Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Date: November 24, 2012
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL
What Makes Them Dangerous
Like Tennessee, the Auburn Tigers will not look anything like their 2011 version that won the Chick-fil-A Bowl over Virginia.
Auburn returns a lot of starters who were tested in a trial by fire last season when they were far from ready. Their disappointing performances will pay dividends in 2012 when they take the field as seasoned veterans.
The Tigers will bring a four-headed monster at running back to the field.
However, unlike LSU's version, these Auburn players are all blazing fast and led by veteran running back Onterio McCalebb, who has proven himself many times against stout defenses and is rumored to run at or under a 4.3 40-yard dash.
Their running backs' ability to attack the perimeter is nearly unrivaled, but they can hit between the tackles as well with their offensive line.
Both of Auburn's guards are over 330 lbs., and their center, Reese Dismukes, has a good shot at proving himself as the best center in the SEC (yes, even ahead of Barrett Jones).
On the defensive side, the Tigers have a long list of experienced players, including the ones who were forced to start in 2011.
The stars include undersized-yet-ferocious linebacker Daren Bates, who is a vicious run defender, T'Sharvan Bell, who wrought havoc on the Tide in 2010, and defensive end Corey Lemonier, one of the best pass-rushers in the entire nation.
Lemonier is my vote as the Tigers' MVP, as in 2011 he racked up 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for losses and forced a whopping five forced fumbles.
Even Alabama fans must admit that this guy looks just as mean as Courtney Upshaw, as Lemonier beat left tackle Barrett Jones badly a couple times in the 2011 Iron Bowl.
Why Alabama Can Beat Them
Though Alabama will head into many games in 2012 on upset alert, the Auburn Tigers should prove to be their toughest competition outside of Arkansas and LSU.
The Tigers' defense will struggle to get to quarterback A.J. McCarron with such a staunch and seasoned offensive line.
Lemonier will have a lot of difficulty matching up against Alabama's new left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio who, even at 6'6", 322 lbs., is quick as a hiccup against even the fastest players.
The rest of the defense, however experienced and talented, will struggle against Alabama's new receiver corps that is as talented as any in the nation. National championship MVP quarterback A.J. McCarron will find his mark.
Auburn's offensive strength will lie in its running backs, but they will find it too difficult to attack up the gut. On the perimeter, Alabama's secondary is always extremely proficient at shutting down the outside.