In a year where the Auburn athletic program has been the victim of false speculation and a barrage of unfounded innuendo, it seems the media has lost sight of the real violator of NCAA rules in Alabama. Lately the spotlight has been turned off Auburn and the Tigers have been discarded for the time being.
While Auburn was maligned for a year in an embarrassingly persistent fashion, there has not been a single charge of wrong doing on the plains of a major or minor nature. Since that time, Tennessee, North Carolina, Boise State, Ohio State, Oregon and possibly LSU have come under the scrutiny of the NCAA.
The stories surrounding the possible rules violations at these programs were mostly more serious in nature to begin with, but largely unreported since these programs were not the best in college football and about the best player in college football. It must have been more fun to falsely speculate about the best than to report actual violations when the program was only good.
Auburn is not expected to be the best in college football in 2011. This has motivated the media to largely ignore the Tigers other than the occasional parting shot. Most of these “media college football experts” have written Auburn off.
There is good reason to expect Auburn to take a rather large step back in 2011. The team lost the best offensive and defensive players in the nation according to many. No team has ever repeated as BCS champions. No team has repeated as SEC champions in recent years.
All of these detractors are very real and certainly true. The problem is that Auburn is not just any SEC team. Only one team in the last four decades has had two undefeated seasons in the SEC within the same decade. Auburn has three undefeated seasons since the SEC split into two divisions. No other SEC team can boast that in what is arguably the toughest college football conference in the nation.
Auburn is the proverbial underdog of the SEC and it relishes the role. This is a program that has accomplished goals regularly when they were given no chance. Its current title of BCS champion is one of the most obvious examples of this.
This article will take a look at the many reasons Auburn could shock the nation again and repeat as the BCS champion. For this purpose, a simple question and answer format will be used.
How Does Auburn Replace the Offensive Production of Heisman Trophy-Winner Cameron Newton?
Auburn is in the proverbial catbird seat regarding its quarterback for 2011. Clint Moseley has improved and risen up to challenge Barrett Trotter in a very real fashion. Freshman Keihl Frazier arrived on the plains ready to begin absorbing the new offense.
These factors mean that Auburn will be very solid at quarterback, but it does not mean there is another Cameron Newton. His production must be made up from a group of players.
Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb will be back at running back, but they produced spectacular numbers in 2010. It is not likely they will increase their production dramatically for 2011.
Philip Lutzenkirchen is back at tight end, but he also produced spectacular results in 2010. He will likely increase production this season, but not dramatically.
Emory Blake is back at receiver after having a great 2010 season. He should have another great year in 2011, but this does not require much of an increase in production.
Players that were previously unknown like Trovon Reed, DeAngelo Benton, Travante Stallworth, Sammie Coats, Jaylon Denson, Tre Mason, Quan Bray, Ladarious Phillips, C.J. Uzomah, Brandon Fulse and possibly Mike Blakely will have to step up and absorb the majority of that offensive production.
How Does Auburn Replace That Offensive Line So Soon?
Every player projected to start on the offensive line for 2011 got playing time in 2010, and more importantly they got practice reps in the system. Auburn will be very capable and deep at every offensive line position in 2011.
How Does Auburn Replace Outland Trophy-Winner Nick Fairley?
Auburn actually has two players that seem to be very similar to Nick Fairley.
Kenneth Carter at 6’5” and 287 pounds is similar in both size and athleticism to Fairley and he played enough in 2010 to clear some cobwebs from his understanding of the position.
Angelo Blackson arrived on the plains at an astounding 6’5”, 325 pounds and will likely make quick progress toward being the dominant force he is capable of.
Jeffrey Whitaker at 6’3” and 310 pounds is the prototypical defensive tackle that will plug the middle and demand a double team.
Gabe Wright at 6’4” and 310 pounds is somewhere in between. This will be an even more formidable group of defensive tackles than the group Auburn fielded in 2010.
Why Would Anyone Think Auburn Could Repeat in 2011?
One word explains Auburn’s chances in 2011: defense. If Auburn is to make a serious run at the SEC and BCS championships in 2011, the defense will have to toe the mark. By all accounts, the Auburn secondary will be better in 2011. If the front seven can rise just to the level of 2010, then this could be a very formidable defense.
Any prediction of what team will win the BCS championship at this point in the season is sheer speculation. To pick the current champion to repeat would seem to be uneducated speculation at best, considering that no team ever has.
The one thing Auburn has going for it is its beloved underdog role. No champion has ever approached a repeat from the same angle Auburn will this season.
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