Auburn Football: How the Tigers Can Defeat Their Toughest Opponents

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IIJune 8, 2012

Auburn Football: How the Tigers Can Defeat Their Toughest Opponents

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    The Auburn Tigers will start the season off with a bang when they face the Clemson Tigers, and the rest of the season will remain an uphill battle littered with tough opponents. The Tigers, however, have will have detailed plans to prevent this. 

    The national championship is always the goal for every team, especially for the two powerhouses in the state of Alabama, but head coach Gene Chizik is intent on taking it one game at a time, just as he should. 

    At the moment, as the underdogs, the Tigers will face five teams with national title hopes looking to push Auburn out of the way.

    Here is how Auburn can beat these opponents. 

Clemson Tigers

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    Date: September 1, 2012

    Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA

    What makes them tough:

    The Clemson Tigers return a trio of electrifying playmakers that pose a serious threat to Auburn, all of whom convincingly defeated Auburn in 2011.

    Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns with a completion percentage of 71.4 in 2011. 

    Receiver Sammy Watkins (who is likely to play despite his drug charges) is one of the most game-changing players in college football, and he absolutely torched Auburn in 2011. 

    He caught 10 passes for 155 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 44 yards on only seven attempts.

    Running back Andre Ellington performed his role well in 2011, but struggled at times against Auburn who held him to a 3.3 yards-per-rush average.


    Why Auburn can beat them:

    Auburn's defense was very young in 2011 and was unable to stop the combo of Watkins and Boyd. That will likely change in 2012. 

    Tigers cornerback T'Sharvan Bell should readily handle Watkins and effectively cover him for the majority of the game. 

    Boyd will have other options, but the Tigers now-seasoned defense will be able to deal with them. 

    Auburn will look to build on their ability to shut down Ellington, and Clemson's rushing attack will produce very little. 

    On the offensive side, the Tigers' revamped offense will easily exploit Clemson's defense, which replaces three stellar defensive linemen, including second-round NFL draft pick defensive end Andre Branch.

    Defense starts up front, on the line, and Clemson doesn't have much up front at the moment.

    The game will be an offensive contest, and Auburn should be able to win in what will be a high-scoring game.

LSU Tigers

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    Date: September 22, 2012

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL

    What makes them tough:

    The LSU Tigers ran the table all season before they floundered in the national championship game against Alabama, and they return just about every key player. 

    What they don't return are their pretty awful quarterbacks, Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. They are replaced by one of the most promising quarterbacks in the nation, Zach Mettenberger. 

    The rest of the team is stacked and highlighted by their offensive line, running backs, secondary and defensive line that features two stellar defensive ends in Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. 

    They also return Heisman finalist cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.

    LSU will bulldoze past the majority of its competition in 2012.


    Why Auburn can beat them:

    It may taste like vinegar, but Auburn fans should thank Alabama for exposing the Honey Badger in terrible fashion during the national championship game. Auburn knows his weakness, and it will fully exploit it.

    Mathieu proved that he is average at best in typical cornerback duties when he could not roam free. And he will have a lot less freedom to roam around as shutdown cornerback Morris Claiborne is no longer with LSU. 

    Auburn's new quarterback, be it Clint Moseley or Kiehl Frazier, will attack Mathieu ruthlessly, especially if he finds himself matched up with receiver Emory Blake. 

    As for Blake, he will have his way with LSU's secondary. If Auburn's offensive line can hold off LSU's defensive line long enough for the quarterback to find Blake, there will be a lot of plays made.

    On the ground, Auburn's only chance is to attack the perimeter. Their speedy four-headed monster at running back will have some difficulty, but they should put up just enough yardage to keep the chains moving. 

    However, too heavy of a ground attack will leave Auburn open to Mathieu's M.O.: forcing turnovers, specifically in the fumble department. 

    Auburn can win this game by surprising LSU with an oustanding aerial attack, and if it can execute, the win is theirs. 

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Date: October 6, 2012

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL

    What makes them tough:

    The Arkansas game will be a repeat of the Clemson game; both teams are going to put up some serious points, just like they did in 2010.

    The Tigers will have to battle two of the best players at their position in the SEC. 

    Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson will ruthlessly attack Auburn's secondary, and running back Knile Davis will pound the ground just as well as Alabama's Trent Richardson did in 2011. 

