2010 Record: (14-0, 8-0 in SEC)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik (27-24 All-Time, 22-5 at Auburn)
Last Bowl Game: 2010/2011 BCS National Championship Game (beat Oregon 22-19)
9/3: Utah State
9/10: Mississippi State (2010 result: won 17-14)
9/17: at Clemson (2010 result: won 27-24 OT)
10/1: at South Carolina (2010 result: won 35-27)
10/8: at Arkansas (2010 result: won 65-43)
10/22: at LSU (2010 result: won 24-17)
10/29: Ole Miss (2010 result: won 51-31)
11/12: at Georgia (2010 result: won 49-31)
11/26: Alabama (2010 result: won 28-27)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 41.2 ppg (1st in SEC, 7th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 284.79 yds/game (1st in SEC, 5th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 214.4 yds/game (7th in SEC, 66th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 499.2 yds/game (1st in SEC, 7th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 24.1 ppg (8th in SEC, 53rd in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 109.07 yds/game (1st in SEC, 9th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 259.3 yds/game (last in SEC, 108th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 368.4 yds/game (10th in SEC, 60th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.36 per game (5th in SEC, 33rd in Nation)
Penalties: 53.2 yds/game (10th in SEC, 68th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Barrett Trotter, Jr (6 of 9 for 64 yds)
Rushing: RB Michael Dyer, Soph (182 for 1,093 yds, 6.0 ypc, 5 TD)
Receiving: WR Emory Blake, Jr (32 rec for 526 yds, 8 TD)
Tackles: S Neiko Thorpe, Sr (64)
Sacks: DE Nosa Eguae, Soph (3.5)
Interceptions: CB T'Sharvan Bell, Jr; LB Daren Bates, Jr (1)
Athlon Sports: Music City (vs Maryland)
Phil Steele: BBVA Compass Bowl (vs Cincinnati)
Last year was a perfect storm that all came together at the right time for the Auburn Tigers as they seemingly came out of nowhere to win the BCS National Championship. Well, not exactly out of nowhere but when we did our preview last year the highest we saw them ranked was #15 by Phil Steele. Here at CFBZ we had them pegged at #25 going into the season. Boy were we wrong. Winning a championship is about skill but it also is about luck and good fortune. Auburn was very fortunate early in the season as Gus Malzahn was learning how to best use Cam Newton in his offense. Auburn survived an early scare from Mississippi State, edged Clemson in OT, came from behind in the fourth quarter to beat South Carolina and beat the buzzer with a FG to top Kentucky. And that was just the first half of the regular season for Auburn. The next game was the one that put Auburn on the map as they put up 65 points on Bobby Petrino and the Hogs in route to a 22 point victory. Arkansas was actually winning the game by six points in the fourth quarter when Auburn turned it on and scored four consecutive touchdowns. The next week Auburn beat LSU and from that point they really looked like the team to beat. They struggled early against Georgia but ended up winning by 18. The Tigers were down and out against their bitter rival Alabama but they somehow found a way to win that game. Then it was a domination of the Gamecocks in the SEC Championship Game and finally a win over Chip Kelly and Ducks of Oregon to take the BCS Championship.
I mentioned earlier that it was a "Perfect Storm" for Auburn and by that I mean a combination of two great players on each side of the football (Cam Newton and Nick Fairley), with a fantastic offensive coach (Gus Malzahn) and a team that was deep with experience and veteran leadership. Cam Newton was everything that a Heisman Trophy winner should be on the field as he dazzled America en route to 30 TDs through the air and 20 more on the ground and seemed to have the knack to make the big play when it was most needed. On the defensive side of the football the Tigers were led by a bad dude named Nick Fairley. Fairley was the type of guy that opponents hated with a passion but he was also the type of guy that you'd kill to have on your team. He's a guy that would spear his own grandma in the spine ten seconds after she released a pass, but his grandma doesn't play in the SEC so he settled for rattling guys like Aaron Murray and Ryan Mallett. Fairley finished third in the Nation in Tackles For Loss and led the SEC with 11.5 sacks but the impact he made was much more than just statistical. One of the more amazing things about Auburn's season is that it seemed like they were playing a game of "Catch Me If You Can" with the NCAA for the entire year. You really have to take your hat off to the job that Gene Chizik did keeping his team together and focused. Having the amount of veterans and seniors on the team had to play a huge role in Chizik's ability to get his team to buy in and stay the course during the season with so many allegations and such hoopla surrounding the team on a daily basis.
The Auburn fanbase went on one hell of a ride last year. What is in store for them in 2011? According to Phil Steele, the Tigers have the least experienced team in not only the SEC but also the Nation. And I'm not just talking about starters but overall experience. Obviously the big losses are Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. But what about guys like Lee Ziemba, Wes Byrum, Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery, Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens, Antoine Carter and Zac Etheridge? It's hard to fathom that this Auburn team could lose so much and make a run at repeating as National Champs, or even SEC Champs. Auburn still has plenty of talent aboard but how will they adjust to losing so many starters, so much leadership and in many ways the heart and soul of their team in Newton and Fairley. The 2010 National Championship was a special season for the Auburn Tigers, how will they fare in 2011? To get a local perspective on the Tigers we caught up with Justin Hokanson of AuburnSports.com of the Rivals Network.
