I see 8 games here that are toss-ups. I'll be happy if we can win half of those which would put AU at 8-4. The way this team is coached, though, I wouldn't be surprised to see a 10 win season. It looks like every team in the West (except Ole Miss) could legitimately win the SEC. This season should do a lot to build character in the face of adversity. Bring it on!! WDE!!!
The 2010 BCS champion Auburn Tigers won’t look the same in 2011. Sure, Gus Malzahn will still have his rapid-fire offense in place. The entire coaching staff is expected to return as well.
But the Tigers lose two very special players from this year’s team: Cam Newton and Nick Fairley.
If Newton and Fairley had not been on AU’s squad this past season would the Tigers have won all of these games: Mississippi State (a 17-14 win), Clemson (a 27-24 win), South Carolina (a 35-27 win), Kentucky (a 37-34 win), LSU (a 24-17 win), Alabama (a 28-27 win) or Oregon (a 22-19 win)?
But Newton and Fairley aren’t the only Tigers heading for the exit. Auburn will also lose a 24-man senior class that includes four starting offensive linemen and several key defensive vets (Mike Blanc, Josh Bynes and Zac Etheridge).
Now look at the Tigers’ schedule for next season:
At South Carolina
Mississippi State, South Carolina, Florida and LSU should be better in 2011. Clemson and Arkansas will be on the road this time around. Georgia, too. Alabama has holes but a lot of talent to fill them.
Add it up and you’re looking at a lot of question-mark games for Auburn. And remembering how Malzahn’s offense lost five of its last six SEC games in 2009 without Newton, it’s not hard to imagine a Barrett Trotter-led attack taking a big step backwards next year.
If you were to have to put money on the Tigers next year, in which games would you feel the most certain? Utah State, FAU, Ole Miss (at home) and Samford, right?
But the other eight games — especially that brutal at Carolina, at Arkansas, Florida, at LSU stretch — are toss-ups at best.
I know, I know, Auburn fans… 12-0 again. I hear ya. Every fanbase says that following an SEC title. Ask a Bama fan.
But to everyone outside of Southeast Alabama, who feels that a winning season is even a guarantee? At most, MrSEC.com would currently list Auburn as a favorite in only five or six games next fall. Doesn’t mean they’ll lose all the other ones, but they would not be clear favorites.