John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn junior running back Tre Mason.
Prediction: 6-6, 2-6 (Tied-5th in SEC West)
It’s hard to imagine that Auburn won the the BCS National title just three years ago after what the nation witnessed last season. The Tigers went an embarrassing 3-9 and head coach Gene Chizik was fired.
Now it is former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who helped lead the Tigers to a national championship before leaving to coach Arkansas State for one season, who is back at Auburn to get the football program back on track.
The Tiger offense was as Charles Barkley would say, “terrible” last season. They ranked 115th in the nation averaging 305 yards per game. The biggest question mark for Malzahn is which quarterback will step up and help his team win games?
Junior Kiehl Frazier, a dual-threat quarterback that was recruited by Malzahn when he was an offensive coordinator at Auburn, would be the obvious choice to be the starter. Unfortunately, Frazier struggled last season due to his poor passing. This means sophomore Jonathan Wallace, who split time with Kiehl last season, is in the running to be the starter as well. The backfield returns 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason and the receiving corps is a bit bare after losing Emory Blake.
The offensive line, which struggled last season returns four starters including Patrick Miller and Greg Robinson.
Ellis Johnson will take over the defense and will switch from a 4-3 defense to a 4-2-5 scheme instead. Junior Justin Garrett looked impressive in the spring and will play the hybrid safety/linebacker position known as the “Star”. The line, led by senior defensive end Dee Ford, is experienced and should be able to put pressure on the opposing team's quarterback. The secondary only recorded one interception last season, but returns cornerback Chris Davis and safety Jermaine Whitehead.
It should not be difficult to top last year’s win total of three. Auburn has a chance to start off 3-0 this season with home games against Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State. After that though, Malzahn’s squad will have to step it up. Home games against LSU (Sept. 21) and Ole Miss (Oct. 5), along with a road game at Texas A&M (Oct. 19) will be difficult. For the Tigers to become bowl eligible they need to win their non-conference games against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, as well as win at either Arkansas or Tennessee. The Tigers should be at least .500 at the end of the regular season and bowl eligible.