Auburn Tigers Football: Pre-Spring Predictions for the 2011 Season

Nathan Deal@@NateDawgAUCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2011

Auburn Tigers Football: Pre-Spring Predictions for the 2011 Season

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    2010 saw a historic year for the Tigers.

    After starting the season No. 22 in the polls after an 8-5 record in 2009, the Tigers were an unstoppable force, going 14-0 and shutting down Oregon's high-powered offense to capture their second national title in school history.

    Auburn QB Cameron Newton brought in the Heisman Trophy among other. Gene Chizik was named coach of the year by many organizations. Nick Fairley, barely known as a decent defensive lineman before the season, made offensive lines look softer than a pillow company sponsored by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on his way to winning the Lombardi Trophy. Gus Malzahn, Auburn's offensive coordinator, won the Broyles Award for the nation's top assistant coach.

    The real attraction of the season was the aforementioned Cameron Newton, who scored 51 touchdowns on the season and became the third player in college football history to throw and run for 20 TDs in a season (Florida's Tim Tebow did it in 2007 and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick did it in 2010).

    Newton's Law reigned supreme in 2010: An object that goes in motion remains in motion. The more Auburn rolled, the faster they got, leading up to a point where they won the SEC Championship Game by 39 and beat the No. 2 team in the nation for a crystal football that should have been awarded to Auburn's Lovelace Museum about six years ago.

    The Tigers faced their hardships, including early-season offensive struggles and an investigation into Newton's recruitment by Mississippi State, which briefly put his eligibility in jeopardy.

    Auburn fans remained faithful and some of these struggles only added to the already-roaring fire in Tiger fans' souls. They were rewarded.

    Out of all the BCS champions since it formed in 1998, no team has beaten as many as seven Top 25 teams in one season. Except for the 2010 Tigers, who beat great teams like Mississippi State, South Carolina (twice), Arkansas, LSU, Alabama and Oregon.

    But all good things must come to an end. 2010 is over and can only be looked back on as the greatest year in AU's proud history.

    Here I will break down the projected depth chart, list the pros and cons facing the Tigers, and give game-by-game breakdowns and predictions for the 2011 team.

    Will War Eagle repeat as the national champion?

Who's Gone?

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    Auburn takes a heavy hit when it comes to returning players.

    The 2010 team was as good as it should have been seeing as they had a school-record 24 seniors on the roster.

    Now, they're all gone.

    Along with the 23 seniors, three stud juniors have left for the NFL Draft: QB Cam Newton, DT Nick Fairley and WR Darvin Adams.

    While the departures of Newton and Fairley were less surprising than the Black Eyed Peas having a bad halftime show at Super Bowl XLV, the decision by receiver Darvin Adams to enter the NFL Draft was really surprising to Tiger fans. 

    Here is a list of players from 2010 that will not be there in 2011:

    QB Cam Newton

    QB Neil Caudle (Likely returning as GA to Gus Malzahn)

    WR Darvin Adams

    WR Kodi Burns

    WR Terrell Zachery

    RB Mario Fannin

    OL Lee Ziemba

    OL Byron Isom

    OL Ryan Pugh

    OL Mike Berry

    OL Jorrell Bostrom

    OL Bart Eddins

    DE Antoine Carter

    DE Michael Goggans

    DT Mike Blanc

    DT Nick Fairley

    DT Zach Clayton

    LB Josh Bynes

    LB Craig Stevens

    CB Demond Washington

    CB Woody Parramore

    S Zac Ethridge

    S Mike McNeil

    S Aaron Savage

    K Wes Bryum

    P Ryan Shoemaker

Who's Back, and Who's New?

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    Auburn may not resemble the team of last year face-wise, but they will be loaded with talent nonetheless.

