Texas A&M beat Auburn 29-16 at Jordan Hare. It was a great result for Kevin Sumlin, who takes his Top 10 Aggies team to play Arkansas next week. It was a terrible one for Gus Malzahn, and sets him up with an uphill battle to save his job.
Since late in the 2014 season, Auburn under Malzahn has lost 10 of its last 12 SEC games and 12 of its last 15 against Power 5 opponents. That would not meet Auburn or, really, any school’s expectations. Looking at the rest of Auburn’s 2016 schedule, things could get ugly. Texas A&M at home was a win the Tigers really needed.
Auburn already has two losses. The Tigers still have road games against Alabama (No. 1), Georgia (No. 12), and Ole Miss (No. 23). That’s not to mention Arkansas (No. 17) and LSU (No. 18) at home. They must win one of those and must sweep the rest of their games, including a road trip to Starkville just to match last year’s 6-6.
The Tigers, at this stage, don’t look capable of doing that. Unless John Franklin III takes over at quarterback and becomes Nick Marshall. It’s not clear even that salvage job would be enough.
This is Auburn. Malzahn has gotten more time than others. Gene Chizik was fired less than two years after a national title. Tommy Tuberville was forced out with one down year after four-straight Top 15 finishes. Terry Bowden was run out mid-season after a bad start. He had finished Top 25 every year previously, had not had a below .500 season in the conference, and had a winning record against Bama.
Malzahn’s buyout would be substantial. He received a tepid contract extension in June, which leaves a personal buyout of $8.95 million (more than Chizik) and a total staff buyout of $13.795 million. That, of course, is just the cost of dumping the old staff, let alone bringing new coaches in. There’s paying the new coaches and, perhaps, buying them out of their current contracts.Former Auburn target Bobby Petrino, for instance, has a $10 million buyout.
Firing a head coach is always a risk. Auburn’s main problem in recent years has been instability. But, if the current track record continues, Auburn won’t have much to lose.