By Jay Coulter
It's already starting to look like game day on the Plains. RV's have started pulling in and the city of Auburn is getting ready to welcome back 86,000 friends. On Wednesday, the team entered the final stages of its preparation for Saturday's opener with Louisiana-Monroe.
For the record, the Louisiana school has requested that it be referred to as ULM for now on. That's fine with us. It's doesn't take as long to type.
Auburn worked out in shorts yesterday at both the athletic complex and at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The majority of practice was spent working on game day timing. Tommy Tuberville noted at his press conference on Tuesday that he has some concerns about shuffling players in and out so frequently with the Spread Offense. You'll see Auburn go a lot deeper into the depth chart with this new offense. The Tigers will dress out close to 90 players Saturday.
The team was given a screening of the pregame video that will be played at Pat Dye Field before the players take the field. This year's video is a remix of the song, "Are you ready?" by Three Days Grace. As usual, the video will show tons of highlights from last season.
Here are some Auburn game day facts to get you ready...
- Auburn has an 88-25-2 record in season-opening games. Auburn has won 17 of its last 22 openers, and has a 6-3 mark under head coach Tommy Tuberville with two straight wins.
- Auburn's 88 season-opening victories is just one win behind Alabama for the most among the 12 Southeastern Conference schools.
- Auburn returns more than 80 percent of its rushing, receiving and all-purpose yards from last season, as well as more than 90 percent of its scoring.
- Auburn will surpass the 20 million mark in all-time total attendance at Jordan-Hare Stadium during the game against Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers have drawn 19,986,213 fans in 68 seasons at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
- For the sixth consecutive year, Auburn is nationally ranked to begin the season. The Tigers are 10th in the Associated Press preseason poll, and 11th in the preseason USA Today coaches poll.
- Auburn has been tough to beat in night games at Jordan-Hare Stadium in recent seasons, accumulating a record of 14-2 since the 2000 season in home games starting at 6 p.m. or later. That stretch includes a 4-0 record against ranked opponents, with wins over No. 1 Florida in 2001, No. 2 Florida in 2006, No. 7 Tennessee in 2003 and No. 14 Georgia in 2000. The Tigers currently own a two-game winning streak in home night games.
- Head Coach Tommy Tuberville has a senior class that includes 16 players at Auburn in 2008. The Tigers' group of 16 seniors is the fourth most during the Tuberville era. The largest group of seniors was 21 in 2006, while the 2004 group had 18 and last year's squad had 17. During Tuberville's tenure, Auburn's other senior classes have consisted of: 15 in 2005, 13 in 2003, 15 in 2002, 10 in 2001, 14 in 2000 and 14 in 1999.
- Defensively in 2007, Auburn must replace four starters from last year's squad that led the SEC and ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense (16.9), including two interior linemen and two members of the secondary. Defensive tackles Josh Thompson and Pat Sims combined for 104 tackles including 16 for losses, while safety Eric Brock and cornerback Patrick Lee ranked fifth and sixth on the team with 59 and 55 tackles, respectively.
- In addition, NFL draft picks Quentin Groves and Jonathan Wilhite were seniors in 2007. However, three of the top four leading tacklers return in sophomore safety Zac Etheridge (65), senior linebacker Chris Evans (64) and junior cornerback Jerraud Powers (63). Powers also shared the team lead with four interceptions. Other key returners include juniors Antonio Coleman and Sen'Derrick Marks on the defensive line. Coleman had team highs of 18.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, while Marks has been named to several preseason All-America teams. Other returning starters are junior linebacker Tray Blackmon and sophomore linebacker Craig Stevens. In addition to ranking sixth in the nation in scoring defense, the 2007 Auburn defense also ranked sixth nationally in total defense (297.9) and pass defense (173.2).
- A number of players have changed positions from last year entering the 2008 season. Junior Sen'Derrick Marks moved back to defensive tackle, where he started all 13 games as a freshman before starting every game as a defensive end last year. Sophomore Mario Fannin, who played running back last season, will split out as a wide receiver in Auburn's new spread offense this year. Sophomore tackles Lee Ziemba and Ryan Pugh switched spots on the offensive line, with Pugh moving to the right side and Ziemba to the left.