Friday, October 15, 2010

Does the Gus Malzahn Red Phone Start Ringing This Weekend?

Hey Auburn fans, it's Debbie Downer Time!

While the undefeated Auburn Tigers host Arkansas this weekend, the buzz from the talking heads continues to be about the great Cam Newton, who has been, well GREAT. He racked up 198 yards last weekend... rushing. He also managed to put in 210 yards passing in between his four touchdown runs.

And all this talk is well-deserved. I've heard many Auburn fans moan about how Cam isn't getting enough talk about the Heisman. But who is? It's not necessarily full-blown 'Heisman' time yet, is it? I advise Auburn fans to calm down about this - if your boy keeps putting up 400 yards of offense a game, he'll be fine.

But it's just like Auburn fans to be paranoid about those types of things. Hey! Speaking of which...

Where do you think Gus Malzahn will be coaching next year?

This week, I called a radio friend of mine and posed a scenario and question: if Auburn beats Arkansas this weekend and goes to 7-0, what are the odds that Gus Malzahn leaves Auburn after this year?

His response: "They go up. Way up."

Will Malzahn be talking to a different uniform next year?
Ever since he showed up for one year in Fayetteville, Gus Malzahn has been roundly celebrated as an offensive genius. Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel in 2009: the four seasons since then-Arkansas coach Houston Nutt took the unusual step of plucking the coach of nearby Springdale High to run his SEC offense, the soft-spoken, bespectacled 43-year-old Malzahn has become one of the sport's most innovative offensive minds, not just in the college ranks, but in all of football.
That's mighty high praise. And if Auburn continues to make a deep run this year, I believe there are a few programs out there looking for a new direction - and who better than Malzahn?

Last year, I believe Malzahn would of been a strong candidate for several jobs - Memphis, Louisville, Virginia, East Carolina, and a few more. But last year, there weren't too many 'big schools' making a switch. And perhaps Malzahn knows that he has an opportunity to go straight to the big-time. (Last year's big school coaching changes: only Notre Dame, USC, and Tennessee - none of which I think would of been comfortable with a first-time head coach.)

This year, that may not be the case. Yes, I'm looking at the University of Georgia. Should things continue to slide for Mark Richt, and the Dawg fan base clamors for a new direction - who better than the guy who, in one year, took the 104th offense in the country to number three (the Mandel article), and in his second year he is developing a Heisman candidate? The new athletic director needs to make a statement hire, and I think the folks in Athens could get excited about someone who has the track record of Malzahn. Honestly, who would you rather have RIGHT NOW - Gus Malzahn or Derek Dooley? Thought so.

But maybe it won't be Georgia. Maybe it will be Texas A&M, Washington State, Michigan (if it falls apart for Rich Rod - can you imagine Gus Malzahn and Denard Robinson together? Holy Crap.), or Clemson? All of these head coaching jobs are better than being the OC at Auburn, right? (Okay, maybe not Washington State.)

The success of the Auburn Tigers this year, should it continue, is very important to the Auburn fan base. Remember, Tommy Tuberville's last day on the job at Auburn was the day Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Since that day, the state of Alabama has been crimson. Should Auburn be able to pull off some magic this year in the second year of a head coach that NO ONE wanted ("We want a leader, not a loser!") - Auburn fans can believe, truly believe, that they can compete and win the state (and not just live off of borrowed time, that I believe many Auburn fans felt during Bama's down years in the '00s).

However, that success, should it come to fruition, will come at a price. Gus Malzahn has never been at any college for more than two years. And if Auburn can stay anywhere close to their current pace, that won't change. Gus Malzahn isn't a gimmick anymore - he's legit, and schools, I believe, are ready to jump on board with him in a big way.

So, while I know Auburn fans are feeling good about their team right now, and they should, just don't be surprised if the rumors start soon swirling about whether or not their offensive genius will be back next year.