It seems as if Auburn fans have been on an emotional rollercoaster over the past few years instead of riding the “Gus Bus” when it comes to Malzahn and his team; this year is no different. With a statement win over Washington in an ugly dog-fight, the fans seemed to be pleased and content with the win, feeling as if their team still had some momentum from last season and was ready to make another push for the College Football Playoffs. Two weeks later, they lose a heartbreaker to LSU by the way of a last second field goal. Although the loss was by one point and LSU has now beaten two Top-10 opponents, the feeling was that the team should have won, and the wheels are falling off again. This is the second year in a row that the team has collapsed to LSU, blowing a 20-point lead last year. Maybe Gus Malzahn has an LSU problem?
In some of the most magical years for Malzahn and his Auburn teams, they have some things in common; a loss to LSU. In 2013, playing in Death Valley, Jeremy Hill ran over Auburn for 183 yards and three touchdowns. What was the end result for that season? A trip to the National Championship and 13 seconds short of winning it all. Last year, the Tigers blew a 20-point lead and it seemed as if their season was all but finished and Gus was walking on thin ice, but he found a way to rally his team to two wins over the number one team in the nation and was right in the thick of things for the playoffs until a key injury derailed their chances. Malzahn has only beaten LSU twice since taking over at Auburn, but no matter what, his teams seem to do fine.
The team will have to fight some adversity now. In a game that they were expected to win and a couple of starters deciding to transfer out, the Tigers will now have to rally together to stay the course. In a matchup against Arkansas, the opportunity to work on some things and experiment is upon them. Usually new wrinkles are implemented in the bye week, but with Arkansas struggling mightily this season, this could be an opportunity to try to fix their problems now.
If there is anything good to be made out of the transfers is that their backups are not too shabby. Jalen Harris, more so a blocking tight end, will be replaced with Spencer Nigh and Sal Canella. Canella has shown his big playmaking ability this season as he caught the first touchdown on the year by jumping in the endzone and getting flipped by a defensive back, all while holding on. Auburn has also been known to throw in another offensive linemen at times to become a blocking tight end, so the team has options. With Craig-Myers departing, true freshman Seth Williams has been dazzling the coaches with his on the field performance (and has been out-producing Craig-Myers as well).
While there may seem to be some turmoil on the Plains, the team will be okay and will rebound just fine. It wouldn’t be a Malzahn team if it didn’t start slowly and end the season with a BOOM!