As the Auburn Tigers stand on the precipice of their first season under new head coach Gene Chizik, there is a palpable sense of unease among the Tiger faithful.
The sting of a 5-7 season and the turmoil of a coaching search has barely faded. Questions over Chizik's suitability for the job linger, especially in light of his 5-19 debacle at Iowa State.
Nervousness over Gus Malzhan's implementation of a new spread-based offense, after last season's botched spread experiment with Tony Franklin failed so miserably, bubbles under the surface.
Concerns about depth dog the team, particularly on defense, where an injury to a linebacker or defensive back could potentially promote a green freshman or untested walkon to the front lines.
Worries about Chris Todd's ability to lead the offense after his injury-addled self-destruction in 2008 persist.
So, too do the naysayers. Most predict Auburn to finish with three to six wins. Few peg Auburn as a bowl team. Is that really all Auburn fans have to look forward to?
In another article on this site, it was noted that a three-win inagural season under Chizik would be completely unacceptable.
If three is out of the question, what then would be an acceptable number for Chizik? What would show that he isn't in over his head as Auburn coach?
For Chizik that magic number is seven.
A quality coach will win every game in which his team has greater front-line talent than the opponent. Auburn has four such games this season:
Anything less than 4-0 against that slate is a definite red flag.
A competent coach should win at least half the games against teams with relatively equal talent.
There are three, possibly four, teams on Auburn's schedule that meet that criteria:
A quality coach will win at least 25 percent of the games against teams with supposedly superior talent, games where coaching prowess trumps the disparity in skill.
Auburn has at least four games on the schedule which fit that bill:
West Virginia could slip into the greater talent pool and Ole Miss could potentially be considered as having equal talent, but the basic premise remains.
In addition, a competent coach should win at least a third of his road games. Auburn has four road games in 2009:
at Knoxville (Tennessee)
at Fayetteville (Arkansas)
at Baton Rouge (LSU), and
at Athens (Georgia)
Mix up the formula and you come out with a solid seven.
Chizik's Tigers should win four against lesser competition, split the bill against equal foes for two more wins, pick up a win against one of the teams with "better talent" and earn at least one of those on the road.
Seven wins is Chizik's magic number. Anything less should be reason for concern.
Anything more? A reason for celebration.