How will Auburn do in 2016? I’d like to say better than last season’s 7-6 record, which included a humiliating plunge from pre-season title contention after our Heisman candidate quarterback sputtered with a string of interceptions in the first 3 games.
This pre-season, most prognosticators aren’t even choosing Auburn in the Top 25. Which is exactly the way I prefer it.
My Tigers do their best when no one has us on their radar. Certainly no one expected us to go from a 3-9 season in 2012 to 12-2 in 2013, yet three years after winning the national championship game, we were right back in the mix.
That BCS title game, even though we lost to Florida State, is likely the only reason Coach Gus Malzahn isn’t fired already. Nearly losing to FCS opponent Jacksonville State in overtime was embarrassing – even though JSU played in their national championship game last year. Auburn fans did not want to go to the Birmingham Bowl last year. It could be worse, though. Here in Chattanooga, I remember sitting in a bar a couple of seasons ago when fans cheered at the news on a TV set that the Vols were finally bowl eligible again. Let’s hope the Loveliest Village on the Plains does not get that pitiful anytime soon.
How do I think Auburn will do in 2016? I’m cautiously optimistic that we will have a winning season, mostly based on faith in Coach Malzahn’s genius (and his sense of urgency to preserve his reputation as one of the most sought-after minds in college football) along with the hope that a quarterback can make the offense function again the way it is designed to.
I think a lot of our troubles in recent years have had to do with a ridiculous schedule strength (top-10 per S&P+ for three straight years). I doubt we would have reached the title in 2010 without Cam Newton’s superhuman athleticism. We could have won some close games we’ve lost since, just like 2013 would have been a much different story if we lost some of those victories that our critics endlessly chalk up to “luck”.
Screw their luck. They are even more obnoxious when we beat them. Whenever we win, they accuse us of cheating or flukes of good fortune. I am hungry for redemption. I’m craving a return to consistency and dominance. I just don’t see it happening this year with losing talent like Peyton Barber, Roc Thomas, Ricardo Lewis, Duke Williams, Cassanova McKinzy, and Jovon Robinson all at once. I don’t have a lot of faith in Jeremy Johnson or Sean White to win on the road in tough games, so if Malzahn names one of them quarterback instead of John Franklin, look for a lot of the Auburn faithful to raise our eyebrows. (Update: Auburn named Sean White its starting quarterback for the season opener against Clemson. Hmmm…)
I predict we’ll lose to Clemson (in the CFP game, they gave Bama all they could handle) — but I also think we’ll gain some respect by the way we play, assuming it isn’t a disaster. I’ll be shocked if we can’t find a way to beat Texas A&M at home. LSU is supposed to be really good this year (but so was Auburn last year, so…). Our first road game is in October, and I think beating Mississippi State will have a lot to do with our momentum going into it. Same with Arkansas. I’m hoping Ole Miss is so whipped by their NCAA troubles that we can beat them. The fact that I feel iffy about our capacity to beat the Mississippi teams says as much about their recent successes as our recent failures. Georgia in Athens and Bama in Bryant-Denny? I’ll get back to you on that…
Funny thing is, the only game that matters is November 26th. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
To win the national championship in 2016, we’d have to win every game and expect at least one loss each for Bama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Stanford, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Michigan State, TCU, Washington, Houston, UCLA, Iowa, Georgia, Louisville, Southern Cal, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Baylor, Oregon, and Florida. In other words, I am not holding my breath.
So that’s my totally useless pre-season assessment of Auburn football in 2016. I’m preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Just like Auburn any season, really.
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