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Can the Tigers repeat as SEC champs?
Auburn was one of the biggest surprises of the 2013 college football season. The Tigers went 3-9 in 2012 but finished 12-2 and lost by three points to Florida State in the national championship last year.
As expected under coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s offense guided this team to a SEC title. The Tigers averaged 39.5 points per game and ranked No. 1 nationally in rush offense. Running back Tre Mason was a Heisman finalist, while left tackle Greg Robinson went No. 2 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Auburn's defense allowed 24.7 points per game, but this unit ranked near the top of the SEC in redzone and third-down defense.
The Tigers return 13 starters for 2014, including quarterback Nick Marshall and receiver Sammie Coates. And despite the loss of Mason and Robinson to the NFL, Auburn's offense will be among the best in the nation. A challenging schedule awaits this year, but Auburn’s roster might have more overall depth than it did in 2013. If the offense continues to score around 40 points per game, the Tigers should have a good shot to repeat as SEC champs.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), AthlonSports.com
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), AthlonSports.com
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
David Fox (@DavidFox615), AthlonSports.com
Brandon Larrabee (@TeamSpeedKills), TeamSpeedKills.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), AthlonSports.com
Early Auburn Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
|San Jose State|
|at Kansas State|
|at Miss. State|
|at Ole Miss|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite losing left tackle Greg Robinson, running back Tre Mason and a couple of key defenders, Auburn’s biggest concern in 2014 shouldn’t be personnel. The Tigers have one of the nation’s most-explosive offenses and will find a capable replacement for Mason at running back. Quarterback Nick Marshall should progress as a passer, and Auburn quietly has one of the best receiving corps in the SEC. The defense is the biggest concern for coach Gus Malzahn, especially with defensive end Carl Lawson sidelined indefinitely. Expect Auburn to win plenty of shootouts this year, but the schedule is arguably the biggest reason to pick against a repeat in the SEC West. The Tigers visit the Magnolia State to matchup against two teams on the rise in Mississippi State and Ole Miss, and there are two huge games against Georgia and Alabama on the road in November. Keep in mind, the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide will have revenge on the mind in both matchups. It’s also difficult to expect Auburn to go 6-1 again in games decided by one score or less. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Tigers finish 11-1, but 10-2 or even 9-3 appears more likely.
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
The Kansas State game scares me for Auburn. A Thursday night game on the road against Bill Snyder’s team? No thanks. But I’ll take Auburn to escape with a close win. The LSU game should be difficult, but I’ll take Auburn to hold on and get the win against a team with a young quarterback on the road.
That’s where it gets tricky for Auburn. The Tigers will travel to Mississippi State, which came close to beating Auburn last year. Of course, that was early in the season before Auburn’s offense really took off. I’ll still take Mississippi State to pull off the upset at home. I think Auburn will bounce back and beat South Carolina with a week off to prepare. But I have Auburn will losing its final two road games at Georgia and Alabama, leaving Auburn with a solid but disappointing 9-3 record.
Brandon Larrabee (@TeamSpeedKills), teamspeedkills.com
I think the "luck" angle for Auburn has gotten so trumped up over the last few months that it's easy to forget that Auburn was still a very good team in 2013. Yeah, they got the flukiest of fluke wins against Georgia and then followed that up with a win against Alabama that was nearly as bizarre -- but Auburn also pushed Florida State as hard as the Seminoles got pushed by anyone all season long and won 10 games that didn't involve the kind of great fortune that the Tigers in the two wins everyone talks about. With most of the offense coming back and two of the four toughest games coming at home, double-digit wins feels almost like a floor for this team. I might even pick them over Alabama if the Iron Bowl weren't played at the end of the year -- but the Tide will have had time to fix any kinks and Nick Saban will have revenge on his mind.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Tigers offense, led by a returning star at quarterback and a deep collection of offensive lineman and pass catchers, should be even more balanced and dangerous in 2014 than it was a year ago. This is a scary thought for opposing coordinators. However, the defense still has question marks, the schedule is dramatically more difficult and its impossible for the bounces to go as well for Auburn again this fall. I wouldn't pick Auburn to lose at home but two or three road losses is very possible as the rest of the league begins to learn how to stop (aka, slow down) Gus Malzahn's offense.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
While there's a chance Auburn's offense could be even better this season compared to last, which is a scary thought, I am concerned the same could be said for the defense. And not in a good way. Despite the Tigers' ridiculous offensive numbers in 2013, this team needed every break and lucky bounce to win its way to a spot in the national championship game. This same fortune can't be counted on this season and it should be pointed out that the early trip to Manhattan to play Kansas State makes the non-conference slate trickier this fall. As far as the SEC schedule goes, Gus Malzahn's team has to play Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama — three teams Auburn beat by eight or fewer points in '13 — away from Jordan-Hare Stadium and all in a five-week span in the final month of the season. Even with all Malzahn's offensive wizardry and plenty of talent, I have a hard time picking the Tigers to win 10 games again this season, let alone repeat as SEC champs.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Wow. That road schedule is brutal. I might like Auburn in games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss at home, but those are tough rubber games to have on road trips. Kansas State is no gimme, either. Auburn will find a way from slipping from 12-2 to seven wins, but it’s going to be closer than any Auburn fan would want to admit. The Tigers were 11th in the SEC in yards per play allowed in conference games, and now they’re dealing with losing perhaps their top pass rusher in Carl Lawson. This may be a boom-or-bust team in 2014.