Head Coach: Gus Malzahn
2013-14 Record: 12-2, 7-1 Southeastern Conference
2013-14 Bowl Result: 34-31 loss to Florida State in BCS Championship
Odds to Win National Championship: +2133
Offense: 8, Defense: 6
The Tigers are led by 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate Nick Marshall, who averaged 234.2 yards of total of offense per game in 2013. He was just the fourth quarterback in the Southeastern Conference to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Auburn will need senior running back Cameron Artis-Payne to take over the every down back duties that Tre Mason was responsible for last year, but the offense should be just fine in the second year of being in Malzahn’s system.
Junior wide receiver Sammie Coates figures to be one of the biggest playmakers nationally—coming off a season that saw him haul in 14 passes of 30 or more yards.
The offensive line will continue to play at a high level with 113 starts coming back, including Remington Award finalist Reese Dismukes at center, who had 124 knockdowns last year and graded more than 90 percent for the 2013 campaign.
The Tigers may take a step back after the graduation of first round draft pick Dee Ford, but the linebacker group may provide proper backup for an inexperienced defensive line, with the unit being led by junior Cassanova McKinzy.
Senior defensive back Robenson Therezie flourished in a hybrid position last year—leading the program with four interceptions and ranking sixth with 57 tackles. He was a Jim Thorpe Award national defensive player of the week after picking off two passes in the 2013 season opener.
The Tigers will likely enter their first bye week with a 2-0 record before hitting the road for the first time and taking on the Kansas State Wildcats in a non-conference affair on Thursday, Sept. 18.
Malzahn’s crew will be severely tested during SEC play, especially during a final stretch that’s only broken up by a matchup against lowly Samford before closing the entire schedule out on the road against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Marshall has already gotten in minor trouble off the field leading up to this season, but he’ll likely be available from the outset against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
College football handicappers need to be careful in backing this squad in 2014-15, as it suffered some major losses in personnel and was also very fortunate to win as many games as it did a year ago.
Expect a two or three-win drop off around Jordan-Hare Stadium this season.
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