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2007 Auburn Tigers
Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Auburn Tigers Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Auburn Tigers

Recap: Back-to-back home losses to South Florida and Mississippi State had the Tigers on the brink of destruction in September, but they did quite well to finish 9-4, including another win over Alabama and a Chick-fil-A victory against Clemson.  Auburn was all about the D, finishing No. 6 nationally in total and scoring defense, but got little help from a conservative offense that had no passing attack and struggled to run behind a green line.  No stranger to close games, the Tigers only lost one time by more than six points, a 45-20 rout at the hands of streaking Georgia on Nov. 10.            

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Ben Tate

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Antonio Coleman

Biggest Surprise: No longer even ranked, reeling Auburn shocked the nation by becoming the first team of the year to beat No. 4 and defending national champion Florida in the Swamp.  The Tiger defense kept the high-flying Gators under wraps long enough for Wes Byrum to boot a game-winning 43-yard field goal as time ran out.    

Biggest Disappointment: Who knows where Auburn would have played a bowl had it held on to beat No. 5 LSU on Oct. 20?  In one of the most excruciating losses for any school in 2007, Matt Flynn found Demetrius Byrd on a 22-yard fade pattern, beating Auburn, 30-24, with just a single tick remaining on the clock.   

Looking Ahead: The big news on the Plains is that offensive coordinator Al Borges has been replaced by Tony Franklin, a supporter of a more wide-open, unpredictable spread offense.  That could be exciting news for QB Kodi Burns, who showed flashes late in the year of being a good fit for what Auburn hopes to do on offense in 2008.

- 2007 Auburn Preview
2006 Auburn Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 9-4

Sept. 1 Kansas State W 23-13
Sept. 8 So Florida L 26-24 OT
Sept. 15 Mississippi St L 19-14
Sept. 22 New Mexico St W 55-20
Sept. 29 at Florida W 20-17
Oct. 6
Vanderbilt W 35-7
Oct. 13 at Arkansas W 9-7
Oct. 20 at LSU L 30-24
Oct. 27
Ole Miss W 17-3
Nov. 3 Tennessee Tech W 35-3
Nov. 10 at Georgia L 45-20
Nov. 24
Alabama W 17-10
Chick-fil-A Bowl
Dec. 31 Clemson W 23-20 OT

Dec. 31
2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl
Auburn 23 ... Clemson 20 OT

Auburn QB Kodi Burns ran for a seven-yard score in overtime, answering a Clemson 25-yard field goal, to pull out the win in a defensive struggle. It took about three quarters for the offenses to warm up, and then they started to move when needed as Clemson scored the first ten points of the fourth quarter with a 22-yard Mark Buchholz field goal and a one-yard James Davis run to go up seven, but Auburn was able to answer with an 11-play, 70-yard drive with a key fourth down conversion and a one-yard Ben Tate run to tie it up. Auburn started off the scoring with a 36-yard Wes Byrum field goal, but Clemson roared back in the second quarter with a thrilling 83-yard C.J. Spiller touchdown dash. Auburn outgained Clemson 423 yards to 293 and got 24 first downs to Clemson's 12.
Offensive Player of the Game: Auburn QB Kodi Burns completed one of four passes for 22 yards and a score, and ran 13 times for 69 yards and the winning touchdown.
Defensive Player of the Game: Auburn DT Pat Sims made five tackles, a sack, and three tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 14-33, 104 yds
Rushing: C.J. Spiller, 8-112, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 4-36
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 25-39, 211 yds, 1 INT
Kodi Burns, 13-69, 1 TD. Receiving:
Mario Fannin, 5-53, 1 TD
Notes & Thoughts ... For not being any sort of an offensive shootout, this might have been one of the most entertaining of the 207 bowl games. The two defenses played extremely well, while the offenses came though with key drives in the second half just when they needed them. ... Teams have to play the seniors and have to reward years of hard work, but there's no reason to not play next year's quarterback in a bowl like this. Auburn handled the situation perfectly putting in Brandon Cox on key passing drives, and in the most pressure packed situations, and allowed next year's likely main man, Kodi Burns, to sink or swim on several key moments. ... There's no question that James Davis is a next-level back, but why did Clemson only run C.J. Spiller eight times? Spiller was more of a playmaker and appeared to be the quicker of the two rushing options when he was able to get into space, but Davis got the bulk of the workload with 23 carries. Spiller tore off the big 83-yard touchdown run right off the bat and barely touched the ball the rest of the way. ... So what did we learn about Tony Franklin as the Auburn offensive coordinator? Not too much. It's going to be an offseason of immense scrutiny around the Tigers to see if there can be some pop to the passing game along with the running of Burns, if he turns out to be the main man. Cox might not have been anything special, but he came through time and again this year with a good drive when needed.

