I just completed reading an article written by my friend, and co-host of the SEC 411 podcast, Seth Merenbloom. Seth is also an editor here at Campus Pressbox. I have a great deal of respect for his opinions on sports, in general, and on the SEC, in particular.
But I am going to have to part ways with my colleague on this one. He is of the opinion that Auburn is overrated. This piece from SEC Country deals with the Sports Illustrated prediction of Auburn as the number 10 team in the country. The column also mentions the Tigers as CBS Sports’ pick as number nine in the preseason.
The only poll we have at this point belongs to the coaches. Auburn ranks 13th there.
Let’s pause for a moment and reconsider the fact that all of this is merely talk, opinion, conjecture. Teams have begun practice all across the land but no one has played a single game just yet.
But talk is what we rabid fans do this time of year in the dog days of summer. The actual games begin on August 26th and the first game in the SEC, Florida A&M at Arkansas, follows on August 31st.
Back to Auburn and my take on the matter. I am with CBS Sports. I would put Auburn in the number nine slot. Also, I would precede my Tigers with 1. Clemson (I am of the old school opinion that the number one team from the previous year remains numero uno until/if they are defeated during the upcoming campaign. See September 9, Auburn at Clemson) 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Washington 5. Florida State 6. Penn State 7. Oklahoma 8. Southern Cal.
I would put Michigan at 10.
And I do my rankings based on how strong I foresee teams. I don’t take into account schedules, conferences, etc. I ask myself, “How good is this team in relation to the other teams in the FBS? How strong are they overall? What if this team played ‘X’ on a neutral field?”
Now, here is my reasoning on Auburn’s ranking as a top ten team.
Auburn returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including its three top tacklers. Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams must be replaced but there is a ton of talent to go around on this surly defense.
Marlon Davidson is a beast and with help from the likes of Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Tre Williams, Darrell Williams, DeShaun Davis, Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews, to name just a few, the D is stacked with top line SEC talent. There is also enough quality depth to make this unit as good or better than the 2016 group. And Kevin Steele is back as the coordinator. That’s big.
The offense should be lethal. We all know about Jarrett Stidham but the Tigers are three deep at quarterback with Sean White and Malik Willis. Running back? Loaded. Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, Malik Miller, and C.J Tolbert give Auburn a stable of horses second to none in the conference.
The offensive line is more talented and deep than it has been in years. Pat Dye thinks they have the potential to be as good as any since he began coaching at Auburn in 1981.
Wide receivers? Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Will Hastings, Ryan Davis, Marquis McClain and, now, John Franklin, will give Auburn very good talent and depth here.
Also, the tight end position should be much improved with Jalen Harris returning and transfer Sal Cannella, and his excellent hands, making this a position of strength.
Oh! Auburn has the best placekicker in the country in Daniel Carlson, as well.
The talent, experience, and depth is all in place down on the Plains. And, I think, Gus Malzahn has put together the complete and cohesive staff he has been looking for since he took over in 2013.
When you mix all of these ingredients together along with a great team chemistry and a hunger to win, I think you might be looking at a very special season down in the Loveliest Village.
I don’t think I can “Curb My Enthusiasm.”