a time to grab that first conference win of the season, it would have been against Vanderbilt. A victory in Nashville may have at least prolonged his inevitable firing until the end of the season.
The next conference game for the Tigers is at home next week against Texas A&M, who lost a close game today to LSU. If Auburn can’t pick up their first SEC win against the newcomers to the SEC West, it would be unlikely that Chizik will be on the sidelines for Auburn’s following conference game against Georgia on Nov. 10.
But the news isn’t all bad for the Auburn faithful. Kentucky can match Auburn’s futility in the SEC when–errr, I mean if–they lose to Georgia tonight. After that, it will be a race to the finish to see who is the SEC’s true whipping boy.