With all of the college football preview magazines out in full force, I noticed the usual suspects listed for the top spots: Georgia, Florida, Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma. A couple teams listed as possible BCS crashers, such as West Virginia or Missouri. And the more I looked at the various schedules these teams played, I noticed how Auburn was not being listed as a possible BCS challenger.
There are so many factors that need to be considered for a team's chances of winning a mythical national championship (sorry, but until we have a playoff system, nobody knows who is truly # 1 in our present system that is voted upon.). First and foremost, the team has to have the talent. Equally important, the team has to have good coaching. The schedule is a critical factor. The last two, injuries and luck, are important but cannot be counted upon. Let me explain why Auburn may be able to get to the BCS Championship Game because of these reasons:
1. Talent: Auburn is never at a loss for talent, as evidenced by their popularity in the NFL Draft year after year. Auburn's running game is traditionally very good, and the team has moved to a spread offense that they used with great effectiveness against Clemson in last year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl. The offense returns nine starters, but will be breaking in Kodi Burns into the probable starting QB spot for the new offense. The defense returns seven starters and is usually very fast along the defensive line and at the linebacker spots. The talent is there for Auburn to compete.
2. Coaching: Tommy Tuberville has some of the best teams in the country year after year yet never seems to get his name listed among the top coaches in the country. New offensive coordinator Tony Franklin installed the spread offense in time for Auburn to run it against Clemson; just think how much better they will be with a whole offseason to truly study it. New defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads comes from Pitt. Rhoads was the defensive coordinator of a Pitt team that shut down West Virginia last December in their quest for the BCS Championship. Auburn is well-coached.
3. The schedule: Here is why I think Auburn may be a title contender. Looking at the schedule, most of the big games are at home. Also important - Auburn does not play Florida this year, unless they play Florida in the SEC Championship. Let's go through the schedule quickly, and you'll see what I mean about the games Auburn should be favored to win (where I've placed a (W) next to their opponent~
August 30 Louisiana-Monroe (W)
Sept 6 Southern Miss (W)
Sept 13 @ Mississippi State (W): Even though Auburn lost to Mississippi State last season, I think they will be too much for Mississippi State this time.
Sept 20 LSU: Biggest game of the season for both teams at this point. Both should be 3-0, and these games usually go right down to the wire. I will take Auburn because it's at home, but only because it's at home for Auburn.
Sept 27 Tennessee: Another big game at home for Auburn. Auburn has won the last three times they have played Tennessee. I will again take Auburn at home for this one.
Oct 4 @ Vanderbilt (W)
Oct 11 Arkansas: Does anyone think Tuberville will be anxious to play against Arkansas now that Bobby Petrino is there? Me too. Auburn in a close one at home.
Oct 23 @ West Virginia: Probably the best Thursday night game on ESPN this season. Even though it's at West Virginia, I like Auburn here in a close one.
Nov 1 @ Ole Miss (W): Houston Nutt is a good coach, and he'll turn Ole Miss around eventually, but Auburn should have too much for them even though this game is at Ole Miss.
Nov 8 Tennessee-Martin (W)
Nov 15 Georgia: By this point, Georgia will have played all of their SEC East opponents. Last season, Georgia handled Auburn 45-20. I think Tuberville may have his guys looking for some payback at home for this one. Auburn in a close one.
Nov 29 @ Alabama: Nick Saban should be getting Alabama closer to a victory in this series. This could be the type of game for college football fans like last December 1st was - if Alabama wins here, it could knock Auburn out of BCS contention. I will go with Auburn in another close one.
If Auburn can survive that tough schedule, they will be the SEC West Champion and getting ready for the SEC East winner on December 6th.
Points 4 (Injuries) and 5 (Luck): Every team needs to avoid point 4 and have lots of point 5. If Auburn can do both, they could be in Miami on January 8th, 2009.
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