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Head coach: Gene Chizik
3rd year overall: 5-19
Off. 24, Def. 19, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 21
Best Tiger Players
1. DE Antonio Coleman, Sr.
2. WR Mario
3. OT Lee Ziemba, Jr.
4. LB Josh Bynes, Jr.
5. RB Ben Tate, Sr.
6. LB Craig Stevens, Jr.
Zac Etheridge, Jr.
8. DE Michael Goggans, Jr.
Onterio McCalebb, Fr.
10. CB Walt McFadden, Sr.
9/12 Miss State
9/19 West Virginia
9/26 Ball State
10/3 at Tennessee
10/10 at Arkansas
10/24 at LSU
10/31 Ole Miss
11/14 at Georgia
11/21 OPEN DATE
UL Monroe W 34-0
Southern Miss W
9/13 at Mississippi St W 3-2
LSU L 26-21
at Vanderbilt L
Arkansas L 25-22
10/18 OPEN DATE
at West Virginia
at Ole Miss L 17-7
UT Martin W 37-20
11/15 Georgia L 17-13
11/22 OPEN DATE
11/29 at Alabama
Did you hear the one about Auburn hiring a guy who
went 5-19 at Iowa State?
Tommy Tuberville was four seasons
removed from a 13-0 campaign, had won nine games or more in five of the
previous seven seasons, and had an experienced team returning for this
year. None of it was enough to save his job thanks to the problems last
year on offense, with the soap opera with offensive coordinator Tony
Franklin the tipping point. But firing Tuberville wasn't about a 5-7
season; it was about a 12-0 season. Alabama's 12-0 season.
Michigan vs. Ohio State is the biggest rivalry in college football (yes,
it is), but Auburn vs. Alabama goes deeper and is a whole lot nastier.
Losing once in the series isn't the end of the world, actually it is in
Alabama, but this year there was more attached to one single defeat.
After owning the series for six years, Auburn got walloped by the
Tide 36-0 to officially signal the changing of the guard while sending
up panic flares that something drastic had to be done. Alabama had Nick
Saban and a host of superstar young players brought in from top-five
recruiting classes, and Auburn had an offense that averaged just over 11
points per game in SEC play. Alabama was 12-0 and going off to the SEC
title game, while Auburn had lost six of its final seven games with the
one win coming against UT Martin. Alabama was the hot program that only
appeared to be going up, while Auburn appeared to be treading water and
looking for an identity.
Fine, it might not seem fair, but a
case could be made that firing Tuberville, with all his success, was
more than justified after just one down year. A shakeup had to happen to
try to counteract the burgeoning juggernaut that Saban had put together,
and even if Tuberville had stayed, some rebuilding and retooling had to
be done. So did Auburn go after a hot head man with big-time upside? No,
it went after Gene Chizik.
Auburn has taken enough of a beating
over the hire, but here's more.
While Chizik has ties to
the Auburn program, serving as the defensive coordinator from 2002 to
2004, he showed nothing, nothing at Iowa State to suggest he's
ready to take on Alabama. If he couldn't succeed in the Big 12 North,
how is he going to do much of anything in the SEC West? The five wins
under Chizik's tenure in Ames came against a mediocre Iowa team in 2007,
Kansas State, Colorado, South Dakota State, and Kent State. That's it.
Iowa State lost to eight losing teams over the last two years, and that
doesn't include the loss to Northern Iowa from the FCS. There wasn't a
win over an FBS team that finished with a winning record, and remember,
as bad as last year's 5-7 season was at Auburn, Chizik won five games in
So now Auburn is in a strange and tough situation
that it put itself in. The team isn't good enough to challenge for the
SEC title this year, and it might need at least two years to be ready to
battle LSU, Bama, and Ole Miss for the West. So if the Tigers
stink it up this year, is it because the program has to rebuild, which
it does, or is it because Chizik can't coach, or is it both? On the flip
side, if Auburn is solid and can pull off a few big wins, the pressure
is off. No one's expecting Chizik to do much right away, so any success
will be considered a major stepping-stone. And if Auburn pulls off a win
over Alabama, then it's game on for the Chizik era and everyone would
come to the same conclusion at the same time: maybe Auburn knows
something that everyone else doesn't.
watch for on offense:
quarterback battle ... again. This was the concern going into last year
for the Tony Franklin attack, which best suited the running option, Kodi
Burns. However, he didn't get the starting nod until midway through the
year and he struggled throwing the ball. Now, under offensive
coordinator Guz Malzahn, Burns is listed on top of the depth chart, but
it's Neil Caudle who likely has the inside track. That could all quickly
change with the addition of star recruit
Tyrik Rollison and with the job wide open
going into the fall. Malzahn isn't going to rotate quarterbacks,
preferring to find his guy and then work through the rough patches.
to watch for on defense: More takeaways.
