Day 5 of my “12 Teams in 12 Days” segment takes us to the reigning National Champions, the Auburn University Tigers.
The best news that Auburn received this offseason is that they were able to keep their most valuable player around at least one more season. No, not Cam Newton or Nick Fairley but offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. While the expectation might be low for many outsiders, this team will be a threat to win any game they play in because of the offensive schemes of Malzahn.
Despite several key losses on both sides of the ball, the running game looks to be potent once again. The dynamic duo of Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb are back for another season and expect them to terrorize SEC defenses once more.
In fact, I will go on record as saying, barring any injury to either Dyer or McCalebb; with Coach Malzahn calling the plays, these two backs will beat Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams’ 2004 rushing totals by several hundred yards. This dynamic duo is good for a minimum of 2,000 yards this year.
I can’t help but shake my head at people who think that Alabama has stockpiled all the talent in their respective state and Auburn is sitting on a one-deep roster. Auburn is as deep with talent and has as much potential as Alabama has at most positions. However, this talent has to gain experience, and this will be the case with Auburn this season. Talent is not an issue. You are looking at an offensive line that one day soon might be the very best in all of college football. However, they are going to miss some key blocks this season. They are going to get confused on different blitzing schemes. They are not going to be perfect but instead they are going to be growing on the job.
Make no mistake about it, there is plenty of offensive line talent to go around. What remains to be seen is how long will it take before their potential becomes a reality. Last season, all the focus was on Cam Newton’s ability to run the football. However, most people fail to realize he was taking on more linebackers and safetys than he was defensive linemen..The line did a great job of holding up blockers and allowing the running backs and Newton to make plays.
This will not be Auburn’s season to win the West, but with enough experience this year and a favorable schedule next season, contention is just around the corner for Auburn and Coach Chizik.
There are definitely harder schedules in the SEC than the one Auburn will play. However, those teams will not be breaking in the amount of new players that the Tigers will. The first tough game of the season is Week 2, against a potentially very good Mississippi State team. The next week they have to go to Clemson who will be playing for their head coach’s job. I know historically Auburn has owned Clemson, but this is a new era and a new staff. After that, they have one of the toughest stretches in all of college football in October with games against South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Florida. What do they have waiting for them as their reward for making it through that stretch? Games against Georgia and Alabama.
This season will have its ups and downs for this young Tigers team. Regardless of their record, they will be competitive and tough for any team to beat. On paper, I don’t think this team finishes better than 6-6. However, if there is one thing we have learned about this team, it’s that the paper doesn’t tell the whole story.
I think the Tigers start the season strong at 4-0. However, October will be a rough month. Right now I have them finishing 7-5 in the regular season. But in the SEC, who knows. A break here and a break there and a few really good games by the Auburn defense, and they could be right back in the SEC West title race.