SEC Football: For either Guz Malzahn or Jeremy Pruitt a loss in Auburn on Saturday night will fuel more heat for a coaching change.
For decades, Alabama football fans paying attention to an SEC football game with Auburn matched against Tennessee had a ‘lose-lose’ quandary. Not wanting either team to win, some Tide fans dreamed of the impossible result of both teams losing.
This SEC football season is different. So different Saturday night in Auburn can be viewed as a ‘win-win’ proposition. An Auburn loss will most likely lead to the Tigers finishing the 10-game season at 5-5. Influential Auburn boosters have long been weary of Gus Malzahn’s seasonal roller coaster rides. In eight seasons as Auburn’s head coach, Gus’ winning percentage of 66.7, ranks him as the Tigers’ seventh-best of all-time. Two of the former Auburn coaches above Gus, Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville were either run off or fired. In six seasons, Bowden’s teams won 73.3 percent of their games.
What has saved Gus’ job for years has been his record against Nick Saban and a few fluke-wins. His post-season record is without merit since 2013 when the Tigers won the SEC Championship and lost in the BCS title game. Since the 2013 SEC Championship, Gus and Auburn are 2-6 in post-season play.
Gus has settled into a comfortable level of mediocrity. The opposite of considering Gus a significant threat, some Alabama football fans hope Auburn never fires him. His still large buyout would probably give him another season. But five losses, including losing to struggling programs, South Carolina and Tennessee could be the final tipping point for Auburn decision-makers.
The other half of the ‘win-win’ scenario is a Tennessee loss. There is no question Jeremy Pruitt is on shaky ground for the second time in his head coaching career. In his third season for the Tennessee Vols, Pruitt’s head coaching record is 15-16. During Paul Bryant’s career, anytime a school pursued him he told them it took five seasons to build a championship program. Bryant later admitted it could be done more quickly. In today’s world of college football, many coaches have to prove their worth in three seasons or less, as was seen last season at Mississippi State.
In his third Tennessee season, Pruitt has another problem in Knoxville. His boss wants to coach again. Tennessee AD, Phil Fulmer will deny that is the case but is widely known he wants a redo after his forced exit from the program in 2008.
Not even the duplicitous Fulmer would fire a winning head coach. Jeremy Pruitt is not a winning coach. With a loss in Auburn, the Vols could finish the regular season at 3-7. Fulmer might fire him sooner than season-end, if it were not for the Vols closing the regular season against Florida and Texas A&M. Those two probable losses would further blemish Phil’s record.
Jeremy Pruitt would be one of the internship candidates. Gus Malzahn would not.