The Tigers may have won the BCS National Championship in January but bettors don’t like them to make another run in 2011. Al Dannity has them at #13, higher than many pre-season polls.
The schedule Mississippi State will be the first big challenger to pay a visit to the Loveliest Village on the Plains when they come to town in early September. The tough start for the Tigers continues with a trip to Clemson, where those other Tigers are still sore after a dramatic encounter last season. FAU will provide a breather before Auburn take on a brutal October schedule at South Carolina, at Arkansas, a home game with Florida, and then at LSU. They close the month with the, relatively, easy task of taking on Mississippi.
The Tigers close the season with two more tough games sandwiching a cupcake against Samford. Georgia await on November 12 while Alabama will want some revenge in the Iron Bowl on November 26.
The players This is the bit where I have to stand tall and ignore the hordes of SEC fans who are stunned I have the Tigers up so high. The national champions return just 8 starters from 2010. Crucially they have lost both Cam Newton, the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and Nick Fairley who was also a first round draft pick.
Despite that loss of talent they still return some key contributors including Michael Dyer, who came up huge in the BCS title game. Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter will be entering their first years as starters on the defensive line but both a tremendously talented and should adapt to life in the SEC quickly. This may be a new look team but it is also a talented one.
The forecast Much like Mississippi State, who I profiled on Monday, I expect Auburn to sit around third or fourth in the SEC West. The continued problems of the SEC East means that could be good enough for a trip to the Capital One Bowl, or failing that playing the Cotton Bowl Classic. Either result would represent a massive step down from 2010 but would still be much more than is expected from this unit. Yes Cam Newton is gone and so too is Nick Fairley. They haven’t got too many starters back but they have one big difference maker back. Gus Malzahn is to Gene Chizik what Mike Martz was to Dick Vermeil. Malzahn will find a way to keep Auburn relevant on offense and that will get them the wins they need to come in with a 9-3 year.