Things happen faster in the win-or-else SEC, and Auburn occupies the epicenter of Football Gone Wild. The Georgia-Georgia Tech relationship has been described as clean, old-fashioned hate. There’s nothing clean or old-fashioned about the feelings Auburn and Alabama have toward one another. Theirs is the dirtiest form of loathing, updated daily.
Alabama again reigns over college football. It has won two of the past three BCS titles and is in Position A to claim yet another. For one year, Newton and Chizik and Auburn usurped Nick Saban’s throne, but that year seems now — heck, it seemed so even then — as the one-off to end all one-offs.
So today we ask: Could the coach who claimed a national championship in January 2011 get fired before 2012 is done? Anywhere else, you’d say no. Auburn, however, is not anywhere else, and this is among the worst Auburn teams ever. It ranks 113th among 120 FBS teams in total offense, 117th in scoring, 110th in passing efficiency, 75th in total defense and dead last in turnover margin. This with a new offensive coordinator (the overmatched Scott Loeffler) and a new defensive coordinator (Brian VanGorder, of whom you’ve heard).
Now that Newton is gone, Chizik is back to being perceived as the same coach who went 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State before -- inexplicably to some -- he was hired at Auburn. That decision led many members of the normally staid Auburn fan base to howl in protest, led by a lone fan who greeted AD Jay Jacobs at the airport after Jacobs met with Chizik by yelling, "We want a leader not a loser; 5-19 is not what we need. No Chizik. No."
Chizik silenced those critics by winning the national championship just two years later. It seemed he had bought himself years of goodwill with the Auburn fan base, which had watched in dismay as Alabama won eight national titles since the Tigers' 1957 championship. Now, however, Newton gets all the credit for the 2010 season. Chizik is seen as the lucky guy who latched onto Superman's cape.
After Saturday's embarrassing loss to Arkansas, Chizik said he isn't worried about his future at the school. "I'm never concerned about my job security," he said. "I'm very comfortable with myself working really hard, and I plan on being at Auburn next year."
So what next for an Auburn team that at least showed promise in a Game 1 loss against Clemson and even encouraging signs in a Game 4 loss against LSU?
Perhaps the only thing to do is start reevaluating everything; something you’d think would have happened during the bye week the Tigers were coming off of.
While Arkansas was getting embarrassed by Texas A&M last week, Auburn was evidently spinning its wheels.
Maybe those Top 10 recruiting classes Auburn signed in recent years were way overrated. Perhaps a lack of talent really is the problem.
"They talk, but they don't talk enough. They explain, but they don't explain enough," Coates said. "They want us to be good, but they've got to show some leadership themselves. They know that. If they want us to come behind them, they've got to show us how it is. We need somebody to tell us what they want us to do. The coaches try to motivate us, but it's got to be a player. Coaches aren't out there with us. Somebody's got to step up to the plate and take over."
Coates' frustration spilled over moments before Chizik's press news conference, and the fourth-year head coach was understanding but not an advocate of his young player's emotions.
"I think that if you're going to ask a young man a question, you're going to get his true feelings," Chizik said. "I think it's good that you have guys and leaders on the team that believe that. I think it sends a good message to guys right now that are frustrated and maybe not playing as much as they'd like and things of that nature, all those things that go along with when things aren't going exactly the way you want it."
Exit question: Who the hell sends a true freshman out into the interview room, with no one from the SID’s office to handle him or head off potentially embarrassing statements? The same crowd who sent Clint Moseley into the same interview room to talk about his failure to secure the starting quarterback position last year.