Nov. 24
Auburn 17 ... Alabama 10
Auburn struggled to put the game away in a defensive struggle as Ben Tate ran for a three-yard score and Wes Byrum nailed a 37-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead, but it took a one-yard Brandon Cox sneak with just under four minutes to play to pull ahead for good. Bama got a two-yard John Parker Wilson run in the second and a 49-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal with 2:11 to play, but the Tigers were able to run out the clock. Auburn gained 282 yards of total offense to just 225 for Auburn.
Player of the game: Auburn DT Josh Thompson made 12 tackles
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 12-26, 113 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Glen Coffee, 20-60. Receiving: D.J. Hall, 3-29
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 12-22, 117 yds, 1 INT
Brad Lester, 22-98. Receiving:
Rodgeriqus Smith, 3-46
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might not have been pretty, but Tiger fans will take a win over Alabama no matter how it happens. The defense did its job in a nice bounceback performance after the debacle against Georgia, and while the offense stunk it up, with Brandon Cox having a rough, uneven game, but it came up with the two key touchdown drives and now it's six straight against the archrivals. Going into 2008, it would be nice if the offense put a hurtin' on whomever it gets in the bowl. It would also be nice if Tommy Tuberville's contract situation was set up to make sure he isn't going anywhere.

Nov. 10
Georgia 48 ... Auburn 20
Georgia outgained Auburn 417 yards to 216, and after falling behind 20-17 on a 33-yard Wes Byrum field goal, blew the game open with 28 unanswered points on Knowshon Moreno touchdown runs from 24 and three yards out, followed up by one-yard scoring runs from Brannan Southerland and Thomas Brown. The Bulldogs bombed away early on with a wide-open Mo Massaquoi catching a 58-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and Sean Bailey catching a 13-yard scoring pass in the second for a 17-3 Georgia lead. But the Tigers came back with 17 straight points on a seven-yard Ben Tate run and a 12-yard Mario Fannin catch.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno ran 22 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 14-30, 133 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Ben Tate, 13-58, 1 TD. Receiving: Montez Billings, 3-21
Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 11-19, 237 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Knowshon Moreno, 22-101, 2 TD. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 4-96, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
What was that from the Auburn defense against Georgia? It didn't generate nearly enough pressure on Matthew Stafford, blew a few coverages early, and got an awful day out of its experienced veteran quarterback, Brandon Cox. That was an unAuburn-like day that now means the Alabama game is for more than just the Iron Bowl, it's to avoid a mediocre 7-5 regular season and be thrown among the also-rans in a throwaway bowl. This team is better than that, and it has two weeks to figure out to play like it again.

Nov. 3
Auburn 35 ... Tennessee Tech 3
Auburn gave up a 28-yard Justin Kraemer field goal in the first quarter, but stopped everything else, while the offense had few problems getting up and coasting. Ben Tate and Carl Stewart each ran for two-yard scores in the first quarter. Robert Dunn caught a 16-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and a 20-yarder in the third. The Tiger defense got into the act with a 93-yard Walter McFadden interception return for a score in the fourth.
Player of the game: Auburn QB Brandon Cox completed nine of 11 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Tennessee Tech - Passing: Lee Sweeney, 19-26, 168 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Derek White, 18-66. Receiving: Larry Shipp, 4-28
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 9-11, 167 yds, 1 TD
Mario Fannin, 14-52. Receiving: Robert Dunn, 3-42, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Auburn was able to get the backups in relatively early against Tennessee Tech, keep things conservative, and win without a problem. The defense didn't exactly have the same fire-breathing intensity it's had in recent weeks, but it did a strong job of not breaking despite giving up over 304 yards of total offense. Brandon Cox was sharp, the running game was fine, and the team got out with an easy win. This was the perfect oasis in the middle of a nasty SEC race with a trip to Georgia up next.

