I have been trolling a few Auburn forums and reading other people's expectations as well.
The Auburn fans are all seeing....all kinds of potential records. But, I see more 7-5 to 10-2 records than anything. Most of the magazines see 6-6.
And, if everyone else is doing it...shouldn't I? Now that I am well versed in every one's opinions and gathered all the "facts"....I will take a shot.
If you didn't know, here it what the schedule looks like:
- 08/31 – Washington State
- 09/07 – Arkansas State
- 09/14 – Mississippi State
- 09/21 – at LSU
- 09/28 – Open Date
- 10/05 – Ole Miss
- 10/12 – Western Carolina
- 10/19 – at Texas A&M
- 10/26 – Florida Atlantic
- 11/02 – at Arkansas
- 11/09 – at Tennessee
- 11/16 – Georgia
- 11/23 – Open Date
- 11/30 – Alabama
45-28 Auburn..though 42-35 is a reality with a late WSU TD and Auburn kneeling
QBs: Again, not to harp on what everyone else has already said...but QB play will determine a lot of what happens this season. That sounds stupid just saying it. Of course it will. But, I go back to what I just said. Teh wins and losses for the first half would be the same. It's what happens next.
RBs: I think this year will have a lot of similarities to 2009. All the focus after the first few games will be on the YPC for Grant. Mason will have deceiving numbers because he will have many catches out of the backfield and will be splitting time with CAP. He will still have some good stats and be on the way to his second 1,000 yard season. CAP, on the other hand, will be a dark horse that really doesn't see the light of day until late in the season. He still gets carries, but one good game aside, he will be limited to 5-10 carries a game with a YPC of around 4-5 yards.
Recievers: Much talk has been made about these guys turning it around after being footnotes to Blake last year. I don't see them being much better. I think, ultimately, they CAN be very good....next year. I don't think Reed will ever turn into the player we thought he would be. I think Bray has a very interesting season with screens, short routes, and wildcat touches. But, the deep ball will still be hit or miss. Early in the season, I see them having success.
Defense: I think the front 7 play "ok" the first half of the season with a terrific showing against LSU and Ole Miss. I foresee the LB play still being inconsistent but hidden due to better than average play up front. The secondary still seems to be a glaring weakness. By the midpoint, I think they all make strides. But I think the upside of the D-Backs is very limited. The D-Line really has no upside. I think they can be as good as they want. Really, the same as LBs, though I think they are woefully behind on their development. The physicality of this unit will already start off higher than the previous years. I don't think we will see near the missed tackles, bad angles, and over all poor effort and fundamentals.
Special Teams: I think the special teams will be flat outstanding this year. What will make or break them is the punt returner. It's been a joke from Auburn the last 10 years, it seems. I have faith that Quan Bray can emerge as a real threat.
Justin Garrett has been penciled in as the highlight of the defense. To be honest, in the last 2 years, only 1 player has consistently wowed me with hits and effort. That guy is Garret's back up Robenson Therezie. This guy has a high motor. He wants to hit. He has attitude. I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest to see him find the field some how...either as the starting Star or at another position.
Quan Bray is a guy who has to get the ball. He has outstanding size and physical ability, but last year he only seemed to get the ball in his hands at the wrong time. It always seemed to be well defended bubble screens. He returns as the 4th leading receiver, but that's deceptive. The Tigers couldn't throw last year. Only 1 receiver had more than 200 yards all year. He, and a host of others, had between 100-150 yards. Bray can throw. He can catch. He can run. He can return. I expect his all-purpose yards to be on up there.
Everything starts up front. To be more specific, everything starts with the center. Dismukes had a year he wishes everyone would forget in 2012. He has a legitimate chance to take a call to the NFL this year if he plays outstanding. From all the talks, he is ready to show what he is capable of....a mean, physical, and reliable leader under center.
The D-Line. Coming into 2012, all the talk was about the All-SEC D-Line Auburn had. Lemonier left for the NFL after dropping from a sure fire 1st rounder to a "somebody take this guy" draft pick. The effort across the board left much to be desired, though word is that coaching hurt them tremendously. It's hard to pick out a breakout player among them, especially since we don't really even know who will start. Wright, Blackson, Carter, Ford, Eguae, have all shown flashes and we have heard about their hard work. But we have heard it before. This front 4 has the ability to put the pressure on early and keep it on all day.
Wrapping up: So, that puts Auburn at 4-2 heading into the buzz saw of the schedule. You notice that I didn't say anything about who is QB...etc. That's an interesting problem. There are 4 legitimate contenders, if you listen to the prognosticators. In my mind, there are only 2. It doesn't really affect the Wins and Losses column, but to whom the Ws and Ls go.
Let me explain.
If you have read my other thoughts on the QB race :
You will see that I don't believe that Keihl Frazier has any chance to be a winning QB in the SEC. He was the #1 Player blah blah blah out of high school. But, have you read his high school scouting report? Struggles with accuracy. Well, anyone that watched any of his games is nodding their heads. He misses wide open receivers (see LSU last year). He is inaccurate with the bubble screen(I am still seeing it in practice vids!). Most importantly, he has no pocket presence.
To me, the only two guys that will fight it out are Wallace and Marshall....and one of them isn't even on the campus yet. I keep hearing how Wallace isn't SEC caliber and doesn't have the tools. But, I thought the kid did a phenomenal job of not losing last year while the rest of the team did all they could. Marshall, on the other hand, threw more INTs than TDs in JUCO. How is that even possible? Now, I tip my hat that Malzahn can transform pick happy QBs into efficient passers. Marshall can certainly run the ball. I guess we will see.
All of that being said, I think that either QB will be 4-2 at the midpoint of the season. The difference is, I see Marshall winning against MSU and losing against LSU. Why? his pure athleticism wins out against the Dawgs, but is no match for LSU. Wallace, on the other hand, plays efficiently and spreads the ball around. But, the rest of the team has an off day against MSU and plays lights out against LSU.
Until Next Time!