The Auburn Tigers head into next weekend’s Chick Fil-A Bowl with an offense in flux.
Auburn will travel to Atlanta after their offensive coordinator took a head coaching job, while they will be missing their top running back and are unsettled at quarterback. As a result, it’s going to be very hard to expect what will happen when the Tigers face the Cavaliers on New Year’s Eve.
It’s not a very big surprise that Gus Malzahn finally accepted a job as a head coach. One of football’s best offensive minds, Malzahn was considered a candidate for nearly every opening that came up before replacing Hugh Freeze at Arkansas State. Despite dealing with his new responsibilities, Malzahn will continue to coach the offense through the bowl game, so his looming departure will not be too much of a distraction. Unfortunately, that might not be the case with some of the offensive personnel.
The chief concern heading into the game is the loss of star running back Michael Dyer due to suspension. The talented Dyer was Auburn’s most consistent offensive threat all season, and his presence leaves a big hole in the lineup. The Tigers will have options to replace Dyer on Saturday, but it will be a surprise if anyone will be able to fully replace Dyer’s production. Freshman Tre Mason is expected to take over much of the load, but he has to be a big question mark after seeing few carries during the regular season.
Auburn will also take the field against the Cavaliers with some questions at quarterback. Incumbent starter Clint Moseley is expected to share reps with freshman Kiehl Frazier. This will be an important opening audition for the 2012 quarterback battle, but it’s not certain how each will fit in to the gameplan against the Cavaliers. Former starter Barrett Trotter seems to be the odd man out right now, unless he makes a surprise appearance in the bowl game. The fact that a new offensive coordinator (and whatever his system is) will be coming in for the spring makes this position even more of a question mark.
At first glance, Auburn would be expected to defeat the Cavaliers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but the Tigers are entering the game with turmoil in two of the offensive skill positions. How Auburn answers the questions at quarterback and running back will play a huge part in whether the 2012 season ends in victory or disappointment.