The Auburn Tigers are a bit under the radar in the SEC going into the 2013 college football season, but that may not be such a bad thing.
With Gus Malzahn installed as head coach and low expectations for a program largely expected to be in the midst of rebuilding, the Tigers will have a chance to forge an identity and maybe even surprise a few people in the process this year.
Nick Marshall will have a chance to see what he can do now that he is installed as the starter under center and Auburn has addressed its biggest offseason conundrum.
The former junior college standout beat out true freshman Jeremy Johnson plus former starters Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier for the gig.
Let’s check out the complete schedule for the 2013 Auburn Tigers, and make some predictions on how the team will do this season
Marshall Will Shine in First Season
If all goes according to plan, Nick Marshall may be the best quarterback to hit Jordan-Hare stadium since Cam Newton’s record-setting 2010 season.
During his sophomore campaign at Garden City Community College in Kansas, the sophomore signal-caller threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns. Don’t discount his legs either, as the 6’1”, 210-pounder rushed for another 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Those are solid numbers—albeit against subpar competition—that should translate to immediate success with the Tigers.
Marshall previously played for Georgia, but was dismissed from the Bulldogs back in 2012.
ESPN’s Greg Ostendorf brings us this quip from coach Malzahn via press release:
He [Marshall] has caught on quickly in the short period of time he has been with us. He is a playmaker with a big upside, and once he becomes more comfortable with the offense, he has the chance to improve each week.
It may take a few games to find his rhythm, which is why the Tigers are fortunate to play an easy schedule to open the season.
Auburn should start the year 3-0 and have Marshall established before things get tough in the SEC.
Malzahn Will Prove He Is Right Man for Job
Back when Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator under head coach Gene Chizik, Auburn possessed one of the most prolific offensive attacks in the nation.
The team averaged nearly 500 yards per game during the 2010 season, largely credited to Newton’s presence under center, but the offensive coordinator should have received a bit more recognition for his efforts.
Malzahn will have a chance to garner those accolades now that he is calling the shots, although it will certainly be a bit more difficult with the less-skilled personnel on his roster.
Regardless, Marshall seems like he is a dark horse candidate to rapidly develop into one of the top quarterbacks in a conference loaded with talent at the position.
If he can achieve a modicum of the success Newton attained during his lone season on the Plains, the Tigers will be in great shape.
The rest of the pieces will eventually fall into place around him, so hopefully Malzahn can get the most out of Marshall.
If he does, it should prove to young athletic quarterbacks everywhere that Auburn deserves serious consideration during the recruiting process and will go a long way in helping to restore the university to its former glory.
Auburn Will Finish 7-5
After winning just three games during a dismal 2012 campaign, the Tigers will be back with a vengeance and bowl eligible this season.
Home contests against Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State should all be easy victories for Auburn and a great opportunity for Marshall to get a complete grasp on the offense.
The SEC-West showdown with LSU on Sept. 21 will likely end in defeat for the Tigers, which should give the Tigers plenty of motivation against Ole Miss two weeks later.
Western Carolina follows, which should be a chance to tune-up before the Texas A&M matchup at College Station.
Depending on whether or not incumbent Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel is on the field—he’s currently being investigated by the NCAA in a potential scandal—Auburn will either have a chance or get blown out.
The second half of the season gets more difficult after a game against Florida Atlantic, with games at Arkansas and Tennessee looking winnable, but tough.
Unfortunately, back-to-back losses are looming on the horizon when Georgia and Alabama come to town—both likely with national championship dreams.
Regardless, making it to a bowl—no matter how prestigious—is a huge step forward for the Tigers under Malzahn and should build hope for the future.