What Expectations Are There for Hugh Freeze in His First Year at Auburn?

What Expectations Are There for Hugh Freeze in His First Year at Auburn?
By Howard Gensler
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Hugh Freeze is returning to the SEC as the head football coach at Auburn after a 2012-2016 stint at Ole Miss, which had its pros and cons.

On the field, the team finished with a winning season in every year but Freeze’s last. Off the field, the NCAA stripped away 27 wins for recruiting and academic violations. Freeze resigned after the university found he had been using his Ole Miss phone to repeatedly call escort services.

But Freeze wasn’t out of work long. In 2018 he was hired as head coach at Liberty University, founded by the late preacher Jerry Falwell, and then run by his son, who knew a thing or two about dalliances. In four years at Liberty, Freeze led the team to a 34-15 record and four bowl games. The guy’s a good football coach, who has won everywhere he’s been in charge.

Sports betting in Alabama is not yet legal, so you can’t bet on Freeze and the Tigers next season.

BetAlabama.com wanted to take a look at what the new coach will mean at Auburn and how long it might take Alabama fans to bombard Freeze’s email with come-ons from call girls? Freeze will be the Tigers’ fourth coach in four seasons, replacing “Cadillac” Williams, who replaced Bryan Harsin, who replaced Gus Malzahn, who led Auburn to its last winning season in 2020 (6-5). That wasn’t good enough for Malzahn to be retained, and he’d taken Auburn to eight consecutive Bowl games and two SEC titles.

Are Expectations Too High at Auburn?

So the expectations are high for Freeze, but are they reasonable? Georgia is now a powerhouse, and Alabama isn’t going anywhere. Tennessee and Ole Miss are rising, and LSU and Florida are never far from the hunt. The SEC is a beast, and it’s rare for a coach to lead an instant turnaround. There’s a reason why the last guy isn’t there anymore.

But it does happen: In 1993 Terry Bowden went 11-0 in his first year at Auburn, and Gus Malzahn went 13-0 in his first year in 2013.

Auburn First-Year Coaches Since 1975

BetAlabama.com used College Football Reference (www.sports-reference/cfb/) to look at the average performance of Auburn head coaches since 1975.

Here are the composite numbers:

Avg. RecordAvg. Win %Avg. Conference RecordAvg. Conference Win %
7-5*0.5884-4*0.506
*Rounded to nearest whole number

 Since 1975, here’s the first-year rundown for new Auburn coaches.

  • Doug Barfield took over from “Shug” Jordan in 1976 and the team finished sixth at 4-7. Barfield never finished higher than third.
  • Pat Dye replaced Barfield in 1981. Dye finished 5-6 in year one, but then came nine consecutive winning seasons, Bo Jackson, four SEC titles and five Top 10 rankings. But after going 5-5 in 1992, and with the NCAA on his back, Dye was replaced by Terry Bowden.
  • Terry Bowden went 11-0, first in the SEC, ranked fourth in the country. The one drawback was the Tigers were bowl ineligible due to NCAA violations from the end of the Dye years. Bowden resigned in 1998 after starting the season 1-5.
  • Tommy Tuberville came on in 1999 and the team went 5-6. Tuberville won the SEC in 2004 and finished 13-0, ranked No. 2. After a 5-7 record in 2008, Tuberville resigned.
  • Gene Chizik went a respectable 8-5 his first season and the next year took Auburn to the national championship, where the Tigers beat Oregon, 22-19. In Chizik’s fourth season, however, the team fell to 3-9 and he was out the door with a multi-million-dollar contract buyout.
  • Gus Malzahn had an amazing turnaround in his first season in 2013, going 13-0, winning the SEC and losing in the national championship game to Florida State, 34-31. He peaked that first year and then he was gone in 2020

Harsin then went 6-7 and the Harsin-Williams combo went 5-7. Enter Freeze.

A debut year between Terry Bowden and Gus Malzahn will have Auburn fans salivating. But a few mediocre seasons, and Freeze will be escorted out.

Bama in the Sugar Bowl

It seems weird for the Crimson Tide to not be in the football Final Four, but No. 5 Alabama (10-2) will face No. 9 Kansas State (10-3) in the early game New Year’s Eve Day. Nick Saban’s team is a 6 to 6½ point favorite in the Sugar Bowl, and the over/under is 56 at most sites. Alabama is -250 on the moneyline, while Kansas State is +200. Both teams average close to 200 yards per game on the ground.

Schedule-wise, Alabama had wins this season at No. 20 Texas and over No. 22 Mississippi State. They lost at No. 6 Tennessee on a late field goal in a 52-49 shootout and at No. 17 LSU, 32-31, on a two-point conversion in overtime. Kansas State lost ,17-10, to No. 16 Tulane, 38-28, at No. 3 TCU and 34-27 to No. 20 Texas. They also beat No. 3 TCU, 31-28, on Dec. 3, with an overtime field goal to win the Big 12 title.

While you can’t find Alabama sports apps, wagering is legal in neighboring Mississippi and Tennessee.

And make no mistake. If and when sports betting does become legal in the state, it will be fueled by college sports at Auburn and Alabama.

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Contributors

Howard Gensler is a contributing writer for BetAlabama.com. Before his focus on U.S. sports betting, Howard worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard is also a founding editor of bettorsinsider.com.

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