After a roller coaster season in 2017, Auburn football has achieved 10 wins and an SEC West division title. However, much like the losses at Clemson and LSU, a disappointing offensive performance during the SEC Championship game and an underwhelming special teams unit contributed to a tough loss against Georgia.
Unless you lived under a rock for the last month, the much anticipated rematch from only weeks prior proved to be another valley in an up and down season for Auburn and head coach Gus Malzahn.
Still, Malzahn was courted by Arkansas after Bret Bielema’s unsurprising firing. The fifth-year Auburn coach chose to stay put on the Plains after reaching an agreement to extend his contract for seven years with a price tag at about 50 million dollars or roughly 7 million per year.
Malzahn isn’t the only coach with rumors circulating at Auburn. Kevin Steele has reportedly been in serious talks with Tennessee for their head coaching vacancy. Steele has become a popular man at Auburn after his second season. He has effectively turned around a defense that had not been feared by offensives coordinators in nearly a decade.
Malzahn expects “special things” from Auburn on the heels of his extension. It appears his renewed contract has given him a strong sense of support from Auburn administration and a general green light from a fan base that has been wishy-washy toward him even when he has won big games at Auburn.
The biggest knock on Auburn’s head coach was that he has not been able to finish seasons, particularly in November against his biggest rivals Georgia and Alabama. With Hugh Freeze’s departure before the 2017 season and Kevin Sumlin’s split from TAMU, Auburn now has the only coach in the SEC who has beaten Nick Saban. It doesn’t hurt that Malzahn has done it twice.
Malzahn must feel a sense of relief that he has enough support from Auburn leaders and its fan base without going into 2018 on the hot seat. A feeling he could not claim at the end of his last two seasons. While his employment has had its share of twists and turns, it is clear that Malzahn offers stability to Auburn during a time that many SEC schools are searching for a coach and attempting to re-brand themselves as football powerhouses. Tennessee, most notably, has been publicly spurned by multiple coaches. The Volunteers have spent more than a decade in mediocrity –best case scenario— and have found it difficult to replace Butch Jones. In the process UT has become a nationwide laughingstock. Although many fans have repeatedly called for Malzahn’s job, most loudly after a brutal second half collapse in Baton Rouge, he led his team on a tear beating two top ranked teams in three weeks. Administrators patience with Malzahn appears, for now, to have paid off. Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
If Auburn truly has the depth and experience Malzahn feels confident about the Tigers could find themselves in Atlanta to start 2018 against Washington and could again end their regular season contending for another SEC Championship.