    Here are notable players returning for 2011:

    QB Barrett Trotter (JR) No. 14

    RB Mike Dyer (SO) No. 5

    RB Onterio McCalebb (JR) No. 23

    WR Emory Blake (JR) No. 80

    WR Shaun Kitchens (SO) No. 4

    WR Trovon Reed (redshirt FR) No. 1

    TE Phil Lutzenkirchen (JR) No. 43

    OL Brandon Moseley (SR) No. 75

    OL AJ Greene (SR) No. 77

    OL John Sullen (JR) No. 71

    DE Nosa Eguea (SO) No. 94

    DE Craig Sanders (SO) No. 13

    LB Daren Bates (JR) No. 25

    LB Eltoro Freeman (SR) No. 21

    CB T'Sharven Bell (JR) No. 22

    CB Neiko Thorpe (SR) No. 15

    CB Demetruce McNeal (SO) No. 12

    CB Chris Davis (SO) No. 11

    P Steven Clark (SO) No. 30

    Along with these players, the Tigers snagged a great recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in America by Scout.

    This is the list of Auburn's signees for the 2011 class:

    QB Kiehl Frazier

    RB Tre Mason

    WR Jaylon Denson

    WR Sammie Coates

    TE Brandon Fulse

    OL Christian Westerman

    OL Gregory Robinson

    OL Thomas O'Reilly

    OL Reese Dismukes

    DE Devaunte Sigler

    DE Keymiya Harrell

    DE Jabrian Niles

    DT Gabe Wright

    DT Angelo Blackson

    LB Chris Landrum

    LB Justin Garrett

    CB Jonathan Rose

    S Erique Florence

    S Robenson Therezie

    S Anthony Swain

    ATH Kris Frost

    ATH Quan Bray

    ATH Jermaine Whitehead

    ATH C.J. Uzomah

    I didn't list their stars or anything similar to that due to the fact they're absolutely pointless. Auburn will be a very young team with a lesser chance to make a BCS title run, but this will be Gene Chizik's most talented team so far at Auburn University.

The Schedule? Simply, It's a Murderer's Row

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    Wow, is this schedule tough or what?

    In 2010, Auburn got Clemson, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas at home. The only truly difficult road game was Alabama (Still, Starkville was very tricky as usual).

    Auburn was given a good road to the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game in 2010. What comes around goes around in 2011, as Auburn must travel to LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Clemson, along with hosting Mississippi State, Florida and Alabama.

    Here is the 2011 schedule for the Auburn Tigers (asterisk means the team will likely be ranked in the preseason):

    9/3: vs. Utah State

    9/10: vs. Mississippi State*

    9/17: at Clemson

    9/24: vs. Florida Atlantic

    10/1: at South Carolina*

    10/8: at Arkansas*

    10/15: vs. Florida

    10/22: at LSU*

    10/29: vs. Ole Miss

    11/12: at Georgia

    11/19: vs. Samford

    11/26: vs. Alabama*

    You probably noticed that the November schedule is a little stranger than usual. Instead of playing Georgia, having a bye week and then playing Alabama like they have been for a while, the Tigers instead have a bye week before a visit to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs.

    Homecoming is November 19th against Samford.

Week 1: Aggies No Threat To Tigers' Streak

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    Opponent: Utah State Aggies (WAC)

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)

    2010 record: 4-8

    Last meeting between AU and USU: N/A (They've never met.)

    Auburn opens with a cupcake for the fourth consecutive season, having opened with UL-Monroe, Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State in the past few seasons.

    However, Auburn can't afford to sleepwalk through this game. An interesting note I should give you is that Utah State only lost to Oklahoma by a touchdown in Norman in the season opener last year.

    However, Arkansas State had had some big upsets prior to 2010, Louisiana Tech was a program on a roll prior to 2009 and UL-Monroe had beaten Alabama the year prior to 2008. I know, you already knew about the UL-Monroe-Alabama game.

    I don't see Auburn sleep-walking through this one by any means. The Tigers are simply stronger, faster, more talented and better coached than the Aggies.

