Dec 4, 2012; Auburn, AL, USA: Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn speaks during a press conference after being introduced as the head football coach at Auburn. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
The Auburn Tigers and Washington State Cougars will square off to open up the season on the 31st of August. Every day from here to then should be all about depth charts, penciling in starters, getting bigger-faster-stronger, earning positions and for Auburn at least, introducing and implementing an entirely new system under new head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers already had plenty to worry about, much like Washington State did when they changed head coaches to Mike Leach last season.
Now Auburn has a new problem; Distraction. From FanSided’s Josh Sanchez I learned this late last night:
"There is a damning report coming out from former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts that has troubling news about the Auburn Tigers team led by Gene Chizik that went on to win the BCS National Championship following the 2010 season. Among the details in Roberts report on Roopstigo.com, Auburn’s football program changed players’ grades to secure eligibility and even offered money to potential NFL draft picks so they would return for their senior seasons."
There’s is much more intrigue to the article – Report: Auburn Tigers Coaches Bribed Players, Altered Grades On National Championship Team and it’s well worth the read. It’s pretty bad for Auburn right about now and the football team, along with its’ unfortunate new coaching staff will have to deal with this issue in a multitude of ways all summer long leading up to the Washington State contest (which almost assuredly will be picked up by ESPN now, one would think for incredibly high ratings numbers). Malzahn and his team will try and downplay it but teams don’t just whisk that away over an entire off-season, it affects everythgin. So this year it’s Wazzu with a major advantage going into opening day, not their opponent.
On a personal level, I love how all the comments about the West Coast teams cheating to get where they are is coming back to bite the East right about now. It’s been one story after another over there and it’s just ironic to me. And now that it’s touched SEC country, the floodgates are ready to open.
For Washington State, they are knee deep in position battles with what appears to be a somewhat legit Pac-12 roster now, after waffling to a horrible five years of weak links and potential stars that turned out to be wastes of talent. In the Fall camp it will get even more heated after a solid haul from Mike Leach and Co. in the 2013 recruiting class.
If WSU doesn’t take control of their stiflingly clear offseason advantage and win convincingly at Auburn on the 31st of August, it’s going to be another really long season for Cougar fans. The Auburn football program simply will not have their focus on the Cougs, while the Tigers are all Washington State players should have their minds on. Once the Tigers hit mid-season I expect they’ll be fine, but I’m very much looking forward to watching the Cougs do to War Eagle what BYU did to WSU last season.