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Ten Burning Questions

If you are like me, you've read everything you can get your hands on about the upcoming college football season. All of the pundits have weighed in and now it's time for answers - almost. Below are 10 burning questions I have as we move closer to kickoff...

  1. Is Ted Roof the right man to run Auburn's defense? Rightfully so, Roof was given a pass for last season's poor defensive performance. Injuries and depth helped his unit rank statistically as one of the worst in Auburn history. While the experience and talent level have significantly improved from a year ago, those who've attended practice still give the group mixed reviews. The play at linebacker and defensive secondary will ultimately decide Auburn's success on the field and Roof's future at Auburn.
  1. Will Mario Fannin be Auburn's featured back at season's end? There's no questioning his ability. When he's healthy, there are few quicker than the speedy Fannin. He has All-SEC potential. He also has a questionable shoulder that former coach Tommy Tuberville deemed not healthy enough to make it through an SEC schedule at tailback. Obviously, Gene Chizik has other ideas. How quickly will heralded freshman Michael Dyer insert himself into the game plan? Typically, the running back position is not one that players work themselves into gradually.  Either they have the ability or they don't. We should know soon where Dyer stands. Let's also not forget Onterio McCalebb. Before struggling with injuries last year, he looked to be one of the more promising backs to come along in a while.
  1. Can Aairon Savage and Mike McNeil return to their old form following season ending injuries? You've probably already given thought to what Arkansas' Ryan Mallett will do to Auburn's defensive secondary if Savage and McNeil don't return to their old form. Add in the injury to Zac Etheridge and Darren Bates' move to linebacker and there's plenty of worry to keep you up at night.
  1. Can Auburn really improve on last year's 8-5 record? When you look at the SEC West it's hard to imagine any team escaping unscathed. The lone team in the division expected to be down from a year ago, Ole Miss, now has new hope after adding Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback. Add in visits by Clemson and South Carolina and you have to wonder whether improving on last year's record is possible. On paper, there's little doubt this is a better team, but the results may not reflect it. Then again...
  1. Can Alabama repeat as SEC Champions? The program Nick Saban has built at Alabama in a few short years is beyond impressive. But if I'm an Alabama fan, I have to be a little uneasy with all the media attention the Tide is receiving. It's hard to turn on TV without seeing a feature story on Saban, Mark Ingram or Greg McElroy. Without question, Alabama has gone Hollywood. That's great exposure for the program, but the effect it has on the field will be interesting to see.
  1. How will Tim Tebow's graduation and Urban Meyer's off-the-field dramatics affect the Florida team? Florida's talent may be unrivaled anywhere in college football. As the Gators start life after Tebow, the big question is how will they adjust? Don't count them out in the national championship hunt. Remember not too many years ago at Tennessee what happened following Peyton Manning's departure. Mobile native Tee Martin stepped up and led them to a championship. Quarterback John Brantley has the skill-set to deliver. The bigger issue may be the uncertainty around Meyer. Will his health hold up? When the going gets tough will he second guess his decision to return?
  1. Will Les Miles survive at LSU? Do you think Miles every second guesses his decision to remain in Baton Rouge? Would things have been different on the Bayou had he left for Michigan? What about in Ann Arbor? Of all the SEC coaches, his seat in the warmest. Rarely is a senior opener a must win, but the September 3rd showdown with North Carolina is the exception. Even a win may just be buying him time.
  1. Will Tennessee fans be tolerant of a rough season in Knoxville? It's doubtful Vince Lombardi could do much with this year's edition of Tennessee football. The schedule is tough and the talent is lacking. That should sound vaguely familiar to Auburn fans after last season. If Derek Dooley's smart, he'll use Gene Chizik's year one blueprint in Big Orange Country. An eight-win season for Dooley should land him unanimous selection as national coach of the year. Unfortunately for Dooley, that's not likely to happen.
  1. Can Mark Richt solidify his position at Georgia? When you look at Richt 's record, it seems ridiculous to even be talking about his job security.  But like Bill Curry 20 years ago, Richt has a big problem with a rival - Florida. Simply put, Richt has to beat the Gators and soon. His lifetime record of 2-7 against Florida must improve beginning this season. Despite success against Georgia Tech and Auburn, Dawg fans are beginning to grow impatient with the annual Jacksonville beat down.
  1. Will Bobby Petrino emerge as one of the top coaches in the SEC or take the path of Houston Nutt?  With a hotshot quarterback and an offense that's rumored to be ready to make a serious run in the conference, Petrino will have a chance this season to begin repairing his damaged reputation. Success will depend on a defensive unit that was among the worst in the conference last year. The early season matchup with Alabama is huge for the Razorback faithful.