The holiday sure messed up my schedule, so I am posting the Auburn Preview from Pete Fiutak at collegefootballnews.com. While I do not agree with everything he said, Pete does tell us it how it is. Sorry folks, I will try my best not miss a post again.
Did you hear the one about
Tommy Tuberville was four seasons removed from a 13-0 campaign, had won nine games or more in five of the previous seven seasons, and had an experienced team returning for this year. None of it was enough to save his job thanks to the problems last year on offense, with the soap opera with offensive coordinator Tony Franklin the tipping point. But firing Tuberville wasn't about a 5-7 season; it was about a 12-0 season.
After owning the series for six years,
Fine, it might not seem fair, but a case could be made that firing Tuberville, with all his success, was more than justified after just one down year. A shakeup had to happen to try to counteract the burgeoning juggernaut that Saban had put together, and even if Tuberville had stayed, some rebuilding and retooling had to be done. So did
While Chizik has ties to the Auburn program, serving as the defensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004, he showed nothing, nothing at
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback battle ... again. This was the concern going into last year for the Tony Franklin attack, which best suited the running option, Kodi Burns. However, he didn't get the starting nod until midway through the year and he struggled throwing the ball. Now, under offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn, Burns is listed on top of the depth chart, but it's Neil Caudle who likely has the inside track. That could all quickly change with the addition of star recruit Tyrik Rollison and with the job wide open going into the fall. Malzahn isn't going to rotate quarterbacks, preferring to find his guy and then work through the rough patches.
What to watch for on defense: More takeaways.
The team will be far better if … it gets healthy. Key safety Mike McNeil broke his leg. corner Aairon Savage is coming off a knee injury, rising quarterback prospect Barrett Trotter tore his ACL, last year's starting quarterback Chris Todd has a bad shoulder, top offensive tackle Lee Ziemba has a bum knee, and it goes on and on and on. Chizik ran a very physical, very rough offseason, and while all the injuries can't be blamed on players being too physical in the spring sessions, they didn't help. If and when it's healthy, this is a good enough Tiger team to hang around with anyone in the SEC. If it takes a while to heal up, primarily in the secondary, pack it in and look forward to 2010.
The Schedule: Watch out. The last thing the Gene Chizik era needs is to start out with a clunker of a home loss, but that could be a problem with a tough game against a strong Louisiana Tech team to start out. After a date with
Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Mario Fannin. He'll be a running back, a receiver, the top kick and punt returner, and an H-Back. Fannin is a do-it-all playmaker with home run hitting potential, even though he has only done enough to be slightly above average in all phases so far. For a team that desperately needs to find stars to work around, and players to make defensive coordinators worry, Fannin has to become the weapon who makes things happen.
Best Defensive Player:
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Neil Caudle. Kodi Burns and Caudle are neck-and-neck for the starting job, but Caudle is the better of the two options for Malzahn's offense. At least for now. For an offense that was 106th in the nation in passing efficiency and 99th in passing, the Tigers need a steady quarterback to keep the chains moving and to put points on the board. Caudle has the accurate arm to do it.
The season will be a success if ... the Tigers win seven games. That might seem like a modest goal for
Key game: Nov. 27 vs.