SECOND IN A SERIES :: The Auburn 2008 Review
Our 2009 team preview series continues on with a visit to the Loveliest Village on the Plains. They will continue on most every week until the beginning of the season, with a post or two each day on the featured team.
If there's one thing the 2008 season taught us about Auburn, it is that the program is not immune to a down year. Down year? Make that a disastrous year, at least by this decade's rather lofty standards.
At the same time, it's almost as if the Tigers were due. Auburn has had at least two consecutive seasons of .500 ball or worse in every decade since the program began. It last happened in 1998-99, and time was running out in this decade.
Still, a five win season was not inevitable. It had everything to do with an offensive coordinator hire that will be second guessed for decades.
Auburn's defense wasn't the problem, as it gave up just 318 yards and 18 points a game. Those are plenty good metrics for a team with at least a decent offense. Too bad the Tigers' attack managed only 303 yards and 17 points per game.
For the 2008 season, Auburn brought in Tony Franklin. He is known for offensive fireworks, was previously was a coordinator in the SEC, and has sold the secrets to his system. For some reason, we never saw the Franklin system and the man behind it was fired midseason. His former boss was fired at the end of it.
For the 2009 season, Auburn has brought in Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator. He is known for offensive fireworks, was previously a coordinator in the SEC, and has sold the secrets to his system. It's a good bet though that he will get to run his schemes because the guy in charge has changed.
It's now the Gene Chizik era at Auburn, and he at least has a connection to the undefeated 2004 team. For some he is "Mr. 5-19" thanks to his work in two years at Iowa State. To (far fewer) others, he's the ringleader of an all-star staff whose value comes thanks to depth rather than a celebrity at the top.
With another good defense likely on the way, all preseason interest in the 2009 season lies with the offense. Will one quarterback separate himself? Are there enough playmakers in place to run Malzahn's system well? Will offense's fast pace translate into more yards and points or simply make three-and-outs come and go faster?
It sets up for a paradoxical year in Auburn. Expectations are low, but that could actually work in the Tigers' favor. There are at least six winnable or better games on the slate, and success can probably defined as getting back to the post season. Well, that and actually scoring on Alabama.
Chizik will be watched more closely than most head coaches thanks to the controversy surrounding his hire. There's only one way to get rid of the naysayers: win.
Previous previews: Mississippi State.
TODAY: Past as Present
TUESDAY: Chizik Negotiates His Contract; The 2009 Schedule
WEDNESDAY: The Depth Chart
FRIDAY: Feedback and Conclusions