The state of Alabama loves college football more than any other state in our country loves any sport. And no rivalry matters more in any state than Alabama and Auburn, the nation’s highest rated college football game this season. So it should come as no surprise that a team in Alabama won the Will Muschamp sweepstakes, beating out eager fans at Texas A&M and South Carolina who all hoped that Coach Boom would be the man to heal their defensive woes. Late last night word broke that Will Muschamp, recently fired Florida Gator head coach, had agreed to a three year deal to become Auburn’s defensive coordinator. The deal, which pays $1.6, $1.7 and $1.8 million over the next three seasons — more than the salaries of nearly half of the FBS head coaches — makes Muschamp the highest paid coordinator in the history of college football and adds yet another layer of intrigue to the nation’s fiercest rivalry.
Come next season Alabama and Auburn will have four coaches on the sidelines who have won ten or more games in major college football since 2011 — Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Lane Kiffin and Will Muschamp. The combination of Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp may well be the greatest offensive and deffensive guru combination since Nick Saban hired Lane Kiffin. Last season Kiffin torched Muschamp’s Gator defense, running up 672 yards on the top-rated Gator defense. Meanwhile Auburn couldn’t stop anyone on defense, falling apart down the stretch when the Tiger defense gave up 38, 35, 31, 41, 34 and 55 to the final six SEC opponents on the schedule.
Muschamp’s hiring also continues an incredible roll for Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, who has gone from hiring Gene Chizik and being on the cusp of being fired, to pulling off three incredible hires in successsion — Gus Malzahn, Bruce Pearl, and now Muschamp. Never has the Auburn athletic department been in better shape. Now, of course, the question will immediately become two-fold: 1. how quickly can Malzahn and Muschamp win big? and 2. how long will Muschamp be on the Plains?
The answer to the first question could be — really quickly. Auburn’s brutal 2014 schedule that saw the Tigers play six ranked opponents, five of them on the road, gives way to a slate of games that promises to be quite a bit easier in 2015. While the Tigers open with Louisville in the Georgia Dome — can you imagine how great it will be to see Muchamp go head-to-head with Bobby Petrino’s Louisville offense? — the rest of the out of conference schedule is easy. Gone are top 25 road games at Kansas State, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. While it’s never easy to win on the road in the SEC, the road schedule gets much more manageable in 2015. Games at Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas A&M and LSU aren’t easy, but they are all winnable. Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State will all travel to Jordan-Hare. The bet here: the Tigers should win ten or more in 2015.
As for how long Muschamp will be at Auburn, that’s a more interesting question. If Muschamp’s defenses rise to the top of the college football ranks — as his defenses always have — the 43 year old Muschamp will find himself at the top of major college coaching lists again pretty quickly. Especially if Muschamp can find a young offensive mind that he trusts to take care of that side of the ball. Here’s an early guess that Muschamp will eventually leave Auburn with young offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in tow. In the meantime Muschamp will be cashing his full head coaching check from Florida while coaching the Auburn defense, meaning Muschamp will make over four million this year and next. So effectively Florida will be paying nearly two-thirds of Muschamp’s salary next year and the year after. Thank the lord for Jimmy Sexton.
The only Auburn man who made a better play than Jay Jacobs and Gus Malzhan last night? Outkick’s spirit animal — Jason Dufner.