AUBURN — Gus Malzahn hasn't won enough games against Auburn's biggest rivals.
That is both a common criticism of his seven-year tenure as head coach as well as — probably — a fact. Malzahn has won more games against Alabama (three) than any coach in college football other than Les Miles since Nick Saban became the head coach in Tuscaloosa in 2007, but he's only 2-5 against LSU and 2-6 against Georgia.
Add in a two-game split with Tennessee and a loss at Florida, and Auburn's record against its five most prominent SEC rivals since 2013 is just 8-17. That mark is far worse than those of Ralph "Shug" Jordan, Pat Dye and Tommy Tuberville, who are the only three Auburn head coaches with a longer tenure than Malzahn since the Iron Bowl became a permanent fixture on the schedule again in 1948.
Here's how those four coaches' resumes compare to one another:
Jordan (1951-1975): 176-83-6 (.675) overall record, 99-65-4 (.601) SEC, 51-48-1 (.515) vs. rivals, one conference and one national championship (1957).
Dye (1981-1992): 99-39-4 (.711) overall, 48-27-3 (.634) SEC, 26-24-2 (.519) vs. rivals, four conference championships (1983, 1987-89).
Tuberville (1999-2008): 85-40 (.680) overall, 52-30 (.634) SEC, 25-17 (.593) vs. rivals, five division championships* (2000-02, 2004-05) and one conference title (2004), went 13-0 in 2004, but finished No. 3 in BCS rankings. *—In 2001, '02 and '05, Auburn did not qualify for the SEC championship game, losing tiebreakers to LSU, Arkansas and LSU, respectively.
Malzahn (2013-present): 62-31 (.667) overall, 33-23 (.583) SEC, 8-17 (.320) vs. rivals, two division championships (2013, 2017) and one conference title (2013), lost national championship game in 2013.
Success on the field matters more than anything else in college football. Malzahn was the offensive coordinator during Auburn's second national championship victory in 2010 and led the program to the title game in his first season as head coach, but in that respect, he still lags behind his predecessors.
Jordan, Dye and Tuberville each left the job with higher overall and conference winning percentages than the program's current head coach has going into his eighth season at the helm. Each finished with a winning record in the games that matter most to Auburn fans.
The Tigers aren't scheduled to face Florida again until 2024 and Tennessee until 2025, so Malzahn would have to sweep Alabama, Georgia and LSU in each of the next three seasons to reach .500 in rivalry games. Given the recent success of those programs, that seems unlikely.
But Auburn is only half the equation in those games. There are two teams on the field. How the other one was performing should be considered. Wins over Alabama are always a good thing on the Plains, but they're more impressive during the Saban era than they were from the late '90s through mid 2000s, when the Crimson Tide went just 67-55 during a 10-year stretch under Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione and Mike Shula.
So, with that in mind, let's look at how Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee fared on the field while Jordan, Dye and Tuberville were at Auburn, and how that compares to what Malzahn has faced.
NOTE: Not every coach faced all of these teams every season. Jordan matched up with LSU only four times in 25 seasons, and Malzahn has faced Florida only once in seven. The records below include only the seasons in which those schools had Auburn on the schedule.
Jordan: Rivals were 534-283-38 (.647) and ranked 44 times (44%) when they played Auburn on their way to 17 conference and four national championships.
Dye: Rivals were 324-150-10 (.680), were ranked 29 times (55.6%) when they played Auburn and went on to three division, 10 conference and one national championships.
Tuberville: Rivals were 358-151 (.703) and ranked 31 times (73.8%) when they played Auburn on their way to 14 division, eight conference and three national championships.
Malzahn: Rivals were 256-79 (.764), were ranked 20 times (80%) when they played Auburn and went on to 10 division, six conference and three national titles, plus three national runners-up.
The overall record of Auburn's rivals have risen with each passing era, as have the percentage of games against them in which they were ranked.
Because of the SEC's split into divisions in 1992 and expansion in 2012, Malzahn has faced the Gators and Volunteers far less than his predecessors. But he's the only head coach in the SEC that has to face the Crimson Tide, Bulldogs and Bayou Bengals every season, and he has had to do it during incredible runs of success.
Combined, those three teams have a .789 winning percentage over the past seven seasons.
Jordan, Dye and Tuberville faced off against plenty of great teams, too, of course, but none of those coaches faced those teams at their highest level as often as Malzahn.