Auburn has struggled through the first half of the season, and the team must start winning games in order for Gene Chizik to return next year.
Chizik and Cam Newton brought a national championship to Auburn just two seasons ago, but the Tigers have failed to compete both in the SEC and on the national stage since the star quarterback’s departure to the NFL.
The Tigers went 4-4 in the SEC last year and 7-5 in the regular season. They went on to win the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia, but this year has been much rougher.
An overtime victory over Louisiana-Monroe is the team’s only win this season, and five losses in six games have put Chizik on the hot seat. His 2012 and 2011 recruiting classes have ranked No. 10 and No. 7, respectively, according to Rivals.com. Talent is not the team’s problem.
Chizik's failures have come on the football field, and he must get his team to live up to its potential on Saturdays to keep his job. Here are the games the Tigers must win in order to avoid a head coaching change.
October 20, at Vanderbilt
If the Tigers cannot pull off a victory over Vanderbilt this weekend, Chizik may not be able to salvage this season.
A loss in Nashville would make it impossible for Auburn to equal its 4-4 conference record from a year ago, and the team still has meetings with Georgia and Alabama ahead of it. Failing to win this game makes a 1-7 record in the SEC this season all too real of a possibility.
But the Commodores have struggled as well and have a 2-4 overall record. They are 1-3 against SEC teams, and this is an entirely winnable game for the Tigers.
If Auburn does not seize this opportunity to record its first win against a conference opponent, Chizik’s job will already be lost.
October 27, Texas A&M
After a string of disappointing defeats, Chizik will need at least one uplifting victory this year to make it to 2013.
Playing at home against Texas A&M will offer him the best chance at an impressive upset, and this will go a long way towards allowing him to stay on as head coach.
While the Aggies’ freshman quarterback, Johnny Manziel, has been stellar in the last few games, the team will likely be coming off a loss to a physical LSU team.
If Auburn can take advantage of a beat-up and dejected Texas A&M team, Chizik will have a signature win on his record this season. That, in addition to his excellent recruiting classes, will greatly help him avoid being fired.
November 3, vs. New Mexico State and November 17, vs. Alabama A&M
New Mexico State is currently on a five-game losing streak and sits at 0-2 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Alabama A&M is an FCS team that has had a significant amount of success in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, sitting in first place at 5-1.
If Auburn is unable to beat either of these two teams at home, that will be the nail in the coffin for Chizik. After the losses he has suffered to start the season, he simply cannot survive being upset by either of these teams.
The Tigers’ remaining games this season are against Georgia and Alabama, and the team will not be expected to win either of these matchups. Even if they lose both games, the Tigers will still finish with a 5-7 record, and Chizik’s impressive past would keep him from getting the axe in that scenario.