Southern Football Report Preseason Top 25 – Team # 6

#6 – Auburn Tigers
Auburn, Alabama
Jordan-Haire Stadium (87,451)
2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1)

The 2013 Auburn Tigers had one of the most spectacular single season turnarounds in college football history going from 3-9 and winless in the conference to winning the SEC Championship and competing in the National Championship Game in 2014! Even when you look at the statistical jumps that Auburn made from 2013 to 2014 there are significant jumps: under 20 points per game offensively in 2013 to almost 40 points per game in 2014, barely 305 offensive yards per game in 2013 to over 500 yards per game in 2014, -12 in turnover margin in 2013 to breaking even in the turnover department in 2014 and my favorite, only 148 rushing yards per game in 2013 to an unbelievable 350 rushing yards per game in 2014!

Nick Marshall looks to lead the Tigers back to the National Championship Game.
Nick Marshall looks to lead the Tigers back to the National Championship Game.

Head Coach Gus Malzahn will have a quarterback for a second year for the first time as a coordinator or a head coach in Nick Marshall who accounted for over 3000 yards of offense and 26 total touchdowns in 2013. I expect Marshall’s efficiency, yardage and touchdown totals to increase in 2014 despite the rumor of him being benched in the season opener against Arkansas. The backfield with Marshall will include the committee of two seniors; Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, who both rushed for over 600 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. The Tigers return their top four wide receivers from 2013 including junior Sammie Coates who only caught 42 passes for over 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. Offensively, Auburn returns just about all of their skill players including the starting quarterback but none of that matters if the offensive line isn’t any good. And yes, Auburn returns just about all of them too. Every offensive lineman but one (LT Greg Robinson was the #2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft). Led by senior center Reese Dismukes, this offensive line group is considered the best in the nation by many outlets and have 113 starts combined.

The Auburn defense didn’t make huge jumps like the offense did but new

Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn

defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson did shave almost four whole points off of the defensive points per game from 2013 to 2014. The Tigers will need to replace sack leader Dee Ford but sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson, who recorded four sacks last year as a backup, will take over in that vacant spot on the line. Auburn did lose defensive back and return man Chris Davis (74 tackles in 2013) but the Tigers defense will return senior Jonathan Mincy who leads all returning defenders with 14 pass break ups from 2013. Even with those guys all coming back the unquestioned leader of the Auburn defense is middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy who led everybody with 75 tackles and 6 tackles for loss in 2013. This will be a unit who improves even more in 2014 with so much turnover at the quarterback position in the league.

Jonathan Mincy will need to lead the Auburn secondary in 2014.
Jonathan Mincy will need to lead the Auburn secondary in 2014.

The Auburn Tiger team is loaded no doubt, but the Achilles heel in 2014 will be the schedule. The season opener against Arkansas in Auburn was a bit of a snoozer but the rumor mill has Marshall sitting out the game following his arrest in the offseason which adds a little more sauce to the matchup. After a bye week, the Tigers make the tricky trip to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on the Kansas State Wildcats, one of the most well coached teams in the nation every year. Then the toughest stretch in all of college football begins when the calendar rolls to October as the Tigers welcome LSU to The Plains followed by a trap game road trip to Starkville to play Mississippi State. Auburn gets a quick bye week to catch their breath before the Ole Ball Coach comes to town with a 0-4 record against Auburn since arriving at South Carolina before traveling to Oxford to take on an Ole Miss squad who almost beat the Tigers in 2013 and is poised to play spoiler for someone in 2014. Texas A&M will visit The Plains the following week before the Tigers get to travel to Athens where the memory of the ‘Tip Six’ is still very much alive. Then to close out the regular season, Auburn travels to Tuscaloosa to face fierce rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl, where similar to fans in Athens, the sting of the ‘Kick Six’ still lingers in the air.

The Auburn Tigers will be a much better team in 2014 than they were in 2013 which is a scary thought when you remember how the Tigers averaged more rushing yards per game on the road than they did at home. Auburn returns playmakers that competed for a national championship all over the field with a defense who will continue to get better. It all comes down to whether or not the Tigers can navigate one of the toughest schedules in the country and if they do; there will be no doubt on whether they will be in the College Football Playoff…they will.

Jordan-Hare Stadium
Jordan-Hare Stadium

Stay logged on to for Team #5 on Monday and tune in to the Southern Football Report every Saturday from 10am-Noon starting on August 23rd! Here is a hint for Team #5: This team didn’t have a team for over a decade because of World War I. 

#5 – ??????????????????
#6 – Auburn Tigers

#7 – Baylor Bears
#8 – Oregon Ducks
#9 – Georgia Bulldogs
#10 – Notre Dame Fighting Irish
#11 – USC Trojans
#12 – LSU Tigers
#13 – Michigan State Spartans
#14 – South Carolina Gamecocks
#15 – Ole Miss Rebels
#16 – Wisconsin Badgers
#17 – Stanford Cardinal
#18 – North Carolina Tar Heels
#19 – Florida Gators
#20 – Texas Longhorns
#21 – Iowa Hawkeyes
#22 – Arizona Wildcats
#23 – Boise State Broncos
#24 – Northwestern Wildcats
#25 – Michigan Wolverines

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