To call 2012 a disappointment for Auburn football would be a severe understatement. The Tigers were unranked to start the year, but no one in Auburn, Alabama, expected the team to be 1-7 eight weeks into the season.
The Tigers have been a disaster all over the field. They can't run or throw the ball, and they can't stop the run or the pass.
In their lone win, a 34-31 triumph over Louisiana-Monroe, the Tigers were generally pushed around, required a Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half to grab a lead and had to block a field goal in overtime to avoid another loss.
It's been a thoroughly unimpressive season for a team that won a championship just two years ago.
So, who's to blame?
There's no one person or unit to point the finger at, and that's the biggest problem with Auburn. There are too many issues to single out just a few. It could be a long climb back to the top for this once-proud program.
These three individuals have had the biggest impact on Auburn's sordid season.
Kiehl Frazier, QB
Frazier was the second-highest rated quarterback after Jeff Driskel in the 2011 ESPN 150. But thus far, he has been nothing but a disaster. It was probably a stretch to believe that he could compete as a sophomore in the monster that is the SEC, but that still doesn't excuse his overall ineffectiveness.
Frazier has completed just 54.4 percent of his passes and has thrown two touchdowns against eight interceptions. His much heralded running ability has yielded negative-28 yards on 40 carries, and he hasn't been mobile in the pocket.
Auburn's offense has no identity on offense, and Frazier's inability to find any consistency has been the biggest issue. Until the young man can improve as a passer, this Tigers team is going absolutely nowhere.
Brian VanGorder, Defensive Coordinator
Not all of the blame goes to the offense. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder came to Auburn in 2012 following a stint as a defensive coach with the Atlanta Falcons. Under his tutelage, the previously stout Tigers defense has fallen completely off the map. Despite having a number of top recruits on defense, Auburn ranks 81st in the country in points allowed per game at 29.9.
In the SEC, that simply won't cut it.
In their opening-week loss to Clemson, the Tigers allowed 528 total yards. In their most recent embarrassment, the Tigers let Texas A&M run over them to the tune of 671 yards and 63 points.
It's been a mess all season. But while the players have underperformed, it is still VanGorder's job to coordinate all aspects of the defense, and it has been an unmitigated disaster.
When Auburn won the national championship in 2010, the team beat up Oregon's offensive juggernaut and only allowed 19 points. One can only wonder how that matchup would turn out in 2012.
Gene Chizik, Head Coach
Fair or not, there's no escape for Chizik. This fiasco falls squarely on his shoulders, and it's amazing how far his team has fallen.
When your team wins a national championship, it seems only logical that it would be a coup for recruiting. But while Auburn has found its share of good recruits, it's not like players are knocking on Chizik's door to play. The upshot of it is that there is enough talent on the roster to make a 1-7 start absolutely inexcusable.
Another thing Chizik can't avoid is the Cam Newton factor. There's no denying now that Newton was a bigger part of the 2012 title team than Chizik was. The numbers don't lie: Chizik is 14-0 with Cam Newton at the helm and 17-17 without the star quarterback.
The calls for his job will be deafening, and all things considered, those calls are probably warranted. It's been a miserable season at Auburn, and there are too many things that need to be changed for a quick fix.
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