Oct. 27
Auburn 17 ... Ole Miss 3
It took Auburn a little while to get going offensively, but the defense made up for it until Brad Lester scored on a one-yard run in the first quarter for all the points needed. Ole Miss got a 51-yard Joshua Shene field goal as time ran out at the end of the first half, but that would be it for the Rebel fun. Rodgeriqus Smith caught a 34-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth to finally put it out of reach, but the defense never let Ole Miss in the game allowing just 193 yard. The Tigers held on to the ball for 36:23.
Player of the game: Auburn RB Brad Lester ran 23 times for 96 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 11-24, 89 yds
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 13-62. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 5-39
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 16-26, 189 yds, 1 TD
Brad Lester, 23-96, 1 TD. Receiving: Rodgeriqus Smith, 8-111, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Auburn didn't do anything fancy against Ole Miss, using the running game and good defense to win without a problem. Considering the way the Tigers lost to LSU last week, the coaching staff kept things simple, and it worked. With Tennessee Tech ahead, now everyone can rest up for the big finishing kick against Georgia and Alabama. With the way the defense is getting into the backfield, there shouldn't be a problem letting down for a week.

Oct. 20
LSU 30 ... Auburn 24
Down one with time ticking down, and time out left, and within range for a 40-yard field goal LSU gambled and it paid off, as Matt Flynn connected with Demetrius Byrd for a 22-yard touchdown with one second to play to stun Auburn. The AU Tigers took the lead on a three-yard touchdown catch from Rod Smith for their only points of the second half, as LSU, down 17-7 at halftime, moved the ball time and again, but came up with three second half Colt David field goals and a five-yard Jacob Hester score. Auburn took the lead into halftime helped by a 17-yard Montez Billings catch and a one-yard Carl Stewart run, but LSU got on the board with a 46-yard pass play to Keiland Williams.
Player of the game: LSU QB Matt Flynn completed 22 of 34 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and ran ten times for 34 yards
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 22-34, 319 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jacob Hester, 9-50. Receiving: Early Doucet, 7-93
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 18-28, 199 yds, 2 TD
Brad Lester, 16-68. Receiving: Montez Billings,
6-78, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Auburn's defense couldn't come up with enough stops in the second half. Brandon Cox did a great job leading the comeback to get the Tigers in a position to beat LSU, but the D just couldn't get off the field. There can't be any real complaints. Auburn did what it needed to do to get the win, and it took a special, all-timer type of play for LSU to pull off the win. On the plus side, a lot of the offensive pieces appear to be in place to start rolling. With Ole Miss and Tennessee Tech ahead, now is when the team can pad the record a bit.

Oct. 13
Auburn 9 ... Arkansas 7
Auburn's Wes Byrum hit his third field goal of the game with 21 seconds to play, connecting from 20 yards out, to overcome a late Arkansas rally. Byrum made field goals from 22 and 38 yards, but he also missed from 36 and 46, opening the door for Arkansas to go on a six play, 71-yard drive with Lucas Miller making a leaping 13-yard touchdown catch with just 1:36 to play. But Auburn quickly went 50 yards in eight plays, thanks to a 30yard Robert Dunn catch and three Ben Tate runs. The vaunted Arkansas running game only gained 67 yards.
Player of the game: Auburn RB Ben Tate ran 23 times for 91 yards
Stat Leaders: Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 12-26, 111 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Darren McFadden, 17-43. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 5-59
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 13-23, 101 yds
Ben Tate, 23-91. Receiving: Montez Billings, 5-31

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... You don't think Auburn was just a wee bit keyed up for the Arkansas running game, do you? After getting hammered on last year, the Tigers stopped Darren McFadden and Felix Jones cold, while the offense pushed its way to a nice rushing day. The passing attack couldn't click, but when Brandon Cox needed to move the offense for one final drive, he made the throw he had to make. Cox got beaten up and battered all game long, but he hung in there and came up with the team's fourth win in a row with the showdown at LSU up next. Win that, and all of a sudden, the season that appeared lost just a month ago starts to become special.

