Expectations are the lowest they have been since 1999 in Auburn. The Tigers are coming off of a 3-9 season that demoralized the program, and put them at the bottom of the SEC.
The program is headed in the right direction, but expecting titles this year would be over the top. Winning eight games and producing a 1,000 yard rusher are all within reach.
Hitting the Malzahn warp speed is also an achievable goal.
This season will determine if the Tigers can make it back into the Western Division discussion, or if they will continue to fall away for the next few seasons.
It all starts with wins and a bowl game.
Win Eight Games
The Tigers head into the 2013 season with a manageable schedule laid before them.
Auburn will face Washington State to start the season, and it gets three straight home games. A road trip to Baton Rouge will be a tough game, but the program returns for a two game home stretch.
The final two games—Georgia and Alabama—will both come at home with a bye week in between for the Tigers.
With Arkansas State, Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic landing on the schedule, Auburn is set up for a solid year. If the Tigers can win seven games in the regular season and finish with a bowl win, Malzahn will have exceeded expectations.
This could be a rebirth for the Tigers program if they can land a bowl game and finish above .500.
Produce a 1,000 Yard Rusher
Last year it took every bit of effort that Tre Mason had to land 1,000 yards, but he got there.
This year the Tigers will produce another 1,000 yard rusher but it will come a lot easier than it did in 2012.
The Malzahn system is built to churn up rushing yards. There are three options in the backfield that have the potential to be the primary back for the Tigers, but Tre Mason is the leader heading into summer.
Cameron Artis-Payne made a strong push this spring, and he will see the field often this fall after his impressive showing on A-Day.
Don’t forget about Corey Grant who will serve the Onterio McCalebb role for the Tigers this fall. He will be dangerous as a runner and receiver in this offense.
Finding a running back to hit 1,000 this year won’t be far from reach.
Catch up to Malzahn
The Tigers have to adjust back from the pro-style offense this year with the Malzahn hurry-up style coming back to the Plains.
The offense is fast and the defense is being pushed to the limit. New strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell is getting the team where it needs to be, but there is still a gap that needs to be crossed before the team is at Malzahn’s level.
Auburn will be able to keep every defense they face off-balance if they can hit the speed that the Gus Bus is looking for.
For the Tigers to win this fall, they have to pick up the pace.
Hitting the expected pace by season's end is an attainable goal, and one that would make the Tigers tough to beat down the stretch. It would help them win a game or two they shouldn’t.
These three goals are all attainable and will be the difference in the Tigers finding the coach they expect in Gus Malzahn. Most fans will present tempered expectations on the surface, but inside they expect wins—now.