Head Coach: Guz Malzahn
2015 record: 7-6 overall, 2-6 SEC West
2015 Postseason results: Beat Memphis 31-10 in the Birmingham Bowl
2016 returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 85/1
Odds to win 2016 SEC Championship Game: 53/2
Odds to Win 2016 SEC West Division: 14/1
Regular season wins: under 7 1/2 -185 / over 7 1/2 +155
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Auburn entered last season as a slight favorite to win the SEC West even over Alabama. It didn’t work out that way. Say one thing though about the Tigers, they were consistent. Well, not really. They won their first two games, lost the next two, won the next two, lost the next two and then alternated wins and losses for the rest of the season to finish 6-6. Auburn would upset Memphis 31-10 in the Birmingham Bowl though.
Coach Gus Malzahn gets 11 starters back as the Tigers look to rebound from a disappointing season. A tough schedule will be a challenge though.
Auburn struggled on offense last year averaging 370 yards per game including 196 rushing yards. Auburn scored 28 points a game. Six starters are back for coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
Sean White and Jeremy Johnson split the snaps at quarterback last season. The problem was neither was very good. White threw for 1,166 yards with a touchdown and 4 interceptions. Johnson threw for 1,054 yards with 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and also had 47 carries for 137 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. Both are back and were locked in battle for the quarterback position with JUCO transfer John Franklin III. Malzahn named White his starting quarterback, but the other two could see action as well.
Running back Peyton Barber is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He rushed for over 1,000 yards on 238 carries with 13 touchdowns, along with 11 catches. Jovon Robinson was supposed to be the starting running back but was dismissed from the team after a couple of arrests. He rushed for 639 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. Kerryon Johnson will start at running back after rushing for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. Chandler Cox, Kamryn Pettway and Landon Rice will also get some carries.
The top four receivers are gone for the Tigers, including Ricardo Louis who is now with the Cleveland Browns. He had 46 catches for 716 yards with 3 touchdowns, and rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens are the two leading receivers. Davis had 30 catches last year. Jalen Harris will be the tight end.
The line must replace both tackles and that could be a problem. They are a little light on experience but there is some talent here.
Auburn allowed 405 yards per game on defense including 222 passing yards. The Tigers allowed 26 points per game. Auburn lured LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele away for the same position. He gets five starters back.
Auburn has potential NFL talent on the defensive line in end/buck Carl Lawson and tackle Montravius Adams. Marlon Davidson and Dontavious Russell will also start. There are also a talented group of incoming freshmen who could contribute right away.
The linebackers must replace all three starters. Look for Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson to flank DeShaun Davis in the middle. Tre’ Williams and Illinois graduate transfer T.J. Neal will also contribute.
Tray Matthews and Johnathan Ford will start at the safeties. Ford led the team with 118 tackles last year and also had 2 interceptions. Cornerback Carlton Davis was all-freshman in the SEC with 56 tackles and 3 interceptions. Javaris Davis will start at the other cornerback. Depth could be an issue as Stephen Davis, Jr. and Jamel Dean are both out for the season with knee injuries.
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Kicker Daniel Carlson made 23 of 27 field goals last year and including four from beyond 50 yards. Punter Kevin Phillips landed 17 punts inside the 20 last year. Marcus Davis averaged 11.6 yards per punt return last year. Jonathan Ford and Kerryon Johnson each averaged over 27 yards per kick return.
Schedule and Outlook
Auburn opens with five straight home games against Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M, LSU and UL-Monroe. Road trips to Mississippi State and Ole Miss are sandwiched around a home game against Arkansas. The Tigers then host Vanderbilt before a road trip to Georgia, a home against Alabama A&M, before the Iron Bowl season finale at Alabama.
The loss of Robinson will hurt a team that wasn’t going to be that great on offense to begin with. The Tigers need to get better play from the quarterbacks, and with not a lot of proven receivers returning that could be difficult. This team will likely lean on their defense but I think anything more than 7 wins would be a stretch.
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