A four-game stretch beginning with an Oct. 6 home clash against Arkansas could determine if Gene Chizik and the Tigers can salvage this season, and potentially his job.
College football fans are notorious for being impatient with regards to their team starting slow, and in no place is that more evident than the SEC.
Perhaps the hottest of seats in the toughest conference in the country belongs to Auburn head coach Gene Chizik—whom despite capturing the national title less than two years ago, has heard the chatter about his job security ramp up after the Tigers 1-2 start.
A week after barely outlasting Louisiana-Monroe in a 31-28 overtime victory, Auburn will have to deal with No. 2 LSU rolling into the loveliest village on the Plains this weekend.
A win over Les Miles’ club seems improbable, and as painful as it sounds, so does the season-ending clash against hated-rival No. 1 Alabama.
So what games remaining on the schedule are must-wins that would help Chizik salvage this season?
Aside from the Iron Bowl, lets take a look at four games that could help the embattled Tigers coach get his team back on the right track.
Arkansas, Oct. 6
As bad as Auburn’s start has been, Tigers’ fans can take solace when looking at what has transpired in Fayetteville this season.
With interim head coach John L. Smith essentially a lame duck, and star quarterback Tyler Wilson’s status in limbo due to a head injury, this game is a battle between two teams trying to get on track.
The Razorbacks defense could be the perfect cure for Tigers quarterback, and Arkansas-native, Kiehl Frazier.
At Vanderbilt, Oct. 20
With a road trip at Ole Miss preceding the trip to Nashville, the meeting with the Commodores is part of a favorable stretch of the schedule in October that could give the Tigers a chance to string a few wins together.
Unlike Arkansas, Vanderbilt’s defense has been salty thus far—currently ranking third in the SEC in total defense this season.
However, Auburn’s offense should gain more confidence by this point in the season under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
Texas A&M, Oct. 27
Another potential swing game that could go either way is the matchup with SEC newcomer Texas A&M.
The Aggies high-powered offense will certainly test a struggling Tigers defense, but their penchant for losing close games should help Auburn if the game is up-for-grabs in the second half.
What will Auburn's record be in these four games?
Georgia, Nov. 10
This game appears to be a mismatch on paper, with the No. 5 Bulldogs a favorite to emerge from the SEC East for a second-consecutive season.
But, if Chizik wants to keep his program heading in the right direction, the Tigers must show that progress has been made by competing hard against one of its oldest rivals.
If both the offense and defense are still struggling into November, this game could look similar to last season’s 45-7 drubbing in Athens—which could spell doom for Chizik.
Taking into account that Chizik has a lot of young talent that are trying to learn new systems, this season has to become about building a foundation that will benefit the program moving forward.
However, the best way to show that is to get better on the field with every week that passes.
With a bye week after this weekend’s game, these four games give Chizik and his team an opportunity to build some momentum and potentially finish the season on a strong note.