Gene Chizik is not well beloved on the Plains right now after his team looked dreadful against Mississippi State over the weekend. The defense was out of sorts in many places, and the offense was beyond awful. It appeared to be a healthy step back after giving a better Clemson team a pretty good game, and teams are supposed to make their biggest improvements between Week 1 and Week 2.
It's far too early to be using the term "hot seat" for a coach that went 14-0 just two years ago, but Chizik should be feeling some kind of heat. He's a defensive guy, but his defenses have not been close to what they were when he was a defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas. For fun, let's compare two defenses' performances across 2009-11. Which one of these would you want?
|Team||Yds/Carry||Yds/Pass||Pass Eff.||Yds/Play||Yds/Game||Total TDs||INT|
They're pretty close in most areas, but Defense B is ahead in all of them. The total TDs category (rush and pass TDs allowed) really pops out, and while some of the difference could be due to offense and special teams putting the defense in bad positions, that's unlikely to explain a difference of 10 touchdowns per year across three years.
As you might have guessed, Auburn's defense is Defense A. Defense B belongs to Mississippi State.
I picked MSU for several reasons. Primarily, it's because Chizik and Dan Mullen were hired in the same year. It sets an even baseline for transitional issues. They play in the same division, so that helps keep the schedule similar with both. It also sets up a contrast because Mullen is an offensive coach, and he had three different defensive coordinators across those years. He had Carl Torbush in 2009, Manny Diaz and Chris Wilson as co-coordinators in 2010, and Wilson alone in 2011. Furthermore, the recruiting rankings give Auburn a clear edge in talent both before and after these coaches took over.
Chizik, the supposed defensive specialist with supposedly superior talent, has basically led his defense to be an even level with Mississippi State and its three coordinators over the last three seasons. While I realize that Mullen's MSU hasn't been bad old MSU and Diaz immediately got a better gig at Texas, that can't be a baseline that Auburn fans feel good about. That's certainly not the bar that LSU and Alabama compare themselves to. And what's worse is that so far in this young season, State's defense looks better again based on the head-to-head matchup of the teams.
Chizik basically kicked out Ted Roof and brought in Brian VanGorder over the off season, so he knew there were problems on that side of the ball. It's going to take some time to see if that fixes things, but the issues on Saturday went beyond guys being unsure of a new scheme. Tackling fundamentals are a big issue, and that shouldn't be the case under a defensive head coach.
This appears like it's going to be another long year of mediocre play on the Plains. If that appearance congeals into reality, then whispers are going to start. And, as we all know, it doesn't take long for whispers to get loud in this part of the country.