So with only one day until kickoff, it's time for my yearly (realistic) predictions. I will be splitting this post up into two parts to avoid a very text heavy first post. I am specifying REALISTIC because if you're expecting me to predict the biggest turnaround in college football history, leave now. You cannot expect a double digit win season after the circus that occurred last year. And on that note, let's get started...
Washington State (Aug. 31) :
The Cougars and head coach, Mike Leach, will come into Jordan-Hare with an air raid offense. Expect to see short, quick passes from junior QB Connor Halliday, so don't expect the defensive line to get to the quarterback too often, especially with senior DE Dee Ford out on the sidelines with an injury. Expect to see a close first half with lack of depth and the heat of the south playing a factor against the Wazzu defense in the second half.
Prediction: Auburn W 48-24
Arkansas State (Sep. 7) :
Malzahn's former team will be making the trip to the Plains on the 7th. The Red Wolves have had a rough offseason with a mass exodus of coaches from Malzahn's departure. Arky State hired former Boise State/Texas OC Bryan Harsin to take the reins of the team. The loss of QB Ryan Aplin, a two-time Sun Belt player of the year, will also hurt, as the Red Wolves will have to field senior QB Adam Kennedy, a transfer from Utah State. If this game was played last year, it'd be a heck of a lot closer, but with a loss of key players and a new coaching staff, the Red Wolves will fall in Auburn.
Prediction: Auburn W 42-17
Mississippi State (Sep. 14) :
Let me make one thing clear...I don't like Dan Mullen. I hate what he did in 2010, because honestly, he just came across as a crybaby. I also hate the way that he gets about seven wins every single year and the media acts like he's some kind of coaching genius. *end of rant* Ok, so the (Miss. St.) Bulldogs will be Auburn's SEC opener, yet again. This is my least favorite game of the year, because if you win...great, you beat Mississippi State, but if you lose...LOL you lost to Mississippi State! There is nothing to gain, yet so much to lose. Good news for the Tigers is that while the Bulldog's offense will be returning some key starters at QB and RB in Tyler Russell and LaDarius Perkins, only six starters on the defense are returning from 2012. This State team will be worse than the one we faced in 2012, but on the other hand...this Auburn team will be a much better team (hopefully). Auburn wins, and State fans will bring up the fact that Nick Marshall stole money at UGA on their way out of the stadium.
Prediction: Auburn W 34-21
@ LSU (Sep. 21) :
This will be interesting. I will be making the trip to this game, and I'm really hoping it will end with a much better outcome than the last two visits to Tiger Stadium (2009, 2011). The LSU offense returns many superstars including RB Kenny Hilliard, the now (un)suspended Jeremy Hill *insert Les Miles joke*, and QB Zach Mettenberger. There is not a glaring weak point on LSU's offense as the receiving corps, led by Odell Beckham, is one of the strongest in the SEC. LSU will score some points, but so will Auburn. The good news for our side of the ball is that Nick Marshall is our starting quarterback. The Bengals have lost their superstars on the defensive line, so this creates an issue of containing Marshall inside the pocket due to a lack of speed. The lack of contain will open up the passing game throughout the game as well, as they shift the secondary forward to protect against the scramble. Auburn will come out strong and have the lead at halftime, but LSU's superior talent on defense and offensive strengths will outlast the (AU) Tigers down the stretch.
Prediction: LSU W 34-28
Ole Miss (Oct. 5) :
After a much needed bye week after travelling to Baton Rouge, the Tigers will play a crucial SEC west game against the Rebels/Black Bears. Hugh Freeze has the program going in the right direction, and this is a team that is very similar to Auburn. A rebuilding team with a spread offense and strong recruiting classes to their credit in the past few years make Ole Miss a serious threat. The Rebels return junior QB Bo Wallace, WR Donte Moncrief, and RB Jeff Scott on offense. Scott will provide a nice, steady run game, but don't expect him to break any long runs since he only averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 2012. On the defense, you will find plenty of YOUNG talent from the 2013 recruiting class. Remember, although they are extremely talented, they are still very, very raw. Even the best player in America, Jadeveon Clowney, was fairly average as a freshman. So on that note, a superior offense and coaching staff will carry Auburn through this one, but expect A LOT of yardage!
Prediction: Auburn W 41-28
Western Carolina (Oct. 12) :
Well, would ya look at that! With that last (predicted) victory, that puts us over our win total from 2012. When you put it into perspective, it makes last season look that much more pathetic, BUT I won't even get into that because it's a new day and all that jazz. Anyway, I haven't even started talking about the Catamounts yet. Yeah, that's their nickname, and it's apparently just a different name for a cougar. So this team is flat out terrible...in 2012, they went 1-10 (0-8 in the Southern Conference) with their only win coming against Mars Hill. If Jonathan Wallace isn't in the game in the second half, then there's a problem.
Prediction: Auburn W 63-10
@ Texas A&M (Oct. 19) :
Well, Johnny's playing. I can't say I didn't see it coming, because the second Alabama players were involved with the same dealer, I knew the NCAA wouldn't touch it. Due to that and the fact that this is one good A&M team, Auburn will not win this game. Kyle Field is one rough environment, and the Aggies have way too many offensive weapons to not be successful. The only bright side of this game will be the fact that A&M returns only 4 starters on defense, so our offense should be able to put up big yards. Expect yet again, another high scoring game with the experience from A&M's offense besting the good guys.
Prediction: Texas A&M W 41-31
Well, 5-2 doesn't sound too bad, now does it? At this point last year, we were 1-6. I'll take 5-2 all day long compared to that. Stay tuned for part 2 of my predictions...I hope to get them up sometime next week.