Oct. 6
Auburn 35 ... Vanderbilt 7
Auburn rolled with ease, getting up 35-0 before Vanderbilt finally got on the board with a one-yard Cassen Jackson-Garrison touchdown run in the final five minutes. Brad Lester scored from 17 and five yards out, and Ben Tate and Mario Fannin each added touchdown runs helping the Tigers run for 253 yards. Brandon Cox added a two-yard scoring pass to Rod Smith late in the first quarter. Vandy only converted three of 13 third down chances.
Player of the game: Auburn QB Brandon Cox completed 14 of 17 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown with an interception
Stat Leaders: Vanderbilt - Passing: Chris Nickson, 5-16, 38 yds
Rushing: Cassen Jackson-Garrison, 13-45, 1 TD. Receiving: Earl Bennett, 4-31
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 14-17, 165 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Ben Tate, 9-96, 1 TD. Receiving: Mario Fannin, 3-26

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... So much for a letdown after beating Florida. Even in the overall struggles in the losses, the defense was never that bad, and now it's dominating against the run. Vandy had no chance to move the ball, and struggled to get things moving on third downs. Offensively, the addition of Brad Lester was a nice boost to the depth and running back rotation, but the biggest help in the turnaround has been the play of Brandon Cox, who has settled down, isn't forcing his passes, and isn't making mistakes. He'll have to be even sharper at Arkansas and LSU over the next two weeks.

Sept. 29
Auburn 20 ... Florida 17
Wes Byrum appeared to hit the game-winning 43-yard field goal for Auburn, but Florida head coach Urban Meyer had called time out just before the kick. No big deal. Byrum calmly nailed it again, as the Tigers stunned the Gators. Auburn took a 17-3 lead going into the fourth quarter, thanks to a 30-yard Byrum field goal, and scoring runs from six yards out by Kodi Burns and three yards out from Ben Tate. The Gators roared back in the fourth with Tim Tebow connecting with Cornelius Ingram for a six-yard touchdown pass, and barreling in from two yards out to tie it up. Florida had one final drive, went three and out, and Auburn went on its march to win the game.
Player of the game: Auburn QB Brandon Cox completed 17 of 26 passes for 227 yards
Stat Leaders: Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 20-27, 201 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tim Tebow, 19-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin, 7-119
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 17-26, 227 yds
Ben Tate, 20-65, 1 TD. Receiving: Rod Smith, 9-102

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Lost in the two earlier losses to South Florida and Mississippi State was how well the Tiger defense played. The D played well, the offense struggled, and had major problems with turnovers, and Auburn lost. Against Florida, the D played well, the offense lost one fumble, and Auburn won. It's not quite that simple, but this isn't going to be a dominant offense. It'll be effective for stretches, and it'll be opportunistic. As long as it's not screwing up, and as long as the O line plays as well as it did in Gainesville, the defense will take care of the rest. The schedule ahead is too tough, and the offense too mediocre, to dream of an SEC title right now, but this was a gigantic step to making it interesting.

Sept. 22
Auburn 55 ... New Mexico State 20
At halftime, it appeared to be a dogfight with the makings of a possible upset. NMSU got two touchdown passes, including a 25-yarder to Chris Williams, from Chase Holbrook, along with a one-yard scoring run, and then the Auburn defense kicked in, finishing with six takeaways, and the offense took over. Down 20-14, the Tigers scored 35 unanswered points on three Mario Fannin touchdown runs, capped off by a 67-yard dash in the final minute, while Rod Smith caught touchdown passes from 58 and 18 yards out. Brandon Cox and Ben Tate each ran for short second half touchdowns.
Player of the game: Auburn RB Mario Fannin ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and added a catch for eight yards.
Stat Leaders: New Mexico State - Passing: Chase Holbrook, 29-40, 254 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Justine Buries, 15-55. Receiving: Chris Williams, 9-109, 1 TD
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 13-19, 135 yds, 1 TDs
Ben Tate, 21-111, 1 TD. Receiving: Rod Smith, 3-86, 2 TDs

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Tiger defense kept the high-powered NMSU offense under wraps in the second half, while for the first time all year long, the offense got explosive. Finally, Auburn looked like Auburn, with efficient passing and a good mix of runner to keep things moving on the ground. Kodi Burns might have shown off a little running ability, but this was Brandon Cox's game to take back his job. Burns completed just one of five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown, while Cox was a solid 13 of 19 for 135 yards and a score. However, let's wait and see how things play out at Florida next week.

