So far, Auburn's move from Gus Malzahn's spread toward a pro-style offensive scheme has been a crushing failure. There's no other way to describe it.
It really started last season. After three games, the Tigers had scored 42, 41 and 24 points. But they were struggling on defense, and head coach Gene Chizik told Malzahn, whose offenses had set school records in his first two seasons at Auburn, that he had to take the hurryup out of his hurryup, no-huddle offense. That assured that Malzahn, who had helped win a national championship and had been given a $1.3 million contract months earlier, would leave at season's end.
And Auburn's offense began its rapid descent toward the bottom of the Southeastern Conference. Malzahn took a $400,000 pay cut to become the head coach at Arkansas State after last season. Scot Loeffler was named offensive coordinator. Chizik got involved. And the slide continued.
Since that decision was made, in 11 SEC games, Auburn has scored more than two offensive touchdowns just one time, in a 41-23 win over Ole Miss last season. It scored one touchdown or fewer a startling seven times in those 11 games and scored no offensive touchdowns at all twice.
Halfway through the season, in the 14-team SEC, Auburn is last in scoring offense at 16.2 points per game and last in total offense at 287.5 points per game. It is 13th in passing offense at 162 yards per game, last in passing efficiency, 11th in rushing offense at 125.5 yards per game, last in first downs per game and tied for last in sacks given up.
Auburn's 19 turnovers - eight fumbles and 11 interceptions - are the most in the SEC.
Nationally, out of 120 teams, Auburn is No. 115 in scoring offense, No. 116 in total offense, No. 111 in passing offense, No. 94 in rushing offense and No. 113 in first downs. Only Idaho has more turnovers than Auburn, meaning the Tigers are No. 119 in that category.
It adds up to a 1-5 record and an 0-4 start in the SEC.
Chizik followed Texas coach Mack Brown's lead in dumping Malzahn's offense. Texas mpved from its version of the spread in 2010 and promptly went 5-7, losing seven of its last nine a year after playing in the BCS Championship Game. The Longhorns are struggling still. Brown is taking serious heat after last Saturday's 63-21 loss to Oklahoma.
It is no secret that the success of Alabama and LSU in pro style offenses played a significant role in decisions at Texas and Auburn. But, really, it's not like Alabama and LSU have been dominating the SEC for decades or even a decade or even five years.
Of the SEC's six consecutive national championships, three were won by teams running some version of the spread - Auburn in 2010 and Florida in 2008 and 2006.
As Auburn has gone away from the spread, other schools are going to it in growing numbers. Offensive coordinators are getting more sophisticated, figuring out how to combine physicality with the a spread mentality. Never have so many teams found it so easy to score in the 50's and 60's.
It's not unlike the wishbone 30-40 years ago.
The wishbone gave less-talented teams a chance. But when Oklahoma ran it with elite athletes all over the field, it was all but unstoppable. So it is with the spread (see Oregon).
Two of Auburn's five losses - 26-19 to Clemson in the opener and 41-20 at Ole Miss - have been to teams running Malzahn's offense or something very close to it. Mississippi State runs essentially what Florida ran under Urban Meyer.
And Auburn's offensive struggles continue with no relief in sight.