Southern Football Report Preseason Poll: #9 Auburn Tigers




Auburn LogoIt was a roller coaster ride for the Auburn Tigers in 2014 with nail biters week after week. The Tigers were in great position late in the year with a 7-2 record but finished the regular season 1-4 with their lone win coming against the Samford Bulldogs from the FCS ranks. There is a new cast of characters this season but Head Coach Gus Malzahn has his team primed to get back to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and make a push for the second annual College Football Playoff.

On offense there will be some obvious vacancies that need to be filled at quarterback, tail back and one of the wide receiver’s spots. Gone is Nick Marshall at quarterback so enter stage right junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson who had significant playing time in only one game, the season opener against Arkansas in which he looked good but that’s hardly enough to predict how he’ll do as the full-time starter. Johnson is a big kid, measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, and has a big time arm but lacks the mobility that Marshall had. For the second year in a row Auburn will lose a 1,600-yard back, this time in Cameron Artis-Payne who accounted for 13 touchdowns on the ground in 2015. This season the Tigers will have a running back-by-committee with junior Jovon Robinson and a pair of sophomores in Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber. Out at wide receiver Auburn returns D’haquille Williams who led the team in receptions in 2014 but so far this preseason has had trouble staying out of Coach Malzahn’s dog house. They will kiss and make up by the time the opener rolls around on September 5th. Senior wide out Ricardo Lewis and junior Marcus Davis will have to step up and be reliable targets in order to get some of the double and triple coverage away from Williams. You don’t average over 250 yards rushing a game in two consecutive seasons without solid offensive line play and the Tigers return three of their five starters from last season. The trio of juniors Alex Kozan, Avery Young and Shon Coleman are ready to move the pile for the offense once again and will do so with Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson at center.

Auburn Senior Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy
Auburn Senior Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy

Defensively the Tigers return eight starters from last season but the addition of former Florida head coach Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator will be the greatest asset the Auburn defense will have in 2015. Muschamp has proven over the course of his career that his defenses are usually one of the best in the nation year-in and year-out. Auburn was one of the few teams in the country with two 90-plus tacklers on defense in safety Johnathan Ford (93) and linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (91) and they both return for the 2015 season. Muschamp’s specialty is the secondary and he inherits a really good one on the Plains. Two seniors, a junior and a transfer who has played a lot will comprise the Auburn secondary in 2015. Seniors Joshua Holsey and Jonathan Jones will hold down the corner back spots while sophomore and Georgia transfer Tray Matthews will fill the vacant safety spot. This group has the potential to be one of the best secondary groups in the nation in 2015. McKinzy will lead a talented group of linebackers including junior Carl Lawson who was injured last season and senior Kris Frost who checked in with 87 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2014. Up front Montravious Adams and DaVonte Lambert will lead the way after accumulating 27 quarterback hurries last season alone. Auburn’s defense will be much improved in 2015 with these players and Muschamp’s leadership.

Auburn Tigers Head Coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn Tigers Head Coach Gus Malzahn

It’s just another season in the SEC Western division for the Auburn Tigers in 2015. They begin the season in Atlanta against an improving Louisville Cardinals team who have a chance to be a dark horse ACC Champion candidate. The following week the Tigers return home to take on FCS opponent Jacksonville State before heading out West to Death Valley to take on the LSU Tigers in a series where the visitor is 2-13 the last fifteen years. Auburn returns home to finish out the month of September against the Mississippi State Bulldogs which was a matchup of #2 versus #3 last season. October begins with the Spartans of San Jose State in Jordan-Hare Stadium for homecoming before the bye week. The following week it will be a Thursday night game against an allegedly resurgent Kentucky team on the road where Auburn hasn’t lost since since October 1st, 1966. The Tigers stay on the road the next week as well when they head to Fayetteville to face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks who will be coming off of a bye week. As much as both coaches try and play it down, it has been quite obvious over the last couple years that Brett Bielema and Gus Malzahn don’t jive well with one another so this game is always a petri dish ready to explode. Auburn finishes the month of October at home on Halloween night against the Ole Miss Rebels who most likely still feel the sting of last season’s unfortunate ending to this game and will be looking for some restitution. November begins with the final home game of the season when the Tigers head to College State, Texas, to take on the Aggies in a series that has been a shootout ever since Texas A&M joined the SEC. The last two contests have each been decided in the final minutes by an average margin of only three points. The Tigers will enjoy a three game home stand to finish out the regular season against two rivals and an out of conference game. First up will be the Georgia Bulldogs who beat the Tigers into a pulp in Athens last season followed by the Idaho Vandals who only managed a 1-10 record in 2014. The final game of the season, as always, will be the Iron Bowl against the hated Alabama Crimson Tide. Last season the Tigers put up 630 yards of offense on the Tide but allowed 21 points in the 4th quarter on their way to an eleven point loss.

The Auburn Tigers are one of the most intriguing teams in the country in 2015 with new starters, new coaches, high expectations and a wild schedule to go with it. The defense is expected to be a lot better than last season and if Jeremy Johnson can throw the ball like everyone is saying that he can, the Tiger offense will be as explosive as it has ever been under Gus Malzahn. There are some tricky games on the schedule and if Auburn can somehow navigate their way to the end of October undefeated or with only one loss, that November 14th match up with Georgia and the Iron Bowl on the 28th will be two games for the books, but then again they always are.

Jordan-Hare Stadium - Capacity: 87,451
Jordan-Hare Stadium – Capacity: 87,451

2015 Auburn Tigers Schedule

Sept 5th             v. Louisville (Atlanta)
Sept 12th           Jacksonville State
Sept 19th           at (14) LSU
Sept 26th          Mississippi State
Oct 3rd              San Jose State
Oct 10th            BYE WEEK
Oct 15th            at Kentucky (Thurs)
Oct 24th           at (18) Arkansas
Oct 31st            (17) Ole Miss
Nov 7th             at Texas A&M
Nov 14th           (9) Georgia
Nov 21st            Idaho
Nov 28th          (3) Alabama

 




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