Sept. 15
Mississippi State 19 ... Auburn 14
Mississippi State jumped out to a 13-0 lead on two Adam Carlson field goals and a Derek Pegues interception return for a touchdown, lost the lead late in the first half on a 28-yard Ben Tate run and a one-yard score from Kodi Burns, and got the lead back late in the fourth on a five-yard Christian Ducre touchdown run. The MSU defense held on as the Tigers got down to the Bulldog nine, but couldn't get into the end zone with a fourth down pass falling incomplete. Auburn outgained MSU 323 yards to 213, but turned it over five times.
Player of the game ... Mississippi State DEs Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal only combined for two tackles, but Brown's was a sack, with the two combining for eight quarterback hurries.
Stat Leaders: Auburn - Passing: Kodi Burns, 8-12, 65 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Bem Tate. 15-91, 1 TD  Receiving: Rod Smith, 4-78
Mississippi State - Passing: Michael Henig, 1-3, 16 yds
Anthony Dixon, 29-103  Receiving:
Aubrey Bell, 1-16
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... And it should be 0-3. Auburn was in a panic after a shaky first two games, and now is in about to go nuts after a weird loss to Mississippi State. The defense was fantastic, but the offense couldn't stop giving the ball away, and now has a quarterback problem. Forget that Brandon Cox showed good mental toughness to come off the bench to come close to pulling the game out of the fire, the offense appears to be in better hands with Kodi Burns under center. Cox simply isn't doing enough to make the offense go. Something will have to be figured out quickly with a high-powered New Mexico State attack coming to town next week.

Sept. 8
South Florida 26 ... Auburn 23 OT
South Florida forced overtime when Delbert Alvrarado, who had missed three earlier field goals and got one blocked, nailed an 18-yarder, and then answered a 39-yard Wes Byrum field goal with a perfect strike from Matt Grothe to Jessie Hester for a 14-yard touchdown and the upset. USF got up 14-3 in the first quarter on a Grothe one-yard run and a two-yard Mike Ford dash, but Auburn responded with a four-yard Mario Fanin scoring run and a three-yard Gabe McKenzie touchdown catch. However, the Tigers only managed two field goals after halftime and finished with five turnovers. The two teams combined to convert just six of 30 third down chances.
Player of the game ... South Florida DE George Selvie made four tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and had three quarterback hurries.
Stat Leaders: Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 16-35, 165 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Mario Fannin, 14-62, 1 TD  Receiving: Carl Stewart, 3-45
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 18-27, 184 yds, 1 TD
Mike Ford, 21-74, 1 TD  Receiving: Jessie Hester, 6-64, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where are the offensive playmakers? No one around the program appeared to be worried this off-season, but Brandon Cox isn't making his receivers any better and there's no real help from the running game. The real issue is Cox, who only completed 16 of 35 passes, threw two interceptions, and came close to throwing more. The Tigers need to quickly discover some semblance of consistency on offense, which is why Tommy Tuberville's decision to sit on the ball and go to overtime, rather than try for a few out plays to set up a long field goal attempt, was so curious. Defensively, Quentin Groves was unstoppable. It'll be lost in the aftermath, but he had ten quarterback hurries.

