Over the month of July we will look at the top college football teams in the nation and preview 31 teams in 31 days. Here is team #21 and the 2010 Auburn Tigers Football Preview. After your done reading this article be sure to scroll back up here and view our 2010 college football expert picks packages.
No. 21 Auburn Tigers
2009 record: 8-5
2009 Bowl Game: 38-35 (OT) win over Northwestern in Outback Bowl
2009 ATS: 6-6
Returning starters: 15 (7 on offense, 8 on defense)
Second-year head coach Gene Chizik will have to replace surprising starter Chris Todd at quarterback, but junior college transfer Cameron Newton could make the offense even better.
This is hard to believe when looking at Todd’s 2009 numbers. He threw for 2,612 yards and 22 touchdowns, and had only six interceptions. However, the mobile Newton has the stronger arm and could fit Auburn’s system even better.
The Tigers will sorely miss star running back Ben Tate, who carried the ball 263 times last season. He ended up with 1,362 rushing yards and ten touchdowns on a 5.2 yards-per-carry average.
Senior Mario Fannin will most likely get the nod in the backfield. He had only 34 carries last season, but averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. While the 34 carries are a small sample size, the numbers show his explosiveness.
Receivers Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery were key pieces in a high-scoring passing game last season. Adams caught 60 balls for 997 yards and ten touchdowns. Zachery hauled in 26 passes for 477 yards, five scores and a ridiculously high average of 18.3 yards per reception.
The offensive line returns four starters and should be among the best in the SEC.
The Tigers need to improve their defense, and they will have better personnel than in the last two years. Auburn historically has fielded strong defensive teams, but has struggled in the last two seasons.
They lose sack leader Antonio Coleman on the defensive line, but look to build a stronger line with their returning starters. Senior defensive tackle Mike Blanc was second on the team in sacks last season with 3.5. Junior tackle Nick Farley and senior end Antoine Carter had 1.5 sacks each and we could see a scheme that allows the defense to attack from all angles.
Senior linebackers Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens will lead the way for a strong linebacking corps. Stevens had 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss last season, and Bynes added one sack and five tackles for a loss. They combined for 199 tackles.
The Tigers’ secondary loses Walter McFadden, who had six interceptions in 2009. They have three veterans returning in the defensive backfield and shouldn’t have a problem replacing McFadden.
Kicker Wes Byrum was nearly perfect in 2009. He made all of his 54 extra point attempts and went 15-for-16 on field goals. He was perfect from 39 yards and under and went 5-for-6 from 40 to 49 yards. He didn’t try a field goal from 50+ yards, but had a season long of 49.
The Tigers have to replace punter Clinton Durst who averaged 40.8 yards and forced 25 fair catches. He buried the ball within the opponent’s 20-yard line 21 times. Senior punter Ryan Shoemaker looks ready to step in, and we shouldn’t see any dropoff at the position.
The Tigers struggled in punt returning and recruited accordingly. They should see much improvement to last season, when Chizik used four different punt returners and all four of them bobbled or fumbled the ball at times.
Demond Washington and Mario Fannin returned kicks, and both of them did well. Washington averaged 31.1 yards on 16 returns and scored a touchdown. Fannin had 14 returns for 297 yards and a 21.2 yard average.
Against the spread
The Tigers went 6-6 against the college football line. They went 3-2 when favored at home and 0-1 as the away favorite. They went 2-0 ATS as the home underdog and 1-2 as the away dog. Auburn had a 4-4 record ATS when playing opponents from the SEC and a 2-2 record ATS when playing non-conference opponents.
They are 62-57-1 against the spread in the last ten years.
You can bet on it
Bet on the Tigers against South Carolina on September 25. Auburn is 6-1-1 in the all-time series with their only loss dating back to 1933. The last meeting was in 2006, when Auburn beat the Gamecocks 24-17.
Favor the fade
Fade the Tigers against Arkansas on October 16. Tigers’ offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn faces his former team in this matchup. There have been four straight upsets in the series and Auburn lost last season’s meeting 44-23. The road team seems to be in charge in the series with the four straight away victories before Auburns 2009 loss at Arkansas.