The Auburn Tigers are back! It is time for a new season and with that comes a new coach, new staff, new players, a new start, and most importantly a new attitude.
The Tigers are ready to surprise the nation by returning to true form in what really should be no surpise at all. Expect the Tigers to go 9-3 and possibly better with a run or 8-4 with a hitch. Last year the Tigers were entering the season with high expectations and a new offensive system. Coaching staff turmoil, injuries, and bruised egos in the locker room led to a season of turmoil. With the offense struggling, the defense could carry the team only so far before losses, injuries, and attitudes mounted up.
Enter 2009. The Tigers have a new coaching staff with awesome chemistry, one that has the players focused and training to redeem themselves. Several of the losses last season were close and the Tigers led most of those at the half. The offensive line has gained an average of more than 15 pounds each under the direction of new coordinator Gus Malzahn. The Tigers will choose from three worthy candidates at the quarterback position with the winner being quite capable of leading the team and Coach Malzahn's offense. The Tigers are set at running back with Tate, Fannin, and McCalebb. Tate is expecting a 1000 yard season. The receivers are eager to show off their new found discipline under the coaching of Trooper Taylor. With an offense that will move the football, the defense is raring to go and will return to dominant form. With returning Defensive End Antonio Coleman, the defensive line will take pressure off of the secondary and allow a Chizik-coached defense to return to Top 10 form. If the offense gets first downs, look for this defense to keep points off the board.
The schedule. The Tigers will play 3 non-conference games and a weak SEC opponent to start the season and will play the fourth non-conference game in November. The September schedule should provide a stepping stone for the rest of the season.
September 5 vs. Louisiana Tech. The season opener for the new coaching staff and for players and fans anxious to heal the wounds of last season will provide the only needed incentive in this game. Yes the LT Bulldogs pulled off a bowl season with a win over Northern Illinois, but their past record won't translate to on the field play. The Tigers have the athletes and size and this one will end up looking like the spring game without Chizik's special scoring system. The Defense will be allowed to sack the quarterback and will. Kodi Burns will not have to stop at the touch of a jersey and should easily lead a potent offense down the field. The Tigers will play many players in an effort to cement the depth chart and will have many fresh legs. Tigers by 3 touchdowns or more, 45-14.
September 12 vs. Mississippi State. The Tigers will get into SEC play early but should return to form by confidently handling the Bulldogs. MSU is also replacing a coaching staff but also has to revamp the roster. It will take a while for MSU to install their system as well as their confidence. At home the Tigers should prevail handedly in this one. If the Bulldogs can keep it close early the score will stay close, but the Tigers should run away with this one. The Bulldogs will have trouble at quarterback and keeping the quarterback off the ground. The MSU defense is strong but the Tigers will score at least 3 touchdowns in this one. If field position gets lopsided, this one could be a blowout. Tigers by 3 touchdowns, 31-10.
September 19 vs. West Virginia. This is a pivotal game for the Tiger's entire season. This game is set up to be a role-swapping season-setting game for both teams. Last year it was the struggling Mountaineers waiting to redeem themselves and the Tigers with high expectations. The Mountaineers have lost Pat White and along with him the last of Rodriquez's chemistry. The Mountaineers are on the wane and it is now the Tigers who anxiously await a chance to redeem themselves. The Tigers will enter with growing confidence and play at home against a team that beat them last year. Auburn led that game at the half but once again let a lead slip away. With new attitude and more horses, the Tigers won't let that happen again this year. Look for steady scoring against an average WVU defense and look for the Tigers to have a stronger showing than last year on the defensive side of the ball. The AU offense will provide important rest for the AU defense and they will stay strong. Look for the score to be a reversal of last year in which the game is close to the half but will see Auburn pull away this time. Auburn wins 41-20.
September 26 vs. Ball State. This game will provide more excitement in the press than it will on the field. This game will be a game between a coach that got the job against the coaching candidate that didn't. Auburn will also have the coordinator from the Tulsa team that beat Ball State in last year's bowl game in Guz Malzahn. Everyone fell in love with the fact that Ball State was 12-0 last year, before Ball State lost their last 2 games and before anyone looked into the details of Ball State's schedule. The majority of Ball State's schedule was against 2 and 3 win teams. Welcome to the SEC Ball State! This game won't be close. Tulsa won last year's bowl game 45-13. The same offensive coordinator with new talent and a crushing defense to back him up will put things back in order. Tigers win a serious blowout 59-3.
September will set up Auburn with a momentous start leading into road games against Tennessee and Arkansas. The Tigers will then play Kentucky at home, on the road against LSU, and at home against Ole Miss and Furman. Furman is the Tiger's last non-conference game and will mark their home coming as well as another blowout win. The stage will then be set for rival games at Georgia and home to Alabama.
The Tigers will win at Tennessee and will struggle on the road against Arkansas. Kentucky will provide a test at home. The true tests for Auburn this year will be against LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. Look for the Tigers to win at least one and likely 2 of those games. Ole Miss will be Auburn's strongest opponent this year, and Auburn led last year's game late. This sets the stage for a 9-3 season. With a run, good health and a new attitude, Auburn will be capable of beating any opponent on their schedule. With a hitch and slow growth the Tigers are still looking at 8-4. My gut tells me 10-2 and with a hitch the Tigers will finish 9-3.