    Prediction: Auburn 55, Utah State 13

    Auburn's record: 1-0 (0-0 SEC)


Week 2: Tigers Impressive On The Plains Over The Bulldogs

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    Opponent: Mississippi State Bulldogs (SEC)

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)

    2010 record: 9-4

    Last meeting: Auburn 17, Mississippi State 14 (2010 in Starkville, MS)

    This figures to be a big game at Jordan-Hare between two ranked teams barring a huge upset in week one.

    Mississippi State and Auburn went a combined 23-4 in 2010. Mississippi State went 9-4, including a 38-point victory over Michigan in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.

    However, Auburn fans have no love lost for Mississippi State following the Cam Newton scandal in 2010 that could have wrecked either team's season...or program.

    Mississippi State returns a great football team and they nearly beat Auburn in 2010, but I think Auburn will show out in front of a national audience. The team will be inspired and ready to play, as will the 87,451 in attendance, most in orange.

    Mississippi State doesn't have what it takes to go into Jordan-Hare and win over such a talented, well-coached team. You're not in Starkville anymore.

    Prediction: Auburn 45, Mississippi State 20

    Auburn's record: 2-0 (1-0 SEC)

Week 3: Tigers Cheat Death In Death Valley Against Cousin Clemson

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    Opponent: Clemson Tigers (ACC)

    Location: Clemson Memorial Stadium (Clemson, SC)

    2010 record: 6-7

    Last meeting: Auburn 27, Clemson 24 (OT in 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn)

    Auburn cheated death in 2010 against Clemson as well.

    In a match-up that brought ESPN's College GameDay to town, No. 16 Auburn fell behind Clemson 17-0 close to halftime and trailed 17-3 at the break.

    Auburn came back to send it to OT tied at 24, and thanks to shaky execution by Clemson's offense and special teams, the orange and blue Tigers prevailed by a 27-24 score in front of an excited, navy-dressed crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

    After that, the wheels fell off Clemson's season while Auburn began to roll.

    This time around, it's time for Clemson to have the home-field advantage in this old rivalry. Auburn obviously loses many players, but Clemson will be without some key players from 2010 as well.

    I expect another very close game. A late touchdown thanks to a turnover helps Auburn escape "Death Valley."

    Prediction: Auburn 31, Clemson 21

    Auburn's record: 3-0 (1-0 SEC)

Week 4: Florida Atlantic...'Nuff Said

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    Opponent: Florida Atlantic Owls (Sun Belt)

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)

    2010 record: 4-8

    Last meeting: N/A

    Let's be honest here.

    The only Sun Belt team that could stay within 30 of Auburn any given year is Troy. Florida Atlantic.... is not Troy.

    What kind of in-depth analysis do I need to give here?

    Prediction: Auburn 63, FAU 7

    Auburn's record: 4-0 (1-0 SEC)

Week 5: Tigers Win 20th Consecutive Game... But It's Not Easy at All

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    Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks (SEC)

    Location: Williams-Brice Stadium (Columbia, SC)

    2010 record: 9-5

    Last meeting: Auburn 56, South Carolina 17 (2010 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, GA)

    The Gamecocks return a very talented team that could make some noise in the BCS title race.

    Stephen Garcia? Back. Marcus Lattimore? Back. Alshon Jeffrey? Back. Not to mention the scary possibility that All-Universe recruit Jadeveon Clowney could be a Gamecock, but even if he's not, the Gamecocks will be an even tougher out than last season.

    Auburn beat South Carolina by about 17 million at the Georgia Dome last year, but don't expect the Tigers to just walk into Williams-Brice Stadium and leave without breaking a sweat.

    The crowd will be fired up to finally beat Auburn for the first time since 1933. South Carolina will be a tough team on defense and Auburn's offense will likely have some problems.

    I see this game taking even longer than the 60 minutes on the clock, but in the end, Auburn extends their winning streak dating back to the 2010 Outback Bowl to 20 games.

    Prediction: Auburn 35, South Carolina 29 (OT)

    Auburn's record: 5-0 (2-0 SEC)

Week 6: Hog-Gone-It! The Defending Champs Finally Fall

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    Opponent: Arkansas Razorbacks (SEC)

    Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, AR)

    2010 record: 10-3

    Last meeting: Auburn 65, Arkansas 43 (2010)

    This is the game.

