The sun had barely risen before predictions for 2015 were starting to come out of the woodwork. Where does Auburn stand in those? Well, right now the Tigers are looking pretty good.
AuburnTigers.com has a pretty good round-up with links to six predictions from national writers. They range from pre-season #2 to #14. Bovada.lv has Auburn at 14/1 odds to win the national championship next season, tied for fourth best (with Oregon).
Auburn will end the 2014 football season ranked in both of the major polls. The Tigers are the only five-loss team in the polls. Yes, that's right, a five-loss team finished the season ranked. Why? Because the Tigers played six teams that finished in the Top 20 in both polls, and only one of those games was at home.
This is new territory for Auburn. Past Auburn teams likely would not have sniffed the Top 25 if they finished the season with five losses. An Auburn team finishing at 8-5 probably would be at best in the "others receiving votes" category of the pre-season rankings for the following season.
Yet here we are, staring at a probable Top 10 start to the 2015 football season. Top 15 at worst. What's the difference? What's changed?
What's changed is the monster that Gus Malzahn is attempting to build on the Plains. Folks can look at Auburn's offensive situation and see that the offense may have lost some of its best players (including possibly one of the better quarterbacks to play at Auburn in Nick Marshall) and be better.
Gus Malzahn's offense is plug-and-play with the running backs, and there are some dang good ones on the roster. Jeremy Johnson could have started at the vast majority of schools in the nation last season. Duke Williams is coming back for his senior season. The offense could be scary good.
The defense? It was horrible by season's end, but there's still talent on that team. Add defensive guru Will Muschamp to the equation, and suddenly that's looking like a unit that will be much improved next season. I don't know just how improved it will be, but it will be much better. It certainly can't be much worse.
All of this comes as a part of Auburn's recruiting efforts, as well. Auburn has recruited in the Top 10-15 of the nation over the past few seasons. The media knows Auburn's talent level is there. Looking at the way Auburn may finish this recruiting class, you can see that the talent on the defensive side of the ball may improve even more.
The media is paying attention. They know that Gus Malzahn is one of the best offensive minds in football, he's brought in one of the best defensive minds in college football, and he's recruiting Top 10 level talent. Oh, and then there's the schedule. The 2015 football schedule will be much more manageable than the 2014 schedule was. So folks are starting to look at Auburn and predict big things to come.
Auburn fans have often commented on how the Tigers do better when less is expected of them. So, we cringe at the early expectations of greatness. It's time for us to get over that. As long as Gus Malzahn is on the Plains and the recruiting is at the level it is right now, the Tigers will be predicted to do well.
That's a very good thing! More expectations means more ticket sales, means more money, means renovations/expansions, etc. These are things Auburn sorely needs, and the hype surrounding the program will go a long way towards helping us get there.
It's always great to be an Auburn Tiger. It's going to get even better.
War Eagle, always.