It's time for me to contribute to B/R, and I couldn't think of a better subject than Auburn Football. Since that's why we are all here, right?
I am going to try and evaluate Auburn's opponents this coming year. Since I have neither the time nor the patience to do all of them at once, I'll break it down into several parts.
So, here goes.
Louisiana Tech. WAC Conference—Sept. 5th, 2009 @ Auburn
The Bulldogs are coached by Derek Dooley. In his third year there, they have shown consistent improvement, winning a bowl game last year.
They had the nation's best graded kick and punt teams, but lost both the kicker and the punter to graduation. They do, however, return their ace return man, Phillip Livas. He is a starting wide receiver also.
On defense, the line is anchored by Lombardi watch list candidate D'Anthony Smith, who had 65 tackles last year, five of them sacks. Along with senior safety Anthony Baker, the Bulldogs were strong against the run. The Bulldogs must find replacements at both corners.
On offense, they return an experienced QB who went 6-2 as a starter last year, and an experienced RB who needs 1,100 yards to become the programs all-time leader.
While Auburn "should" win every time against the WAC teams, do not underestimate the coaching staff at La. Tech. With starters returning at key positions, this will be closer than most think. At least in the first half.
Mississippi State. SEC—Sept. 12th, 2009 @ Auburn
Another Bulldog team, this one with less bite. These Bulldogs are coached by first year man Dan Mullen. The offensive coordinator from Florida in 2008 is trying to install a similar offense to what Auburn is doing this year.
On offense, they return RB Anthony Dixon. Reliable and durable, Dixon needs only 610 yards to become their all-time career rusher. Unfortunately, after Dixon, the list of play makers diminishes drastically.
On defense, they return Junior Line Backer K.J. Wright, who had 72 tackles last year, four of them being sacks.
West Virginia. Big East—Sept. 19th, 2009 @ Auburn
Coached by second year man Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers are a very powerful and disciplined team.
Stewart brought in a new offensive line coach to shore up the inability they had last year to pass block, especially when behind late in a game. The Mountaineers return only one starter at his position, Selvish Capers. Don't let that fool you, though, they are moving some around to maximize their potential. Auburn saw first hand last year how this team can run when they need to.
Most interesting, though, is the kicking game. Coach Stewart "threw out" the kickers from a recent team meeting because of his disdain for their efforts thus far this spring.
On defense, they return a sizeable and experienced interior line, but their smallish exterior linemen could spell trouble.
Ball State. Mid-American Conference—September 26th, 2009 @ Auburn
The Cardinals are lead by first year head coach Stan Parrish.
On offense, they lost their QB to the NFL. However, they return their top RB MiQuale Lewis, who rushed for 1,736 yards last season. That was good enough for fifth best ever in the MAC. They also return WR Briggs Orsbon, who caught six passes or more in seven games. He had a breakout performance against Buffalo in the MAC Championship game with 13 catches.
That gets us through September. If Auburn can go 3-1 or 4-0, then the season will be off to a good start. Any less, and it could be tough sledding once we get into October.