Cam Newton really took the world by storm last year but this year he moves on to the NFL. Who do you see as the short and long term answers at QB?
Short term, Auburn returns two quarterbacks from last year's roster in junior Barrett Trotter and sophomore Clint Moseley. Trotter was Newton's backup in 2010 and received some mop up duty, including the SEC Championship game. The battle between Trotter and Moseley seemed to be neck and neck throughout the spring and into the summer, with neither Gene Chizik or Gus Malzahn giving any hints as to who may be the leader.
The x-factor may be incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier. Frazier comes from Shiloh Christian in Arkansas, and was one of the nation's top quarterbacks in the 2011 recruiting class. Frazier hails from the same high school that Malzahn made his name at before coming into college and Frazier ran a virtually identical offense in high school as the one Malzahn runs at Auburn. Frazier will have an opportunity to compete for the starting job in 2011, but will have to show strides early on.
The Tigers also have one of the nation's top quarterbacks for the 2012 class committed in Edgewood, Ky.'s Zeke Pike. Pike will provide Auburn with another elite signal caller in 2012.
On the defensive side of the football, Nick Fairley was a menace and seemed to get better as they year went on. How does Auburn replace his production this year?
There's no way Auburn can replace what Nick Fairley brought to the table in 2011. Fairley was one of the more dominant tackles in SEC history, and in addition to the loss of Fairley, the Tigers also lost two other senior defensive tackles that helped free up Fairley at times. Auburn is going to be extremely young on the defensive line, especially at the tackle position. The top candidates to take over in the middle are sophomore Jeffrey Whiatker and sophomore Kenneth Carter. One player to watch out for is sophomore Craig Sanders, who may make the move inside from defensive end, and two freshmen in Gabe Wright and Angelo Blackson.
Auburn lost a ton of starters and experience off of last years National Championship team. What do you see as this teams biggest strength?
Auburn's biggest strength in 2011 is likely the running back position. The Tigers return sophomore Michael Dyer, who was the BCS national championship game MVP and broke Bo Jackson's freshman rushing record topping the 1,000 yard mark. Combining with Dyer is junior Onterio McCalebb, who rushed for over 800 yards in 2010 and may be the SEC's top home run hitter with elite speed.
The Tigers' other strength along with running backs may be the defensive end position. Auburn returns sophomore starter Nosa Eguae who had 7.5 tackles for loss in 2010, as well as sophomore Corey Lemonier, sophomore Craig Sanders, and junior Dee Ford. Eguae was thought to be former defensive line coach Tracy Rocker's favorite up
and coming player, and Lemonier was one of the nation's top high school ends in the 2010 class. Sanders will begin at end in 2011, has bulked up to 270-pounds and may be a rising star on the Tigers' defense.
Who are some under the radar guys to keep an eye on for Auburn this year?
Two under the radar players for Auburn in 2011 that come to mind are junior wide receiver Emory Blake and sophomore safety Demetruce McNeal. Blake led the team in touchdown receptions in 2010 with eight, but was
still in the shadow of Darvin Adams, and of course Cam Newton last season. Blake returns in 2011 as the Tigers' leading receiver and is poised for a breakout season. McNeal was a backup in 2010, but with the loss of three safeties from last year's roster, McNeal has the opportunity to take over and have a big sophomore season after being one of the Tigers' best special teams players in 2010.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?
Auburn faces a brutal schedule in 2011, with road games at Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, and Georgia. In terms of the Tigers' most important games, there are a few. Auburn hosts Mississippi State in the second game of the season in what is a crucial game. The Tigers' slipped by the Bulldogs last season in Starkville, and with a
young team facing their first SEC test of the season against an upstart State squad, that game will go a long way in determining the confidence that Auburn goes into October with. Another crucial game will be when the Tigers host Florida on October 15th. Auburn travels to South Carolina and Arkansas before hosting Florida, and then travels to LSU the week after their home date with the Gators. Winning on the road is always tough in the SEC, so if Auburn wants the successful season they are hoping for, taking care of business at home in the middle of a brutal road game stretch is important.
Lastly, the Iron Bowl. No matter what year, what circumstances, this is the most important game of the season. Auburn hosts Alabama after a historic comeback in 2010, and the Tide will no doubt be looking for revenge. Alabama will likely be a heavy favorite, and Gene Chizik and Auburn have the chance to take two in a row from Alabama after the debacle in Tuscaloosa in 2009.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
With an extremely young and inexperienced team in many positions, and a brutal schedule that includes five tough as nails road games, many critics are saying an eight win season for Auburn would be a success. That is a tough expectation to swallow after winning a national title, but given the circumstances facing the Auburn team in
2011, many Auburn fans may take eight wins at this point. I think eight wins would be a good season, nine wins or more would be a great season, and seven wins or less would have to be a bit of a letdown.
Gene Chizik has never coached in and lost a bowl game, so if the Tigers could win eight games or more, and win a bowl game, most Auburn fans would take that. Even though the Auburn coaching staff and players have always have their expectations set much higher.
Next Preview: Georgia Tech
Coming in August: SEC Preview
Coming August 1st: CFBZ Top 25 Countdown
2011 Team Previews