Auburn head coach Gene Chizik
It's been the question ever since Auburn narrowly escaped an upset bid by Utah State to open last season.
Was Auburn's BCS National Championship from 2010 a product of head coach Gene Chizik, or was Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton more responsible?
Nobody expected Auburn to be world-terminators last season after Newton, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, three wide receivers and four offensive linemen left.
But Chizik and Co. have reeled in top-15 recruiting classes in each of the last three seasons, according to 247Sports.com. That talent hasn't translated to much success sans Newton, and never was that more apparent than in Auburn's 28-10 debacle in Starkville to Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.
Not only has quarterback Kiehl Frazier not lived up to the hype, but Chizik—who is a defensive-minded coach—has been at the helm of some atrocious defenses, even during the national championship year.
The Tigers have finished in the bottom third of the SEC in total defense in each of his first three seasons on the Plains. During those three years, the Tigers have struggled with everything from the secondary to tackling and virtually everything in between.
So is Chizik on the hot seat?
During Saturday's loss, it looked more like the Auburn program was going backward than forward, and it wasn't just on the field, it was evident in the play-calling.
Late in the game on obvious passing downs, the offensive staff was calling draws, zone reads and designed quarterback runs. On the other side of the ball, Auburn sat in a zone so soft it would make Ted Roof smile for virtually the entire game.
Chizik's seat isn't scorching, and anything short of a total debacle this season will keep him employed.
But a total debacle seems more likely after watching the Tigers' listless performance vs. the Bulldogs.
So who would take over?
Clay Travis of OutKickTheCoverage.com floated out one name familiar to Auburn fans.
Today Auburn officially entered the Bobby Petrino sweepstakes. #secretplaneflightsagain— Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID) September 8, 2012
Yeah, that's not going to happen. Every job he's ever had has ended badly, and there's nothing to suggest that will change the next go-round.
I'm sure that former offensive coordinator and current Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn will be mentioned, but let's hold off on anointing him as the second coming until he has more of a resume as a head coach to judge.
Is Auburn head coach Gene Chizik on the hot seat?
If Auburn (or anyone) makes a change—which I don't think is going to happen—it should look toward Waco, Texas and Baylor head coach Art Briles.
Briles helped build Houston back to relevancy before doing the same at Baylor. The Bears finished in the top 15 in total offense in each of the last two seasons, and they don't look like they've missed a beat without reigning Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
It may seem like a long way, but the Auburn fanbase isn't going to put up with a program going backward for much longer.