Looks like the nation will still be on holiday until a week from today. I went into the office yesterday but there was no one at work at any of the places I could see. With Christmas and New Year’s falling on a Sunday and with only a week in between them, never under-estimate most Americans desire to meld them together into a whole fortnight of celebration, cheer and football. However, our Auburn Tigers went to work yesterday, practicing at the Georgia Dome in preparation for Saturday’s Chick fil A Bowl against Virginia. Watching the empty seats in the Liberty Bowl Independence Bowl THAT GAME THAT WAS ON last night, I’m thankful that we’re going to a game that will be sold out and have some modicum of interest to it. SEC teams are always a good draw, both as travelers and in TV ratings. This week will feature 15 Bowl games from yesterday through Saturday. New Year’s Day will belong to the NFL this year since it falls on a Sunday. The big bowl games start next Monday night. Even with Auburn in a rebuilding year and having already lost it’s luster as the returning national champion, I’ll go on record now and say that our bowl game will have the highest ratings this week. Virginia is certainly a wild card this year, coming out of nowhere and challenging for the ACC Coastal division. They didn’t play Clemson, so we can’t get a comparison of how we stack up there. We don’t have much shared history between us, other than a UVA alumnus named George Petrie birthed our program back in 1892 and we had a home and home series back in the late 1990s. As a matter of fact, we don’t have any significant history with any founding ACC team other than Clemson, assuming you already know that Georgia Tech used to be in the SEC and spent a few decades in the Independent wilderness before joining their current conference. Regardless, it’s no secret that most in our conference consider the Atlantic Coast to be a ‘little brother’ and we absolutely cannot lose another game to a ACC team this year. Auburn doesn’t have much to lose with this game so I think we should air it all out. And I think we will. With two open coordinator slots, it’s apparent now that Gene Chizik is trying to land some pretty big fishes who still have bowl games to be played, otherwise he’d gone ahead and made a move by now. With recruiting season about to go into overdrive, Chizik must be looking to make impact hires that will appease recruits, current players, fans and management. That’s quite the task. I’m glad he’s putting careful thought into it. His first batch turned out to be pretty good and he didn’t have half the time. I think one day we’ll look back at Chizik’s tenure at Auburn and see it as a multiple act play, with the curtain having just closed on the first act. Whether or not we’ll have a long intermission next depends heavily on what will transpire in the next two to three weeks. With more teams joining the conference next season and with the SEC west already top-heavy with national title caliber teams, we can’t afford to stay flat-footed. I think Gus Malzahn goes out in style and throws the kitchen sink at Virginia. With his offense seeming overly conservative this season because of personnel shortages, it’s time to release the trickery in the playbook and try any and everything to get this offense moving for one last hurrah. Will we see something reminiscent of the 2007 Chick fil A bowl, minus of course another half-season of Tony Franklin? Let it all air out. Gene Chizik is taking direct control of the defense for this game. While some may believe this move to lead to a tsunami of direct-infused fire, I have my doubts that we’ll see anything substantive, otherwise we might have seem his fine tuning earlier in the year. We’re going to need some wholesale change in that department, but that doesn’t mean the D can’t let it all hang out for this game either. I’m sure the Georgia Dome will be packed with the familiar blue and orange this weekend in the very home of the SEC. The site of our last game of 2011 will be the very same place as our first one of 2012. I think in between them, we’re going to see some big changes as we get our team back on track. War Eagle and Happy New Year!
Hey, you’ll watch ANYTHING if you’re desperate enough.
Anyone else underwhelmed by the coaching market so far this month? Yea, Auburn needs coordinators, but I feel sorry for the rest of college football trying to rebuild a program on this withering crop of talent. No existing coach is the hottest name out there and none of the coordinators have any fire to them either. Where does a team start?
One thing’s for sure, they can’t poach at Auburn this year. We have had had the most (two) Frank Broyles award winners in that honor’s brief history (1996). Guz Malzahn won it last year and Gene Chizik won it in 2004. We’ve had our share of good coordinators and coaches hold tenure on the Plains in the last two decades, a time when assistant coaches have come out of the shadows to become rock stars themselves.
Names like Petrino, Muschamp, and Chizik vaulted from the ranks of Auburn assistants in the last decade to eventually become SEC head coaches. We thought Gus Malzahn might be another name who had meteoric rises added to those but it looks like he’s going to have to do a stint in triple-A ball first.
Maybe that’s the way the tide is shifting once again in college football. It never stays the same for long. Top tier programs, including most BCS conference schools, may no longer be looking for the hottest coordinator to fill a slot, but may be looking instead for someone with some (any) executive experience under their belt. That may have been the case with Ole Miss, who hired Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze, and even North Carolina, who passed on Malzahn and took Southern Miss HC Larry Fedora.
Maybe schools might have gone cold on the notion of an assistant jumping right into the fire given Will Muschamp’s problems this year. To my knowledge, no big name coordinator has landed a FBS job this season, even though there have been a few rumors, including Alabama’s Kirby Smart. Maybe teams are just waiting for Bowl season to end before they start their poaching. It’s probably why Auburn is coordinator-less, currently. Count on someone making a play at LSU’s DC John Chavis in mid January, this year’s Broyles Award winner.
Malzahn’s story may one day be a case study for aspiring coaches on when to get while the gettin’s good. If the rumored millions with Vanderbilt last year were true, many may think that Malzahn waited too long to answer the door when opportunity knocked. Granted, we’re not in his head to know his motivations and not every coach is soley going to jump for the first big money offered. It does make you wonder though. These guys have to be concerned about taking that big leap and falling flat on their face.
I think the Gene Chizik story of redemption is about the most that any hot prospect coach can wish for if he does face-plant in the wrong first job. While getting plucked out of Iowa State with a 5-19 record to win a national championship two years later may be on par with Cinderella, perhaps AD’s and Trustee boards are starting to look beyond just win and loss records when selecting a head coach and build on virtually anything.
Seemingly, any turn-around at one school is now measured as a success for a head coach and the prospects for advancement seem unlimited. If you ask me, betting on these short track records is ill-conceived and at best is just asking to languish in mediochrity for years, something out of the playbook of LSU’s head coches in the 1990s. The system is built on hype, though, and hype is usually half right. Do you just throw it long then?
Derek Dooley wasn’t long established at LA Tech before Tennessee came calling, but that’s probably not a fair analogy considering the dire straights they were left in following Lane Kiffin. Regardless, I think Dooley has one more year in Knoxville to wow somebody or that Rocky Top carousel will be active yet again. Pedigree or not, you have to produce at some point.
Even retreads are back in play during this coaching bear market, with Mike Leach and Charlie Weiss landing at Washington State and Kansas, respectively. It wasn’t long ago when Leach was the hottest commodity in CFB and Auburn had a vacancy. I was convinced that we needed to land the BIGGEST name we could. We had Leach if we wanted, even though it would have been a square peg into a round hole. I fell for the hype. I’m glad others thought differently.
Yea, this might be the most bland coaching market we’ve seen in a while. Maybe it’ll heat up here soon. All the firings have been done. Now we wait for the dust to settle. I’ll be honest: For Auburn, I wouldn’t mind a Malzahn protege. And let’s go get us a DC that eats nails for breakfast. I want a defense again.
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