Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Champs: How quickly can Auburn rebuild?

First there was a little smoke, as the rumors began to ride the air out of Lee County during spring practices. The plume grew at the beginning of the summer camp and through the first few games of the 2010 season. The flames grew and spread during the back-to-back wins against Clemson and USC, when the home team made every big play and watched their opponents self-destruct at every key moment.

Auburn was onto something big. Big new quarterback. Big brain at offensive coordinator. Big play defense that played faster and hit harder as the game wore on.

And the team rode those traits through pundits' low expectations, a national furor over its star player and out of a seemingly bottomless hole on the home field of its bitterest rival.

That's a lot to fit in the rear-view mirror. Suffice to say, the Tigers are a much different team in 2011. Cam Newton is gone. So is Nick Fairley and Josh Bynes and most of both lines.

There's talent -- Auburn should benefit from back-to-back recruiting bonanzas -- and justifiable excitement on The Plains on how the kids will play.

But there is also this: Every rival game on the Tigers' schedule has been circled -- in Columbia, Athens, Fayetteville, Baton Route and Tuscaloosa -- not only because Auburn is the defending champs but also because of the Tigers' intense -- some would say chippy -- style of play.

There's also the specter of an ongoing NCAA investigation, which AU partisans don't like to talk about, but which a top NCAA official confirmed in direct response to coach Gene Chizik's persistent questioning at the SEC meetings.

What's it all mean? This assessment says as many wins as losses. But Auburn is onto something -- great recruiting, good coaching and a fiery "us-against-all-of-'em'' approach that speaks to something deep in the program's psyche.

The outcome of the NCAA probe is the ultimate wild card, sure. But don't be surprised if Auburn, again, overachieves, then look out for 2012.

mg

5 comments:

Michael said...

Sorry for the Sunday morning double post.

We're combining: This comment from JakeNC

Next year, Auburn will be back in the running for SEC Champion. This year won't be bad, but lots of good young players will be much better next year.

Alex said...

My gut prediction...

W - Utah St.
W - Mississippi St.
L - @ Clemson
W - Fla. Atlantic
L - @ So. Carolina
L - @ Arkansas
W - Florida
L - @ LSU
W - Ole Miss
L - @ Georgia
W - Samford
L - Alabama

So... expecting 6-6, hoping we can steal a couple of road games or the Iron Bowl and get to maybe 8-4. WDE

EatEmAndSmile said...

I have been hard on Auburn with my comments lately but I don't think they will go 6 - 6. Their recruiting has been too good and plus they have Malzahn on the sidelines.

I look for them to steal at least one SEC road game, perhaps USC-E or Georgia, and I think they will beat Clemson. The Mississippi State game could be a loss for Auburn due to it being the second game of the season. That is a tough game for a young team, with a new QB, to get ready for that soon. I think 7 - 5 is more realistic.

Still looking forward to the beat down they will be receiving in Fayetteville. Don't bring the tiger van. I would hate to see it get burned, again.

Anonymous said...

10-2

J said...

TideFans seems to ascribe to the theory, "You are a freshman, therefore you will fail." Every time he mentions a freshman in a key role, he casts it in a negative light. Of course it's going to be an adjustment going from high school to the SEC. But just because a guy is a freshman doesn't mean he's going to suck for a year.

Also, if you had been on a desert island for a year and read this review of AU running backs, you would assume they must have thrown 60 times a game to get that national title. His lack of respect for Dyer and McCalebb is amazing.

My expectation:

W - Utah St.
L - Mississippi St.
W - @ Clemson
W - Fla. Atlantic
L - @ So. Carolina
L - @ Arkansas
W - Florida
L - @ LSU
W - Ole Miss
W - @ Georgia
W - Samford
L - Alabama - but don't be surprised if we see a 1972 reinactment of an inferior Auburn team pulling the upset. (I say that mainly because the game is at Auburn.)

I don't expect any blowout losses - not even to Ar-Kansas.