Thursday, August 30, 2007

SEC Preview: The Forgotten Team Stays on Top

I know I’m going against the grain when I say Auburn should win the conference this season. But after looking at the facts, I don’t see how so many experts could disagree with my assessment of the season. This Auburn football team has lost three SEC games in the past three seasons (for a three year mark of 21-3). That is one of the most remarkable accomplishments I can think of in such a difficult conference. While many people do not want to give this team respect, the numbers don’t lie. College Football News ranked teams based on the past three years and Auburn finished ranked third, behind only USC and Texas. If you look at the 2007 AP or Coaches poll you will find both USC and Texas in the top five, but you won’t find Auburn until you get down to number eighteen. Amazing!

Like all the other contenders Auburn is very talented. According to, the last recruiting class was ranked seventh in the nation and the three year average is ten. This is by far the deepest most talented team Auburn has ever fielded since I closely started following football back in 1992. For the first time since I can remember Auburn fields not only talented starters but also talented backups for each position. This team is not deep in experience, but very deep in pure talent.

Offense: The offensive side of the ball is the reason why this is the forgotten team. Most folks want to discount this team because there will be four new starters on the offensive line. However, if you look at the facts I don’t see how anyone could make this claim. First, last season Auburn fielded one of the worst offensive lines in recent school history and still managed to win eleven games. Auburn ranked second to last in the entire SEC (behind only Kentucky) in giving up sacks. The new offensive line will feature young players, including at least two freshman starters, but they are so much more talented than what has been there in the past there can really be no comparison.

Another knock on this team is Brandon Cox and the inability to score points a year ago. Many people must not be aware that Cox was injured very early in the season and never recovered. Because Tuberville didn’t want to throw a true freshman into the fire, the coaches stuck with Cox. As a result, Al Borges put the brakes on the offense and turned to more of a power running which really didn’t really suit a team with such a poor offensive line. The truth is I would take Brandon Cox going into his senior year before I’d take any other recent Auburn QB at this point in his career.

Auburn will again be loaded at running back where up to four different guys have the ability to carry the load. While not the most experienced group, the wide receivers are loaded with talent and should step up and make some big plays this season.

Defense: This should be the best defense Auburn has fielded since I’ve been seriously following football since 1992. The group will be much more talented and experienced then they were a year ago. Plus, Will Muschamp will be in his second season and it is already showing as the players actually understand his defense and know their assignments.

Conclusion: The offensive line may struggle early, but they still shouldn’t be as bad as last season. By the time the first big game roles around (FL Sept. 29) this team should be ready to rock and roll. However, one must keep in mind Auburn has one of the toughest schedules in the league. They must play on the road against FL, LSU, Arkansas, and UGA. Despite being ranked so low in the preseason, surely if Auburn can make another run like in 2004 this team would be rewarded with the BCS title game. If Auburn is not able to win every game, they should at least make a BCS game.

Lamar’s pick: I know it is crazy to pick any team to go undefeated through the SEC, but I just don’t see any other way the SEC West winner can end up. One loss may be too many to make it to Atlanta. Auburn makes another 2004 run at 12-0 and 8-0 in the SEC. This time Auburn better get a shot at USC in the title game.

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