Sept. 1
Auburn 23 ... Kansas State 13
Auburn got all it could handle, finally getting the lead late on a three-yard Gabe McKenzie touchdown catch with 2:01 to play, and then putting it away with a 34-yard Antonio Coleman fumble recovery for a score after Quentin Groves sacked KSU QB Josh Freeman. The Wildcats used a trick play to take a 10-6 lead early in the third quarter as WR Jordy Nelson threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Leon Patton, but the offense could only manage two Brooks Rossman field goals for the other points. Auburn got three Wes Byrum field goals.
Player of the game ... Auburn DE Quentin Groves made five tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Kansas State - Passing: Josh Freeman, 32-57, 268 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: James Johnson, 7-14  Receiving: Jordy Nelson, 9-90
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 17-30, 229 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Ben Tate, 23-82  Receiving:
Prechae Rodriguez, 6-73
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Take the win over Kansas State and run with it. The Tigers did next to nothing offensively to grab the game by the horns until the final minutes, but the defense picked up the slack with Quentin Groves turning his game up a notch in crunch time. His pressure in the backfield changed the tide of the game. Things don't get any easier next week against the South Florida defense, and if QB Brandon Cox doesn't do more to make his receivers better, the Tigers might not be able to pull it out like they did this week. Auburn won't win many games when averaging 1.7 yards per carry.

Sept. 1 - Kansas State
Offense: Call this another stepping stone season. The offensive line is ridiculously deep, but without much appreciable talent. The receiving corps has a slew of good prospects coming in, and four good tight ends, but can only count on deep threat Jordy Nelson to deliver. The 1-2 rushing punch of Leon Patton and James Johnson is scary-good, but there's absolutely no one behind them. And then there's the quarterback situation, which was a plus going into last year with several good players in a battle, but now is Josh Freeman and no safety net. Freeman has the talent to be a superstar, but hasn't been remotely consistent. When he's not on, it's over. It's not all doom and gloom. There's a ton of athleticism, and Freeman, Patton, Johnson and Nelson will have games when they're unstoppable, just not enough of them.
Defense: Raheem Morris lasted one year as defensive coordinator before moving on to the NFL. Tim Tibesar will take over and put in a 3-4 scheme, which might, at times, appear to be more of a 4-3 with star Ian Campbell playing outside linebacker and the occasional end. There's a ton of overall experience and depth, even with just six returning starters, with the strength to likely be in the secondary, where safety Marcus Watts leads a veteran cast. While the D likely won't be sixth in the nation in sacks and 18th in tackles for loss, there will be plenty of big plays made in the backfield with all the speed and athleticism across the positions. The overall net result should be better than last year, when KSU gave up 346 yards and 24 points per game.

Sept. 8 - South Florida
Offense: This is Matt Grothe’s offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn’t have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn’t slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he’s the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that’s loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham’s unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that’ll pay immediate dividends.

Sept. 15 - Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.

Sept. 22 - New Mexico State
So that's how it's supposed to work? With Chase Holbrook at the helm, the Aggies finished third in the nation in total offense averaging 475 yards a game, 15th in scoring averaging 31 points a game, and second in passing averaging 399 yards per game. Those numbers might seem pedestrian this year if everyone stays healthy. Nine starters return including the top seven pass catchers, starting running back Jeremiah Williams, four linemen, and of course, Holbrook, who'll be one of the nation's statistical leaders all year long if the line, which found the right combination late last year, gives him just a little more time.
Defense: Big plays, big plays, big plays. The call has gone out from defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer for the defense to use all its experience, with eight returning starters (with safety Gerald Gurrier moving to receiver) to find a way to force more turnovers, come up with more stops on third downs, and most importantly, generate a pass rush. The Aggies came up with a mere 15 sacks and 55 tackles for loss last year, and those numbers need to double to give the beleaguered secondary any shot of being better. There isn't a whole bunch of talent from top to bottom, so everyone will have to be ultra-aggressive and more consistent.

Sept. 29 – at Florida
Offense: Now it's time to see how this baby runs. Now the Urban Meyer spread offense will do what it's supposed to with Tim Tebow at the controls full-time, and with a slew of speedy players around him. The offensive line isn't going to wow anyone, but it's experienced, and good enough to win with. The receiving corps has explosion, led by Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, and some tremendous tight ends, and the running backs, with the emergence of smallish speedster Chris Rainey, will have more pop. Now it's up to Tebow to not only shine, but stay healthy with two true freshmen behind him.
This is what's called giving Florida the benefit of the doubt. Anyone else replacing nine starters, needing a slew of true freshman to play big roles right away, and/or had the issues the Gators have on the line and at corner, would be instantly dismissed from any SEC East title talk much less the national championship discussion. The recruiting classes have brought in a ton of ultra-fast, ultra-athletic player for the back seven, but there isn't enough size up front, or developed depth anywhere, to hope for any sort of consistency. No, things won't fall off the map after finishing sixth in the nation in scoring and total defense, but there will be some major growing pains to fight through.