    The game where everything that's been going right for Auburn over the last 20 games goes horribly wrong.

    Repeating as national champions is very difficult. It's even harder to repeat as SEC champions, as weird as it sounds, and Auburn's chances of getting another crystal football take a big hit on "The Hill."

    The Razorbacks' offense will be able to light up the scoreboard on a defense that had been playing well up to this point. Auburn's offense will be able to move, as well, but this is the game that proves that a national title is not in the cards for Auburn in 2011.

    In a high-flying shootout, Auburn's streak goes from "W20" to "L1."

    Prediction: Arkansas 45, Auburn 37

    Auburn's record: 5-1 (2-1 SEC)

Week 7: Tigers Chomp On Muschamp's Gators

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    Opponent: Florida Gators (SEC)

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)

    2010 record: 8-5

    Last meeting: Auburn 20, Florida 17 (2007 in Gainesville, FL)

    Week seven brings one of Auburn's oldest foes, the Florida Gators, to the Plains of Alabama.

    All-time, Auburn leads the Gators 41-38. The interesting thing about this game is who Florida's coach is: Will Muschamp. Muschamp served as defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2005-2007, and all three defenses ended in the top ten in America in several categories.

    Florida will surely have a good record, a very effective defense and a good, tough offense led by OC Charlie Weis.

    However, winning in Auburn in the toughest month of the season for the Gators may be too much to ask of Will Muschamp.

    Auburn wins a game that isn't a blowout but isn't all that close.

    Prediction: Auburn 30, Florida 17

    Auburn's record: 6-1 (3-1)

Week 8: Auburn Doesn't Escape Second Death Valley Visit Of 2011

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    Opponent: LSU Tigers (SEC)

    Location: Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, LA)

    2010 record: 11-2

    Last meeting: Auburn 24, LSU 17 (2010 in Auburn)

    Baton Rouge. To many SEC teams, these are very evil words. That is especially the case for the Auburn Tigers, who have lost their last five games at LSU.

    Auburn and LSU are two of the best programs in the SEC, and this rivalry is known especially for two things: Both teams being Tigers and exciting finishes.

    Classic Auburn-LSU games include the "Night the Barn Burned Down", "Earthquake Game", "One-Second-Left Game", "Interception Game", "Hurricane Game", "Run-Auburn-Run Game" and the "Refgate Game."

    This one figures to be another classic. LSU is in its best position since 2007 to compete for the BCS title, and with such a young team at Auburn, I don't see Auburn winning in Death Valley for the first time since 1999.

    Since it's Auburn-LSU, I'll throw you an exact prediction: A leprechaun runs on the field, steals the ball from Barrett Trotter with ten seconds left and gives it to Les Miles. LSU then wins on a boring old field goal.

    Prediction: LSU 24, Auburn 23

    Auburn's record: 6-2 (3-2 SEC)

Week 9: Tigers Stuff The Teddy-Rebel-Black-Bear-Rebels

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    Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels (Black Bears) (SEC)

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)

    2010 record: 4-8

    Last meeting: Auburn 51, Ole Miss 31 (2010 in Oxford)

    The Ole Miss Rebels and their Nutt-case coach visit the Plains (and maybe they're bringing their mascot, unless he has already been burned by the students).

    Sure, I dwell too much on the Black Bear, but when else does anybody talk about Ole Miss?

    The Rebels simply were not good in 2010, and while they hauled in a pretty good recruiting class, it would be a gigantic upset if they went into Auburn and even kept it respectable.

    Auburn splatters Ole Miss all over the walls. Hide your eyes, kids.

    Prediction: Auburn 54, Ole Miss 17

    Auburn's record: 7-2 (4-2 SEC)

Week 10: Tigers Rest During Bye Week

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    Opponent: Themselves, in practice

    Location: Hopefully Auburn...

