Auburn Football: The Ins and Outs, Highs and Lows of the 2012 Schedule
The Auburn Tigers are coming off a successful 8-5 season for such a young team. This year, they return the majority of that team and have even higher expectations as they try to compete for an SEC championship, despite the fact nobody is really talking about them early on.
The Tigers return 19 starters, including 10 on the defensive side of the ball. But before we can consider them contenders in the SEC West, it's time to look at that schedule. Spring practice and spring games are other with, so we can now officially focus on the upcoming season.
Here is your 2012 Auburn Tigers complete schedule breakdown.
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We're not going to spend much time breaking this game down. No, it's not the Georgia Bulldogs—it's the New Mexico State Aggies, a team that hasn't won five or more games since 2004. If the Auburn Tigers end up losing this game by some fluke, they should be banned from the SEC for at least five years.
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You could pick several games from the Auburn schedule for this slide. After all, they do play in the SEC West. But if I had to pick, I'd go with the Arkansas Razorbacks. This is a team that beat the Tigers by 24 points last season and only got better with the return of running back Knile Davis.
It's not far-fetched to have the Razorbacks as the favorite to win the conference, and the last time we saw Auburn's defense, they didn't look too hot. This will be a tough match-up on both sides of the ball, even with the Tigers playing at home.
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Considering we already picked on New Mexico State, we'll pick Louisiana-Monroe to be the team that Auburn will blow out this season. The Warhawks are from the Sun Belt conference, the same conference as FAU, who Auburn beat 30-14 last season.
This is one of those games that you can miss and feel comfortable your team won.
Potential for Disaster
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Much like the game against Arkansas, the game against the Clemson Tigers also could get ugly. Clemson is another team that scores oodles of points, and they return seven starters from an offense that dropped over 600 yards on Auburn last season. The Tigers should be one of the favorites to win the ACC and a dark horse candidate to reach the national championship.
Let's also remember that this game will be the first game of the season, and teams tend to take a while to get going. In order for Auburn to prevent a disaster, the defense must have their track shoes on and be ready to step up to the plate.
Most Intriguing Matchup
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Auburn has beaten the Commodores 13 of the last 14 meetings, but this won't be a walk in the park for either team. James Franklin is doing a fabulous job with this program, and increased last season's win total by four games in his first year as head coach.
Last season, Vanderbilt lost to Georgia by only five, Arkansas by three and Florida by five. They return 12 starters from last year's squad, including eight on the offensive side of the ball.
With the game being played in Vanderbilt Stadium, this is a matchup that Tiger fans shouldn't take lightly, as both teams are fighting for respect amongst their peers.
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I know Mississippi State was a very inconsistent team last season, and they lost their starting quarterback and workhorse running back to graduation. But that doesn't mean the Tigers should overlook the Bulldogs in this match-up.
First, the game is taking place in Davis Wade Stadium, which is never an easy place to earn a victory with those cowbells constantly ringing. Second, this is a major letdown game, considering it takes place right after the big Week 1 match-up against Clemson.
The Bulldogs are also returning seven starters from a defensive unit that was ranked 16th in scoring defense. And quarterback Tyler Russell has looked really good throughout the spring as well.
The Tigers have beaten the Bulldogs in 10 of the last 11 meetings, but if they get caught looking ahead to LSU, they will pay a hefty price.
Rivalry Game Prediction
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Auburn returns 18 starters, which means that the game should be much closer than the 42-14 score that occurred last season. But even with all of the talent that the Tigers are bringing back, it's hard to imagine them beating Alabama this season.
They still have to answer the quarterback position. They still have to fix a defense that was ranked 79th in the country. They also have to find depth at running back and discover playmakers at wide receiver.
There's no question that Auburn will be much better than they were last season, but the question is, how much better?
Asking me in April who's going to win a game that takes place at the end of November, I'm going to go with the team that has less question marks and is playing at home.
Alabama wins: 35-24
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Maybe I'm crazy, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Tigers upset the Tigers. In other words, as of right now, I have Auburn knocking off LSU.
Of course this is going to take a better showing from Auburn's defense, as they'll have to stop a team that's about eight deep at the running back position. But how good is quarterback Zach Mettenberger truly going to be? This will be the first true test for LSU as they open the season with teams like North Texas and Idaho.
I also have history on my side in this game, as Auburn has won five of the last six meetings that have taken place in Jordan-Hare Stadium. LSU also has questions on the defensive end, losing tons of depth in the secondary and two starting linebackers from a season ago.
If Auburn can control the ground game and get the crowd going early, watch out.
Heisman Highlight Game
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I believe that if you're going to win the Heisman, you have to gain as much attention as possible early on in your campaign. It doesn't happen any sooner than the first week of the season, in a big game against the Clemson Tigers. That game will likely be a prime-time event, and will take a great offensive performance against somebody on the Auburn squad to pull off a victory.
The true question for this slide is who is Auburn's Heisman candidate?
Quarterback Kiehl Frazier, running back Onterio McCalebb or receiver Emory Blake?
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Auburn has several tough games on their schedule, but if they want to reach a respectable bowl game, they must knock off the new team in the SEC West. Not only because they're the new team that will be looking to make noise early on, but because after the Aggies, the Tigers play two of their final four games against Georgia and Alabama.
Not exactly an easy stretch, and Auburn certainly doesn't want to end the last five games of the season with three potential losses. Texas A&M returns 17 starters from a year ago, and at the very least, a victory here would prove that Auburn isn't too far off from becoming what they were in 2010.