Despite its historically bad league record last fall, there are a lot of reasons for AU fans to be optimistic about the 2013 campaign. After all, the defense returns nine starters from a unit that showed flashes of brilliance at times last year. Under the guidance of veteran defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, the Auburn D will play with more consistency this season, which will equal more victories.
However, the most noticeable progress will occur on the other side of the ball. Just one year after fielding one of the least imposing offenses in the country (118th in total yards per game), the Tiger O will once again become the juggernaut that it was when Malzahn was calling the shots from 2009-2011.
A quick look at the numbers will bear this out.
Ever since joining the collegiate ranks in 2006, Malzahn’s offenses have been virtually unstoppable, averaging 461 yards per contest. During that time, his squads have ranked in the Top 25 in total offense in five of his seven seasons–including three top ten finishes. Even in the two years where his play calling didn’t post any eye-popping stats (2006 and 2011), Malzahn’s scheme still managed to put points on the board, helping his teams to a compile 18-9 record.
In other words, as a head coach or an assistant, his teams have posted at least eight wins every season. That total includes the 2011 AU Tigers, which finished 100th nationally in total offense.
There’s no reason to think that a similar turnaround won’t happen this season.
Let’s not forget what Malzahn accomplished during his first stint at Auburn. When he arrived on the Plains back in 2009, the Tiger squad he inherited ranked 104th in total offense. Under his leadership, the previously punchless AU offense had no trouble moving the ball on opposing defenses, torching them for 431.8 yards per game–16th best in the country. Things went even better the following year, as the Tigers improved to 499.2 yards per game, which propelled the school to its first national championship since 1957.
Does Malzahn’s hiring mean that AU is going to play for crystal football at the end of the 2014-2015 season?
However, his extremely successful track record should encourage Auburn’s passionate fan base about the future. While the Tigers might not play in the Sugar Bowl this year, they will return to the postseason. That’s quite a step up from last season’s 3-9 campaign.
Just remember that you heard it here first.
Terry Johnson is a college football writer for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TPJCollFootball and/or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.