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So You’re That Other School (Auburn Tigers Preview)

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on August 14, 2007

Lost in the circus that is Nick Saban’s arrival at the Capstone is the success that Tommy Tuberville and the Auburn Tigers has had over the last five years.

Since 2002, the Tigers have won 50 games, which is the best five-year win total in school history and includes an SEC Championship and undefeated season in 2004. Auburn has beaten the Tide five times in a row now as well, which has never happened before at any point in the history of Auburn football.

As Tommy Tuberville enters his ninth season on the Plains, the defending Cotton Bowl champions look to continue their success over the last five years and contend for yet another SEC West championship, which these days is the expected norm for Auburn fans.

On offense, the Tigers return senior quarterback Brandon Cox, who threw for 2,198 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2006, good enough for a QB rating of 138. 68. The problem is, however, that after having a monster sophomore season, Cox was beset by injuries in 2006, which gave backup Blake Field a little game experience as he went 8-for-9 in completions and had a QB rating of 119.34. With a healthy Cox back on the Plains, a better performance will be expected from the Auburn faithful.

What Cox won’t have this year is a plethora of experienced wide receivers as targets as former walk-on Rod Smith returns to the Plains for his junior year. In 2006, Smith caught 26 receptions for 452 yards and 4 touchdowns, good for second on the team. Joining Smith on the receiving corps will be sophomore Montez Billings and senior tight end Cole Bennett, who is one of three standout tight ends for the Tigers.

With the loss of Kenny Irons to the NFL, the Tigers will rely on junior Brad Lester, who will be one of four running backs to share the ball, as well as senior fullback Carl Stewart, who has versatility as a runner, receiver, and a blocker.

On defense, the Tigers, who were ranked in the upper echelons of Division I-A teams in total defense at 19th with 292.4 yards allowed per game last season, return seven starters on defense and the most notably being Sen’Derrick Marks, who was second in tackles for loss with 11 and has the speed to play inside as well as the end. He will be joined by fellow end and senior Quentin Groves, who bypassed NFL riches for one more season on the Plains after leading the team in sacks with 9.5 and tackles for loss with 12 last season.

Final analysis: In the last ten years, Auburn has ran circles around the folks in Tuscaloosa as far as recruiting, championships, and B.C.S. bowl berths are concerned. The schedule, for the most part, looks a bit favorable as Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt visit the Plains as well as rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl on November 24th, which will have more significance since Nick Saban is down at the Capstone now. The true test of the season for the Tigers will be an October 20th trip to LSU, which turns out to be an interesting matchup yearly. Should the Tigers keep their noses clean, there’s no telling what can transpire for the folks down in the Plains.

Projected record: 9-3 (6-2 SEC)

2007 Auburn Tigers

Sept. 1st Kansas State

Sept. 8th South Florida

Sept. 15th Mississippi State

Sept. 22nd New Mexico State

Sept. 29th at Florida

Oct. 6th Vanderbilt

Oct. 13th at Arkansas

Oct. 20th at LSU

Oct. 27th Ole Miss

Nov. 3rd Tennessee Tech

Nov. 10th at Georgia

Nov. 24th Alabama


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