    The Tigers have a bye week in Week 10. This is a time for players to heal, rest and get ready for Georgia.

Week 11: Tigers End Recent Athens Woes With Great Performance

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    Opponent: Georgia Bulldogs (SEC)

    Location: Samford Stadium (Athens, GA)

    2010 record: 6-7

    Last meeting: Auburn 49, Georgia 31 (2010 in Auburn)

    The Tigers visit the Georgia Bulldogs in week 11.

    After a four-game losing streak to UGA, Auburn has a chance to make it two-straight over their now-hated rivals.

    This rivalry is now known across the nation for one reason: the brawl. In 2010, Mark Richt supposedly told his players to start a fight with Auburn players after Nick Fairley made several late hits on QB Aaron Murray. They did not succeed in reaching Fairley, who taunted them even more as he left the field.

    Now, these newly-bitter rivals meet in Athens in a game that may be even dirtier than last year. The result will be the same as it was in 2010: Auburn will back out of the fight and win big.

    I have a feeling Auburn will show out and send the home folks home earlier than expected.

    Prediction: Auburn 37, Georgia 14

    Auburn's record: 8-2 (5-2 SEC)

Week 12: And The Homecoming Queen Is...

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    Opponent: Samford Bulldogs (FCS)

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)

    2010 record: 4-7

    Last meeting: Auburn 35, Samford 7 (1993 in Auburn)

    It's homecoming day against Samford, so it should be a blowout.

    An interesting note is that Samford's coach is Pat Sullivan. Yes, the same Pat Sullivan that was Auburn's first Heisman winner in 1971.

    This one will be over quickly. Sorry, Pat...We'll still always love you.

    Prediction: Auburn 63, Samford 10

    Auburn's record: 9-2 (5-2 SEC)



Week 13: Who Has The Iron-Clad Grip On College Football's Best State?

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    Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC)

    Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)

    2010 record: 10-3

    Last meeting: Auburn 28, Alabama 27 (2010 in Tuscaloosa)

    Here it is. The Iron Bowl. The biggest game of the season.

    Just to go ahead and clear something these predictions, neither of these teams can win the SEC West with a win, as LSU has already clenched it.

    But there's always bragging rights in Alabama. Oh, and a BCS bowl berth.

    Alabama enters 10-1 and Auburn enters 9-2. Alabama is more talented, but the game's being played at a sold-out, raucous Jordan-Hare Stadium.

    It'll be yet another classic Saban-Chizik Iron Bowl. The past two seasons, the winner has trailed in the game by an average of 19 points (Alabama fell down 14-0 in 2009, Auburn fell down 24-0 in 2010).

    Alabama starts fast in this afternoon CBS game on the Plains, going up 10-0 in the first quarter. After an Auburn field goal in the second quarter to make it 10-3, Alabama scores on a short Trent Richardson run to make it 17-3 Alabama.

    Barrett Trotter throws a TD pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen right before halftime, and Auburn's down 17-10. In the third quarter, Alabama kicks two field goals to go up 23-10, but Onterio McCalebb runs it in from about 30 yards out to make it a game.

    At the end of three, Alabama leads Auburn, 23-17. In the fourth, Alabama adds a field goal to make it 26-17. But Auburn refuses to yield, scoring on a short Mike Dyer run with seven minutes left to cut it to 26-24.

    Alabama's offense can't move it on the next possession and Auburn gets the ball back with about 4:30 left. Barrett Trotter becomes a new legend on the Plains when he leads a long, methodical drive that ends with a TD pass to Trovon Reed with 30 seconds left. The two-point conversion makes it 32-26, Auburn.

    Alabama's Hail Mary is not answered, and Auburn wins the Iron Bowl for the second consecutive year!

    Prediction: Auburn 32, Alabama 26

    Auburn's regular season final record: 10-2 (6-2 SEC)

    Auburn's bowl destination: Allstate Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma State

    Final BCS rank: No. 8

    Bowl result: Auburn 45, Oklahoma State 31

    Final record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)

    Final AP rank: No. 5