Minnesota's defense turned out to stink, but it hit like a ton of bricks
and forced big play after big play, at least over the first half of last
year. New Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who led the Gopher D,
will bring that same intensity to this year's athletic Tiger defense
that forced just 19 turnovers last year. Now
there will be a greater emphasis on going for the big shot and to gamble
a wee bit to get the ball.
The team will be far better if … it gets healthy. Key
safety Mike McNeil broke his leg. corner Aairon Savage is coming off a
knee injury, rising quarterback prospect Barrett Trotter tore his ACL,
last year's starting quarterback Chris Todd has a bad shoulder, top
offensive tackle Lee Ziemba has a bum knee, and it goes on and on and
on. Chizik ran a very physical, very rough offseason, and while all the
injuries can't be blamed on players being too physical in the spring
sessions, they didn't help. If and when it's healthy, this is a good
enough Tiger team to hang around with anyone in the SEC. If it takes a
while to heal up, primarily in the secondary, pack it in and look
forward to 2010.
out. The last thing the Gene Chizik era needs is to start out with a
clunker of a home loss, but that could be a problem with a tough game
against a strong Louisiana Tech team to start out. After a date with
Mississippi State to open up the SEC season on September 12th, the
conference slate gets tough with three road games in four weeks going to
Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU. While there's a week off before playing
Alabama, the second half of the schedule could be a nightmare playing at
LSU, Ole Miss, at Georgia and Alabama, with a week off and a layup
against Furman thrown in the mix.
Offensive Player: Junior WR Mario Fannin. He'll be a running
back, a receiver, the top kick and punt returner, and an H-Back. Fannin
is a do-it-all playmaker with home run hitting potential, even though he
has only done enough to be slightly above average in all phases so far.
For a team that desperately needs to find stars to work around, and
players to make defensive coordinators worry, Fannin has to become the
weapon who makes things happen.
Antonio Coleman. He has the size, the quickness, and the ability to be
in the NFL right now, but he'll spend this year in a salary drive as the
star of the front four. He'll need help from Michael Goggans on the
other side and from tackles Jake Ricks and Mike Blanc on the inside, or
else everyone will be able to double and triple team him. That's fine.
As long as he's the lightning rod for everyone's blocking scheme, he'll
be doing his job. When he gets his chances, he'll be in the backfield
getting to the quarterback.
to a successful season:
Junior QB Neil Caudle. Kodi Burns and Caudle are
neck-and-neck for the starting job, but Caudle is the better of the two
options for Malzahn's offense. At least for now. For an offense that was
106th in the nation in passing efficiency and 99th in passing, the
Tigers need a steady quarterback to keep the chains moving and to put
points on the board. Caudle has the accurate arm to do it.
will be a success if ... the Tigers win seven games. That might
seem like a modest goal for Auburn, Auburn, the program that
went into last year with hopes of winning the SEC title, but the
schedule is a bear and there's a ton of work to be done to get the
offense up to speed. It'll take a few upsets to get to seven wins and a
bowl game, but considering that this year's team is better than the 2008
version, another losing season won't do.
Nov. 27 vs. Alabama. For the most part, Tiger fans
will understand if it takes one year for the program to rebuild. After
all, the new coaching staff's strength is supposed to be in living rooms
on the recruiting front. A bad record would be acceptable as long as the
cliché becomes true and the one big win comes against Alabama. A win
over the Tide in the regular season finale would mean absolutely
everything to the program. It would mean even more than usual.
2008 Fun Stats:
First quarter scoring: Auburn 63 - Opponents 16
- Passing touchdowns: Opponents 19 - Auburn 7
- Tackles for loss:
Opponents 92 - Auburn 75