It's something of a surreal weekend in Auburn, a football weekend like few I can remember.
The town is rapidly filling up, as you would expect when a nationally ranked team is coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a night game. It's only the second Auburn home game this season that won't start before noon. But no one seems to be talking about the game.
The specter of a 1-6 record hangs over everything like a black storm cloud that won't go away.
You hear more about Bobby Petrino than about how Auburn might deal with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. People want to know if head coach Gene Chizik will finish his fourth season. Rare is the person who believes Chizik will be back for a fifth season.
Even rarer is the person who expects an Auburn victory tonight.
On our own web site, ace recruiting reporter Bryan Matthews' story about an LSU commitment visiting Auburn draws mostly comments about why he would want to come. Auburn message boards all over are dominated by the Petrino debate. Some are convinced with all their hearts he is the only sensible hire for Auburn. Others are just as convinced it would be a dark, dark day if Auburn hired him.
There's not even a job open, but Auburn supporters, in their unique way, are splintered again.
Most people say they plan to bring energy to Jordan-Hare even if they don't bring much hope, that they plan to support the players even if they wish the coaches would leave town on the next bus.
Chizik, athletic director Jay Jacobs and senior associate athletic Tim Jackson, who has called himself the football "general manager," get votes of no confidence at Toomer's Corner, at tailgating sites, from those who look at the statues of Auburn Heisman Trophy winners and remember better times.
Auburn fans are puzzled, even confused.
It's not personal. It's not that they dislike the men in charge of Auburn football or even claim to understand what has happened. They just know they celebrated the greatest football moment in most of their lives less than two years ago. And now this. Most have never seen Auburn football like this. And they don't like it one bit.
Chizik, in his role as head coach, has no choice but to face the media. Until now, he has been mostly spared questions about his future as head coach. That won't be the case for much longer if he loses tonight or, really, even if he wins.
Meanwhile, Auburn players try to cope, try to stay focused, try to believe that this miserable season still can turn around, that they can again know the feeling of a winning a big game and celebrating with their fans.
Yes, it's a surreal weekend in Auburn.
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