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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Previewing The Schedule

I often wonder why I write about Auburn football in the preseason. It's an exercise in futility most summers. Guessing who will start where, and which player will step up their game is a crapshoot. How many wins will Auburn have at season's end? Well, that is as easy as picking the right lotto numbers. 


There isn't a prize for guessing correctly. Certainly, anytime I can talk about my Tigers, I relish the conversation. It's just that, this year is beyond different.


Last summer, most of us were drinking Orange and Navy KoolAide with most of the media. Jeremy Johnson was going to finally be handed the keys to the Malzahn (BMW i8?) offense, and the coronation would be supreme.

My how things have changed.

 While the HUNH offense struggled mightily, the Auburn defense grew stronger. Jeremy Johnson's coronation was intercepted along the way to JHS, and Auburn struggled to finish above .500 for the season.  That's in the past. So is our old way of previewing the Tiger football schedule.


Let's take a different approach this summer, and see where it takes us, okay? I'll examine each opponent briefly and then grade Auburn's chances based on a scale that I developed. (read: made up)


TOUGH = Auburn would have to play superbly, and take advantage of every mistake the opponent makes.
OH REALLY? = This game should be both entertaining and close. Either team could win.
GIVE ME A BREAK = Auburn should win this if they play like an SEC West team.
IN THE BAG = No way Auburn looses the game. ( don't expect to see this a lot after what happened last season against Jax State).

Date Game Location Time

09/03/16 vs. Clemson Auburn 8:00 p.m. CT
09/10/16 vs. Arkansas State Auburn TBA
09/17/16 vs. Texas A & M * Auburn TBA
09/24/16 vs. LSU * Auburn TBA
10/01/16 vs. Louisiana-Monroe (HC) Auburn TBA
10/08/16 at Mississippi State * Starkville, Miss. TBA
10/22/16 vs. Arkansas * Auburn TBA
10/29/16 at Ole Miss * Oxford, Miss. TBA
11/05/16 vs. Vanderbilt * Auburn TBA
11/12/16 at Georgia * Athens, Ga. TBA
11/19/16 vs. Alabama A & M Auburn TBA
11/26/16 at Alabama * Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA

Clemson vs. Auburn

Grade: TOUGH

One program is at or near its pinnacle. The other? Two years, 13 seconds, and one missed tackle removed from its second title in 3 years.

While many national pundits have penciled in Clemson as the likely winner here, I'd like to draw your attention to the Auburn Tigers of 2013. Clemson, much like Auburn of 2013, played a good game in its attempt at a national title this past January. Their defense could not keep Alabama from scoring one more time. Sound familiar?

In addition, Clemson is trying to replace a lot of starting experience on the defensive side of the ball. If Alabama has shown anything during its remarkable run lately, it's that defense still wins championships. That gives Auburn's offense an advantage.

Clemson has the Heisman finalist Watson running their offense, which gives them the advantage when they have the ball.

Arkansas State vs. Auburn

Grade: Give me a break.

The Red Wolves have been a powerful force in their conference, winning the conference championship and playing in bowl games regularly the past few years.

No way can Auburn afford to look past anybody after the debacle against Jax State last season. I'm betting they won't. Auburn should win this game. If they don't, the wolves of a different color will be howling for change at Auburn.

Texas A & M vs. Auburn

Grade: OH REALLY?

This may be the pivotal game for our Tigers. If they play good against Clemson yet lose and handle Arkansas State.

A & M has QB questions along the lines of Auburn. They do not, however, have the talent along the defensive front, especially in depth. Auburn must be able to execute mistake free and hold the Aggie offense to under three scores. Do that, and trees will be adorned with beautiful showers of tissue paper.

LSU vs. Auburn

Grade: Tough

This has already been earmarked as a make-or-break game for both Les Miles and Gus Malzahn. Only time will tell if that is truly the case. Either could lose this game and have an excellent season.

LSU is always tough for Auburn.

Auburn will need to be physical and mentally tough, along with fully healthy. Those are two things that have been difficult to achieve the past couple of seasons. Talent on both teams should be about equal as both schools have recruited quite well the last 4 years.

Louisiana Monroe vs. Auburn

Grade: Give me a break

Carl Lawson and company are not going to allow any team to come in on Auburn's Homecoming game and upset the special day for so many alumnus.

Auburn vs. Mississippi State 

Grade: OH REALLY?

The dancing Mullen's have been expected to breakout into some sort of high caliber football team for a while now. Hasn't really happened, has it? Although being ranked #1 for a short time in 2014, they could not find a way to finish at the top.

Arguably, the best player ever to call Starkville, MS  home, is gone seeking fortune and fame in the NFL. Dak Prescott won't easily be replaced. Just ask Auburn about replacing a phenom at QB. It is very difficult indeed.

Still this is Auburn's first road game in the campaign, so this one could really be fun to watch. Or, not.

Arkansas vs. Auburn

Grade: OH REALLY?

Forget about all the differences the two head coaches have concerning "good old American football" and concentrate instead on how Auburn failed on three chances to put Arkansas away last season. Eventually the slippery Hawgs rooted out a win...in four overtimes!

Rest assured those still with the Auburn program remember and they would like nothing else than to have a BBQ on their home turf. 

Auburn vs. Ole Miss

Grade: OH REALLY?

I have to assume at this time that the Rebel Ackbar's will still have their head coach Hugh Freeze in place. With that said, who really knows how this will all play out? From the cheap seats it appears that Ole Miss is in real trouble.

Ever notice how a team with three nicknames never gets called out, and a team with one nickname and a battle cry gets chided at every turn? Me either. Who cares. This is going to be a tremendous game. Enjoy.

Vanderbilt vs. Auburn

Grade: OH REALLY?

This game should be exciting for many reasons, the best of which is how the media is trumping up this Commodore team. Good luck with that.

Auburn vs. Georgia

Grade: Tough

This is never an easy game for Auburn. If Auburn is playing well there is a lot of pressure to win this game so it can go onto play for the West Division title against Alabama. If Auburn is only playing so-so, then this game could be the end of the tenure of an entire coaching staff. 

UGA is always good, and they have a new coach who just happened to come over from Alabama to lead them. Auburn will have to play at its very best for the remainder of its conference schedule in order to win.

Alabama A & M vs. Auburn

Grade: In the bag.

No slight intended for the visiting Bulldogs. I absolutely appreciate that Auburn is playing another in-state foe and helping these teams ease their monetary woes. The Bulldog program will make more money on this trip than the rest of their season combined. 

Auburn vs. Alabama

Grade: Tough

Another year, another Alabama football team.  Ho hum.

Now that Winston Shi has penned his last sports related post for the Stanford Daily, maybe Auburn can inspire another desiring writer in a sports department to pen another classic such as THIS:

"But it is the box score of the game that is truly heretical in its ignorance of the moment. Fourth quarter, tie game, one second left on the clock, Chris Davis, 109-yard field goal return for a touchdown. Auburn 34, Alabama 28. The score doesn’t do this game justice. It never tried, and it never will."

In the end, Auburn could go 12-0 or 6-6. My guess is around 10-2 or 9-3 while all the while hoping for 15-0 ultimately. Don't be afraid to give us your thoughts in our comments section or any form of social media.



WAR EAGLE!
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