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Preseason Publications Not So Bullish on Auburn

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Even in the internet age, it's still a big day when the annual preseason football publications hit the newsstands. So what if all the information in them can be readily had on the internet every day of the year? There's still something special about grabbing that glossy magazine with all those color pictures. It signifies that football is just around the corner.

As a kid I never dreamed of playing professional football or suiting up for the Atlanta Braves. I knew better. When you graduate from high school at 145 pounds, those dreams die early. Instead, I dreamed of writing for Lindy's or Athlon's.

When I was in my early teens, I would write my own preseason SEC football publication. It came complete with team highlights along with conference predictions and a top 25. With a readership just under three people, it never gained traction. But even after all these years, I still get excited the day these magazines begin showing up at the grocery store.

A quick look at this year's publications points to a dramatic downturn for the defending national champions. Then again, last year's editions predicted a similar fate, so there's no need for panic. Forecasting has never been a strong point for either Lindy's or Athlon's, but they do generate a lot of conversation.

Lindy's preseason guide is the most bullish on Auburn. They pick the Tigers to finish 24th nationally and fifth in the SEC West. They place three SEC West teams in their preseason top 10. How's that for division strength?

Athlon's doesn't share in Lindy's optimism for Auburn. While they place six SEC teams in the Top 25, they put Auburn at a dismal 42nd nationally, behind Bama (1), LSU (8), Georgia (14), Arkansas (16), Florida (18), South Carolina (21), Miss State (27) and Tennesee (37).

Like Lindy's, the Athlon guys have Auburn finishing fifth in the SEC West, ahead of lowly Ole Miss. They project Gene Chizik's third team to go 6-6 overall and only 2-6 in the SEC.

Noted prognosticator and magazine publisher Phil Steele, who famously predicted Auburn to be undefeated heading into last year's Alabama game, doesn't have the Tigers among his top 50. He picks Auburn sixth in the SEC West.

Of course, what drives this sell-off of Auburn is the departure of Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and the offensive line. Throw in road games at Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia and even the most die-hard Auburn would have to agree that a bowl bid may be in question.

Interestingly, Steele rates Auburn's schedule as only the ninth toughest in America. I'd like to see the eight schedules rated tougher. They must include the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots.

What do we make of all this doom and gloom in the preseason? Simple, you embrace it. There's something to be said for flying under the radar. Auburn's going to beat somebody on the road they shouldn't. There are too many four and five-star athletes on this team.

They'll play above their heads more than once. Like always, Chizik and Co. will overachieve. It may not be 12 wins, but it'll be enough to continue taking the program to the next level.

Count on it.