    In 2011, Wilson slashed the Tigers defense for 262 yards (66.7 completion percentage, his fourth highest of the year) and two touchdowns with no interceptions. 

    Davis was out with injury in 2011, but against Auburn's great, underrated defense in 2010, he put up 113 yards of total offense.


    Why Auburn can beat them:

    The Razorbacks aren't the same team they were last year without what was arguably the best overall receiver corps in the nation, and they no longer have standout defensive end Jake Bequette.

    Auburn isn't the same team either. 

    Arkansas will be about the same, but Auburn has improved immensely since its 14-38 loss to the Hogs in 2011. 

    Quarterback Tyler Wilson will play well, but Auburn will have a much easier time shutting down his new receivers. 

    The Hogs are far from a defensive powerhouse, and Auburn's offense will run free the entire game. 

    Auburn's offense, however, is greatly improved and will cause a lot of headaches for a team that recently lost its head coach, Bobby Petrino. 

    Look for Auburn's rushing attack to be the deciding factor in this game, as Arkansas' slow, mediocre offense cannot keep up with them. 

    The only thing Auburn needs to do is hold off Davis. If they do that, Arkansas will be stuck trying to catch up for 60 minutes. 

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Date: November 10, 2012

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL

    What makes them tough:

    If it weren't for the Iron Bowl being such a big deal with bragging rights, Auburn's 2011 45-7 loss to Georgia was their most embarrassing of the season. 

    The Dawgs will look to repeat this as they return quarterback Aaron Murray (possibly the best in the SEC) and now-seasoned former 5-star running back Isaiah Crowell. 

    Their defense is just as stout and is led by linebacker Jarvis Jones, who rocked the SEC in 2011. He racked up 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for losses, and had two of each against Auburn. 


    Why Auburn can beat them:

    Auburn's chances of winning will come down to the play of defensive end Corey Lemonier. 

    If he cannot create constant pressure on Murray, the Tigers' chances of winning will be slim to none. 

    On the flip side, if Auburn can keep its quarterback safe from Jones, it will have a successful passing attack. 

    The rushing attack will perform well, but as perimeter specialists they will need some very clutch moves to avoid Georgia's outstanding safety Bacarri Rambo. 

    If the Tigers can protect their quarterback and dodge Rambo, the win will be in the books for Auburn. 

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Date: November 24, 2012

    Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL

    What makes them tough:

    It's Alabama.

    It's the Iron Bowl. 

    The Tide lose a lot on defense, but they return just as much, including a lot of promising players. The most promising fresh face is safety Vinnie Sunseri, who seems to have a knack for making big plays akin to LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. 

    They also return a national championship MVP quarterback in A.J. McCarron, who will have a better set of targets in 2012 than he did in 2011. 

    Running back Trent Richardson is gone, but his replacement, Eddie Lacy, had many 'Bama fans wondering who was the best running back on the Tide's roster. Lacy's yards-per-carry average was much better than Richardson's (7.09 to 5.93).

    Alabama's offensive line returns a ton of veterans, including Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, left guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker, all of whom will be in the NFL sooner than later. 


    Why Auburn can beat them:

    My inner Alabama fan tells me that Auburn doesn't have a chance in hell to win this game, but I can overcome that and be realistic. 

    When I look at the 2012 Iron Bowl realistically, I know that Auburn will have a great opportunity to dethrone the defending national champions.

    What's more, the better Alabama's 2012 record is when the Iron Bowl showdown happens, the better the Tigers will play. 

    It's the Iron Bowl, and both teams play to a much higher level than they do during the rest of the season. 

    Auburn will have a lot of difficulty with Alabama's incredible offensive line, but IT proved it can be beaten in 2011. Defensive end Corey Lemonier embarrassed left tackle Barrett Jones a few times during that game.

    The X-factor in the game will be Alabama's extremely promising yet inexperienced new receiver corps. All the new receivers have had limited or no playing time in 2011. 

    They will essentially be veterans by late November, but promise and talent mean little until they prove it on the field. 

    Alabama's defense will be fast and brutal, as usual, so the ground game cannot be the Tigers focus as the Tide's rush defense will not have a drop in production. 

    The Tide, however, does not have a proven pass-rushing game, and that is where the Tigers will have to direct their energy. 

    I recognize the majesty of the Iron Bowl, and this will be the toughest contest of the season for both teams.