The Auburn Tigers come into Saturday's Iron Bowl matchup looking to conclude the worst season of Auburn football in modern history. The Tigers are 3-8 overall and winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980.
Auburn has been on the short end of blowouts to Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia this season.
Because of this season, many Auburn supporters have called for a change at head coach. Ever since consecutive losses to Vanderbilt and Ole Miss occurred in October, it has been a foregone conclusion that head coach Gene Chizik would be replaced at season's end.
Auburn has a chance to conclude this dismal season by pulling off what would be an historical upset against No. 2 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.
When asked in his weekly press conference if an upset would salvage the season, Chizik responded (via Charles Goldberg, AL.com), "I don't think there's any question. Any time you win in a rivalry game, it would end your season on a great note."
If Auburn can pull off the unthinkable and beat the Crimson Tide on Saturday, the upset would not save Gene Chizik's job. It is too little, too late for the man that brought Auburn it's first national championship in over 50 years.
With a decision of this magnitude on the horizon, a single game should not determine the outcome. The whole body of work in 2012 should be evaluated when making a decision that could determine the direction of the Auburn program for the next decade or longer.
Auburn president Jay Gogue will evaluate the state of the Auburn football program at season's end. Most likely, it will be as early as Sunday or Monday.
In a letter to the Auburn family in late October (via Auburn University Office of Communication and Marketing), Gogue said, "As we do every year, the football program will be evaluated in an objective, thorough and professional process."
Looking at the situation objectively, Gogue will see a program that has had one of the worst records two years following a national championship in college football history. According to Ryan Wood of the Opelika-Auburn News, if Auburn loses this weekend to Alabama, it will be the worst.
Gogue will also see a program that the head coach has lost control of. Evidenced by the outsourced hiring of a private security company to ensure curfews are met by players that live both on- and off-campus.
He will see a program where players—despite having top 10 recruiting classes for three consecutive years—lack development and struggle with fundamentals as simple as form tackling.
He will see a team that lacks both the mental and physical toughness to compete for SEC and national championships year in and year out.
No one expected Auburn to be a great football team in 2012, especially with two new coordinators bringing in completely different schemes.
Auburn fans did expect, however, that with the talent that Chizik has brought in with the latest recruiting classes, Auburn would be a dangerous team by season's end.
Instead, Auburn is a much worse team now than the team that lost to No. 11 Clemson on Sept. 1, 26-19.
Auburn has not posed a threat to its last two SEC opponents. It lost to rival Georgia, 38-0 and was demolished by Texas A&M, 63-21. Both of those games were over by halftime.
All of these things will not be cured by a single win on Saturday, despite how historic the win may be.
In September, Bleacher Report's Lead SEC writer, Barrett Sallee mentioned that barring a disastrous 2012 season, Chizik would be walking the Auburn sidelines in 2013. That disaster has happened.
No one can look at the Auburn program objectively right now and say that it is moving in a positive direction.
Who are we kidding, though? We are operating off a premise (Auburn winning) that has as close to zero percent chance of happening as any Iron Bowl matchup in the rivalry's storied history.
For most Auburn fans, that reason alone is enough grounds to warrant Chizik being relieved of his duties at season's end.