Not many programs have fallen from the top of the college football world as the Auburn Tigers have over the past two seasons. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago, 2010 in fact, that Auburn won the BCS National Championship behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton. That season, Auburn went 14-0, including the BCS Championship Game win over the Oregon Ducks.
After such a big season, and with the losses of Newton and defensive stalwart Nick Fairley, among others, Auburn was bound to have a letdown in 2011. However, the Tigers won four of their first five games that season, losing only at the Clemson Tigers. From that point in the season until the end, Auburn was only able to manage a 4-4 record, including a 42-14 thumping at the hands of their arch rival, the Alabama Crimson Tide. In Jordan-Hare Stadium, no less.
The flat ending to the 2011 season set the stage for what would be a disastrous 2012 campaign. Gene Chizik and his Tigers were only able to manage a 3-9 record, including 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn was only able to beat Louisiana-Monroe (and that took overtime), New Mexico State and Alabama A&M. Not exactly murderer’s row.
The Tigers were able to remain competitive in losses against Clemson (26-19), the LSU Tigers (12-10) and the Vanderbilt Commodores (17-13). However, there were too many blowouts to keep the fans on the plains happy. Auburn lost to the Texas A&M Aggies 63-21, to the Georgia Bulldogs 38-0 and to Alabama, 49-0. Auburn scored only 21 points in its last three SEC games last season, including none in its final two.
That statistic had a large part to do with Chizik’s firing at the end of the season, as well as the hiring of his successor. Gus Malzahn, the man who was Auburn offensive coordinator during the championship season of 2010, returns as the head coach this season.
The new Auburn head man has his work cut out for him. Since Auburn’s title in 2010, not only have the Tigers suffered on the field, they have watched Alabama win back-to-back national championships. That also means that the Crimson Tide have gained an even bigger advantage in recruiting. If Malzahn is to compete at Auburn, he will be forced to win some recruiting battles against the Crimson Tide.
Malzahn is off to a good start in the recruiting wars. His first Auburn class was ranked ninth nationally by Rivals.com. The class included five-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams, five-star defensive end Carl Lawson, as well as nine four-star recruits.
Now Auburn must turn around a program that, not all that long ago, sat atop the college football world.