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Malzahn: A Genius Or Just Another Guy?

In a very short period of time, Gus Malzahn has built a reputation for being one of the nation’s top offensive gurus.  His rapid-fire attack helped fast-track him from the high school ranks all the way to the SEC as a coordinator.  And last year he became a top head coaching candidate as his Auburn offense rolled to a BCS title.

But just how unstoppable is his offense in reality? 

Below are Auburn’s offensive rankings in four main categories in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  We look only at the Tigers’ results against SEC foes (SEC rank in parentheses):

Rushing Offense
Passing Offense
Total Offense
Scoring Offense
203.6 ypg (2)
173.5 ypg (9)
377.1 ypg (4)
25.0 (5)
289.8 ypg (1)
188.4 ypg (8)
478.3 ypg (2)
40.2 (1)
188.4 ypg (2)
135.7 ypg (12)
324.1 ypg (6)
20.9 (7)

Think Cam Newton made a difference for Malzahn?  Across the board, Auburn was better last year than in either of the offensive coordinators’ other two seasons on The Plains.

The Tigers rushed for 86 more yards per game.  They passed for 15 more yards per game .  They rolled up 101 more yards per game overall.  And they scored 15 points per game more with Newton than without.  Two touchdowns a game can make a heckuva difference in a squad’s final record.

Not all of that is Malzahn’s fault, of course.  Urban Meyer looked better with Tim Tebow, too.  Special players make special coaches.

And that is our overall point.  Without a special quarterback, Malzahn appears to know how to run the football well, but his teams score at a middle-of-the-pack pace in the SEC.

As a head coach away from the SEC and its brutal defenses — say at North Carolina in the so-so ACC — Malzahn may set the world on fire.  But inside his current conference, it appears Auburn’s OC needs a very special, dual threat quarterback to make his offense truly hum.

Malzahn’s a good offensive coordinator, but genius?  We’ll need to see some more big numbers before we go that far.

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