2010 has been a special year for the Auburn Tigers. A wild, overtime win over Northwestern on January 1 began a streak of 14 consecutive wins this year.
As we look ahead to 2011, here are some things Auburn should strive to do in the new year.
Let me wish you and your family a blessed and happy New Year as well. Here's my list in a somewhat chronological order—comment on what you would add or what is most important!
Possibly the biggest factor in BCS games in the current system is how each team handles the long layoff with Christmas Break in between.
With a 37-day break between the SEC Championship Game and the national title game, it is imperative that Auburn remains focused and stays hungry.
All the focus needs to be on January 10.
I don't really believe in the Heisman "jinx," but winners do often play at a lackluster level in their bowl games.
I would expect Cam Newton to be able to handle the pressure and expectations that come with winning the trophy, considering all the other things he has overcome this season.
It's a good extra bit of motivation, however, to try to finish the season as a national champion and not just a Heisman winner.
Obviously, this is the most important resolution. Winning a national championship would mean so much to so many people, including a tremendous senior class that has been through a lot in their time at Auburn.
Turnovers will be huge on January 10, as both offenses should find the end zone at least a few times. Taking care of the ball will be paramount, as will the running game for both teams.
Sure, getting back Fairley and Newton seems like a long shot, but you never know. Just getting back one of those guys would be huge for next season. It is always tough to try to get NFL-eligible players to come back for the next season.
Guys like Darvin Adams and Neiko Thorpe will be expected to carry the load next season at their positions as seniors. Getting back to two or three of those four players will help ease the transition into 2011.
Auburn took a big step in this direction when they secured Gus Malzahn to a new contract. He should be back to run the offense in 2011.
Trooper Taylor, Curtis Luper and Tracy Rocker could be in line for promotions in the next couple years. One of the keys to this year's success was staff stability, and keeping as many of those coaches on as possible will only help in the future.
In 2011, the Tigers must continue to recruit at a high level. The commitments have been slow to come in, but the Auburn coaches have put themselves in position to end the 2011 class in a huge way.
A ton of top prospects have Auburn listed as their favorite or one of their top choices. Between now and signing day, the season of recruiting will really pick up.
Auburn needs another big class to help them sustain the loss of 24 seniors and most likely, a couple of juniors. Signing day should be fun to watch.
Gene Chizik has laid the foundation at Auburn quicker than anyone could have expected. He's done things his way and in a way that has impressed and won over the Auburn family.
In 2011, it will be important to continue to implement Chizik's way of doing things. This will be a much younger team next season. They probably will not be able to go undefeated in the SEC again, but next season will really provide the foundation for the Chizik's long-term success at Auburn.
If there's been one weakness in 2010, it's been Auburn's pass defense.
Ted Roof's defensive strategy is to stop the run first and give up the short pass, causing offenses to be patient and slowly move the ball down the field. For the most part, that strategy has worked this season.
But there have been times where the downfield coverage has been a big problem. With Thorpe, Bell and Mike McNeil returning, along with some big time recruits in the secondary, that unit should be improved next season.
In 2011, the Tigers will be the hunted team in the SEC. There's a reason no one has repeated as national champions in over a decade. It is extremely difficult to put together back-to-back championship contending seasons.
This season, Auburn wanted revenge against Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Next season, four of those five will be looking to avenge losses from 2010 against Auburn.
Auburn has had a target on their back for the last few weeks of the season, but it will be there for almost all of 2011.
The schedule was friendly in terms of home and away games this season. Next year, as it does every two years for Auburn's schedule, it turns downright mean.
Auburn must travel to Baton Rouge, Fayetteville, Athens, Clemson and Columbia. All in 2011. Not to mention home games against Florida and Alabama.
It will be a tough road in 2011, and the Tigers will have to play very well on the road to simply go to a good bowl game.