2011 Auburn: The Worst Defending National Champions

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2011 Auburn: The Worst Defending National Champions
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The Top Of The Mountain

In just three weeks we will get our first taste of football. The best of the Thursday night games will be Mississippi State at Memphis, and then we will get a Friday night game of TCU vs. Baylor game before a flurry of Saturday happiness.

This happiness will be enjoyed by most fans as their teams play patsies, and Auburn is no different with its game against Utah State. The Tigers will more than likely put up 50-plus points and allow no more than 10 points scored. The fans will be ecstatic and start the "Gus Malzahn can do no wrong" chant.

And then comes Mississippi State.

If Auburn fans think the Tigers will roll over MSU this season then they have another thing coming. MSU returns more starters along with a seasoned quarterback and a new game plan. They have to work hard to win eight games—and Auburn could possibly be one of them.

With one of the toughest road schedules this year in the SEC some of the Auburn faithful do not realize what lies ahead. Talent is one thing and experience another, especially at opponents' stadiums.

Guess what?

A lot of SEC teams have talent. But talent is not what is missing with Auburn—it is the ability to win games on the road with the inexperienced.

Offensively the Tigers lose the greatest quarterback in their history: Cam Newton. We all know the athletic story. Replacing a quarterback happens all the time. This is nothing new. But if you don't think the level will drop off at that position just ask Florida.

Auburn's regular season record is...

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The real issue is the offensive line.

Timing is everything, and along with timing is cohesion. This offensive line will need several games to get in tune, but the problem is they don't have that luxury. The second and third game of the season will set the tempo for the rest of run.

They will also need to watch the penalties. A Malzahn system can get fast, especially when he doesn't have the experience he needs. 

While losing the majority of the offensive line is one thing, possibly starting a true freshman at center with a fresh set of hands under him is a whole other work in progress. This tandem will need to have some relief.

That relief brings us to another component of loss, the wide receiver position. Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery's departure leaves a wide open hole downfield. Losing your top two receivers always does.

Blake Emory will have to step into that hole, along with 24-year-old DeAngelo Benton and Quindarius Carr. It is even thought that tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen will see some wide out time. These guys are going to have to give their quarterback some easy targets because the backfield may have some unwanted guests more often than not.

On the other side of the ball Auburn loses top talents Nick Fairley, Antoine Carter, Zac Etheridge, Demond Washington and Josh Bynes. Other notables are Mike McNeil, Michael Goggans and Craig Stevens. Sure, a couple of these guys were nothing to brag about in the secondary, but they had experience.

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One other notable loss is Wes Byrum. A kicker is key in games and on more than one occasion Byrum brought home the W. 

The good news is the return of running backs Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. The bad news for them is the experience up front.

With a target on their backs and road trips to Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and UGA, it is conceivable the Tigers have five losses right there. Throw in a tuned up MSU, UF and Alabama at home and the schedule gets even heavier. 

Every aforementioned team, with exception of Florida, wants payback. Every one of those teams return more starters than Auburn. And every one of those starters remembers last season.

Auburn is going to have to scrap if it wants to go bowling. It is going to have to dominate if it wants to win the SEC. 

There are haters out there that say Auburn will go 4-8. There are fans out there that say the Tigers will go 10-2. Somewhere in between lies the Tiger and potentially the worst defending BCS national champion to date.

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