July 9, 2013
A week from today, Southeastern Conference Media Days will begin in Hoover and the run toward another college football season will pick up speed. In just more than three weeks, Gus Malzahn’s first Auburn football team will take the field for preseason practice.
So far, Malzahn has done everything right. He’s hired a staff with glittering credentials. He and that staff went out and signed up a better recruiting class than almost anyone expected. They’ve re-energized a football team that had lost its mojo.
What then is reasonable to expect out of the Tigers of 2013? Let’s take a look.
Auburn’s season can be broken into three four-game segments. Though Washington State and Arkansas State can’t be taken for granted, the Tigers should be 4-0 in nonconference games. That’s one segment.
As of today, they would be significant underdogs in games against Georgia and Alabama at home and Texas A&M and LSU on the road. That’s another segment.
The final segment includes games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss at home and Tennessee and Arkansas on the road. Those games appear at this point to be tossups or close to it.
It’s easy to see how pundits looking from afar would add all that up, figure the Tigers would go 2-2 in the four tossup games and thus have a 6-6 season. Most prognostications you see are along those lines. But I’m not looking from afar.
I see a team with enough talent to win more than anyone expects if some things fall into place. And it’s not like it would take a miracle for that to happen.
I see the Tigers going 4-0 against Washington State, Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic and Western Carolina, though I think the opener against Washington State could be testy with Mike Leach in his second season. Don’t forget the Cougars shocked Washington in their finale last season.
What about the rest of them? Could they find a way to win one or more of the four almost no one gives them a chance to win? Could they win three or even four of the tossup games?
Maybe. And maybe not.
I don’t believe any game Auburn plays this season, including the biggest ones, are impossible tasks. Problem is, there’s not a sure thing or even close to a sure thing in eight SEC games. Tennessee and Arkansas, you would think, would be the easiest tests. But there is nothing easy about going to Knoxville and Fayetteville.
Coming off a season in which the Tigers 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC, it is easy to assume that talent is lacking. Do the Tigers have enough talent, depth and experience to contend for a championship in Malzahn’s first season? Probably not, but they’re also not as far away as you’d think.
This Auburn team has a chance to have a good year, even a very good year. But there are no guarantees.
Such is life in the shark-infested waters of the SEC.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: