The Auburn Tigers were the surprise of the Southeastern Conference last season. In fact, they were probably one of the biggest surprises in all of college football. After finishing 3-9 in 2012, Auburn fired Gene Chizik and brought in Gus Malzahn as its new head coach.
Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2010 when the Tigers won the BCS National Championship behind a quarterback named Cam Newton. Malzahn has always been known for his creative, up-tempo offense, and that’s what Auburn hoped he would bring to the Plains.
In year one, Malzahn delivered. Auburn had one of the nation’s best offenses. The Tigers led the nation in rushing, behind running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall. Auburn won the SEC West, and beat the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship Game, before coming up short against the Florida State Seminoles in the BCS title game.
Now, it’s year two for Malzahn in the SEC as a head coach. Can the Auburn offense continue to be as good as it was last season? Won’t the outstanding defensive coordinators in the nation’s top conference figure out a way to stop Auburn this season?
Both of those are fair questions. Auburn’s offense will miss Mason, who left early for the NFL. However, Marshall will be back at quarterback, and that’s where it all starts with this offense. If Marshall is improved, the offense can certainly be as good as it was last year.
Defensive coordinators continue to struggle to figure out Malzahn’s attack. Some of it is scheme, but much of it is pace. The inability to substitute on defense produces tired players who sometimes make bad decisions. Pace is by far the most important element in Malzahn’s offense.
If anyone is going to stop Auburn’s offense, it would be one of the great defensive minds in the SEC. But they haven’t figured it out just yet.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.