The Auburn Tigers were rightfully nowhere to be found on ESPN's "College Football Live" preseason Top 25. Many fans will vehemently disagree with this notion, but the Tigers aren't quite ready to make their way back onto the national stage.
Auburn went 8-5 last year after losing Cam Newton and Nick Fairley to the NFL draft—the leaders of their offense and defense in 2011. They are returning most of their starters and the future does indeed look bright.
However, there are a few reasons why the Tigers aren't yet ready to ascend to the top of the college football rankings.
No True Leader on Offense
At this moment, Gene Chizik has yet to name a starting quarterback.
Per AL.com, he is considering three young men for the position and until they establish who that player is going to be they have no business being ranked in the Top 25.
Chizik will choose between Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and Zeke Pike, none of whom have proven to be worthy of taking such an exalted position. I'm not saying one of them won't succeed at bringing the team back to their winning ways eventually, but for now they have a lot to prove.
Coach Chizik talked about the search for their starter:
Playing in this league, you've got to have thick skin...He's going to have a bad day. When he does that, how does he respond to that? That's going to be a huge, huge indicator on how he's going to be able to weather some of the storms that quarterbacks have to go through in this league.
We're going to try to put enough people around him so he doesn't have to win the games alone, and we're going to try to give him a great chance to be successful.
Unfortunately, that doesn't sound like a coach who's got a superstar waiting in the wings.
Defense is Young and Inexperienced
The Tigers should be better this year on defense than they were in 2011, but they aren't ready to take the leap to become an elite unit just yet.
Pat Dye did a special feature for Scout.com in which he analyzed the Auburn defense. He expects a couple of freshman to start this year in defensive tackle Gabe Wright and middle linebacker Kris Frost.
Dye's final take on the Tigers defense in 2012:
If experienced players like Whitaker, Bates, Ford, Lemonier and Holland, as well as a couple of guys in the secondary, step up as leaders this defense will be fun to watch develop.
The optimum word there is "develop."
Should the Tigers be in the Top 25?
Auburn is going to be a much-improved team this year, but being in the SEC means they will be facing the toughest competition in the nation.
LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina are all superior teams at this point.
The Tigers will be a fun team to watch all-around in 2012 and I expect them to win at least one more game this year than they did last year. They just aren't quite ready to become a national powerhouse.