No matter how you analyze it, there appears to be a very good chance that Auburn is headed toward becoming the first program in 20 years to win the national championship and then finish with a losing record two seasons later. Georgia Tech shared the national title with Colorado in 1990 (Tech went 11-0-1 and won the UPI Coaches' Poll) before going 5-6 in 1992.
But at least those Yellow Jackets had some sort of excuse, as head coach Bobby Ross left to take over the San Diego Chargers after the 1991 season. And even with the coaching change, Tech started 4-1 in 1992 before losing five of its final six games to teams that finished the regular season with a combined record of 45-15. Tech basically slipped off a chair over those two years. Auburn is amid a full-blown tumble down a flight of stairs.
The program's decline seems even worse given the performance of some of the Tigers' familiar foes. The team Auburn defeated in the 2010 title game, Oregon, remains a championship contender and is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation. The team Auburn battles every year for recruits and in-state bragging rights, Alabama, is the defending BCS champ and the consensus favorite to capture a third title in four years. Meanwhile, the Tigers have thrown away all the momentum they gained from winning the national championship. In terms of the program's appeal to recruits and the satisfaction of the fan base, it's almost as if 2010 never happened.
It's somewhat amazing for a coach who brought Auburn its first national title in 53 years, but Chizik's job is in serious jeopardy. Chizik has been a head coach for approximately five and half seasons, two at Iowa State and the past three-plus at Auburn. His record during that time when he has had someone other than Cam Newton at quarterback: 22-33.
That seems to be the primary case against Chizik these days. Critics claim he is a one-hit wonder who managed to corral an amazing talent in Newton and ride him to a 14-0 campaign. Even with Newton, Auburn flirted with disaster for much of 2010, winning five games -- including the championship over Oregon -- by three points or fewer, and two others by eight points or fewer. And the difference in most of those games turned out to be Newton, who single-handedly made plays to win, most notably in the case of his serpentine touchdown run against LSU.
Now that Newton is gone, Chizik is back to being perceived as the same coach who went 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State before -- inexplicably to some -- he was hired at Auburn. That decision led many members of the normally staid Auburn fan base to howl in protest, led by a lone fan who greeted AD Jay Jacobs at the airport after Jacobs met with Chizik by yelling, "We want a leader not a loser; 5-19 is not what we need. No Chizik. No."
Chizik silenced those critics by winning the national championship just two years later. It seemed he had bought himself years of goodwill with the Auburn fan base, which had watched in dismay as Alabama won eight national titles since the Tigers' 1957 championship. Now, however, Newton gets all the credit for the 2010 season. Chizik is seen as the lucky guy who latched onto Superman's cape.
After Saturday's embarrassing loss to Arkansas, Chizik said he isn't worried about his future at the school. "I'm never concerned about my job security," he said. "I'm very comfortable with myself working really hard, and I plan on being at Auburn next year."
That may be, but Auburn fans planned to capitalize on a long-term national presence following the 2010 championship. Now they're worried about spending another half-century wandering through the college football desert. Chizik needs to turns things around quickly or his tenure -- much like the '10 title -- might soon seem like a hazy mirage.