Oct. 6 - Vanderbilt
Offense: The offense is loaded with experience with nine starters returning including tackle Brian Stamper, who missed most of last year. The line should be tremendous with five senior starters that know how to pass protect and should be better for the running game. Junior receiver Earl Bennett is one of the nation's most productive playmakers and should finally start to get the attention he deserves. Quarterback Chris Nickson is a dangerous run/pass combination with the potential to grow into a star if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs aren't special, but they're experienced.
Defense: Vanderbilt won't have one of the SEC's better defenses, but it'll be far better with seven returning starters and plenty of experience. Most importantly, there are plenty of all-stars to build around. Tackle Theo Horrocks, end Curtis Gatewood, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, and linebacker Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs are all capable of making All-SEC teams. The cornerbacks have to shine, a second defensive tackle has to take the heat off Horrocks, and the stars have to be stars for a major overall improvement. Coming up with more turnovers would be nice, but just being better in all areas might be enough to dramatically change the record.

Oct. 13 – at Arkansas
Offense: The Gus Malzahn experience quickly got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver, but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Defense: It'll be a good defense, but there are some big-time talent losses in linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, corner Chris Houston, and linebacker Sam Olajubutu. There's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in what should be a solid back seven, but everyone has to stay healthy. The line needs tackle depth with Marcus Harrison questionable after tearing his knee this spring. Overall, coordinator Reggie Herring will keep things aggressive with tons of plays in the backfield, along with lots of pressure applied by the defensive backs.

Oct. 20 – at LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.

Oct. 27 - Ole Miss
Offense: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.
Defense: This should've been the year when everything started to come together for the Rebel defense, but the loss of all three starting linebackers, along with some major uncertainty in the secondary, will make this an inconsistent year, at least early on. The defensive line will be the strength with end Marcus Tillman on the verge of stardom, and the tackle combination of Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett to be among the best in the league ... if they stay healthy. The secondary lost some of its top safety prospects to the depleted linebacking corps, and the corners have to be far better. Ole Miss only picked off three passes last year. That can't happen again.

Nov. 3 – Tennessee Tech

Nov. 10 – at Georgia
Offense: The offense was a disaster at times throughout an inconsistent season, but that was to be expected with a true freshman at quarterback, at times, injury problems at running back, and the team's best receiver out. Now, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford appears on the verge of being the superstar he's supposed to be, Thomas Brown is expected to be back at some point to help out the running game, after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury, and Sean Bailey should be the number one target now that he's back from his knee injury. The offense, at least early on, will revolve around big Kregg Lumpkin and the running game, but the line needs to produce as well as it did this spring. A mega-concern going into the off-season, now the front five appears to be a strength.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has his work cut out for him. After losing star corner Paul Oliver to academic ineligibility, the defense is woefully short on sure-thing veteran stars with only three returning starters. There's plenty of potential, speed, and athleticism, but several things have to happen for this to be nearly as good as the number eight defense it was last year. The pass rush should be there in time, but it might take the wheels of outside linebackers Darius Dewberry and Dannell Ellerbe to generate some consistent pressure early on. The secondary needs to unearth more big play options, and a number one corner has to quickly emerge. While undersized, the line is tough and should grow into a rock as the year goes on. This will be a far, far better defense after a few games. By then the coaching staff will have the right combination.

Nov. 24 - Alabama
Offense: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.
Defense: Former Florida State defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came in and switched things up to a 3-4 in an attempt to jump-start a woeful pass rush by getting more production from the outside linebackers, led by a hybrid position of defensive lineman and linebacker, manned by Keith Saunders. Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood look the part of top ends, and now they have to start producing. The biggest problem is tackle, where former backup center Brian Motley, who looked great this spring, has to be an anchor for everything to work right. The back eight should be excellent, led by all-star corner Simeon Castille.



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