It's now time to move on with our series of attempting to predict the 2009 season in the SEC. Today we take a look at our third team by taking a trip out to the plains of beautiful Alabama and take a look at the Auburn Tigers.
With all of the controversy over the firing of Tommy Tuberville and subsequent hiring of Gen Chizik, the Auburn faithful are confident that this team will be heads and tails better than last years team. By all accounts, the team is coming together under coach Chizick, but I still see this as a rebuilding year with at least one more to come before Auburn returns to the glory days.
The fact that Auburn started their fall camp with only 71 scholarship players should tell you that the program is in for a rough year. Add to that a totally different coaching staff, new offense, and new defense, and you can see the Tigers will have their work cut out for them.
I see Auburn going 3-9 this year, with their only wins coming at Louisiana Tech, Ball State, and Furman and not winning any SEC games. I know this will not sit well with all of you Tigers fans, but the SEC is a crowded conference this year with just too many loaded teams for the crippled team to deal with.
And this is no knock on Auburn itself, it is just reality.
They open their SEC play in week two against Mississippi State on Sept. 12, and this may be their only chance for a conference win. But with the way Mississippi State is gelling under Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs will pull out a hard-fought win.
And do not look past West Virginia just because they are in the Big East, either. They consistently put together a good team, and will hand the Tigers their second loss on Sept. 19.
After winning at Ball State, Auburn has an absolute brutal SEC schedule, playing at Tennessee, at Arkansas, then with Kentucky at home before going back on the road at LSU, and then face Ole Miss at home.
I just cannot see the Tigers winning any of those games. There may be some close ones, but in the end, Auburn just can't finish either of them.
They then have a break with Furman, and then go to Georgia and then have Alabama at home. Georgia will be humming by this time and hand Auburn yet another loss.
I normally would say that you cannot pick an Iron Bowl winner in any given year. But after the drubbing Auburn received last year at the hands of the Crimson Tide, and with revenge on their minds, this may be the Tigers best game of the year (it usually is).
But after a brutal year that Auburn fans just want to get over so they can start working on next year as soon as possible, they will fall to the No. 1 ranked (by this time) 'Bama.
Now for some rambling; I will admit to being a 'Bama fan, but as I have said many times, I am all in all an SEC fan, so I do not want any of you to think I am just using this opportunity to bury a rival.
Auburn is a rival, but it is not a hatred, like some other teams. The hardest person to be honest with is yourself, and I put a lot of thought into this whole series. From the feedback, e-mails, and comments I receive, I think I am being as unbiased as I can in this.
But you have to be honest; this is a rebuilding year for the Auburn Tigers. I think the biggest mistake in college football was the firing of Tommy Tuberville and hiring of Gene Chizik. Tuberville may have been a rival, but he was one of the best coaches in the country. He bled orange and blue, and now Auburn Athletics must pay the piper. I am sure that if the money was right, he would come back.
Until then... well, who knows, we may have the new Vanderbilt in the conference, since they are winning now.