Where Do We Go from Here?
An offense in limbo
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! The postseason begins in earnest this week as championship games have wrapped up, and only the Heisman presentation and Army/Navy game remain before bowl season. I know that most readers here will have seen tons of speculation on what went on, and did not go on, in the Auburn administration’s dealings with seemingly lame-duck coach Gus Malzahn. And even with that label, I’m parroting various reports and not any solid knowledge. I can’t tell you what really happened behind closed doors. I do feel that the various rumors have done nothing but hurt the reputation of the Auburn program.
Probably the most important short-term administrative decision has to be the question of who will run the offense, going forward. I’m assuming that current offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, who’s been told that he won’t be retained, won’t be involved in the bowl preparations. It remains to be seen what offense Auburn will try to run in the postseason. A new offensive coordinator could try to install a new system in less than two weeks and run it in the bowl game as Tony Franklin and Tommy Tuberville did 11 years ago. Auburn needs a good decision here, even on an interim basis, to get a good situation lined up for the bowl. It will do head coach Gus Malzahn no favors if he falls to 1–5 in bowl games at Auburn.
I opined earlier in this space that Auburn was likely headed to the Birmingham Bowl. I was wrong as the SEC got multiple teams into New Year’s Six bowls. Plus, it appears that the mid-tier bowls can choose SEC teams based on whom they think will bring the most support and fans.
Auburn ended up in the Music City Bowl at noon on the Friday before New Year’s weekend. That’s not an optimal time for either a TV audience or rabid fan support, especially in the toxic sea of Auburn commentary out there these days. And coupled with playing at a bad time, Auburn will have to take on a dangerous Big Ten opponent, Purdue. No, this won’t be a University of Podunk, SE Group of Five conference opponent. If you’ll recall, Purdue was the single team that beat B1G champ Ohio State and did it by 29 points.
Defensively, Purdue can be had, by a patient and pressing attack. The Boilermakers gave up 27.2 points per game this season, a number comparable to the Ted Roof/Brian vanGorder/Ellis Johnson defenses at Auburn. Auburn will need something more than plain vanilla, though.
The guy to watch on offense for Purdue is receiver Rondale Moore. The Boilermakers try to get it to him at least 2/3 of the time. Moore had 103 catches during the regular season this year and managed 11.3 yards per catch. He also got 18 carries for 103 yards. Moore is also both the top kick returner and punt returner for Purdue and leads the Boilermakers in all-purpose yards with 2,048. The next nearest guy is running back DJ Knox, who has 1,048 rushing and receiving yards.
Auburn needs to win this bowl game, lest it falls to another 7–6 record. That mark would make for very difficult recruiting in coming months.