Earlier today, the Associated Press released its Top 25 rankings twelve days ahead of the first full Saturday of college football.
It’s a bit of a coincidence, then, where Auburn landed in the poll.
The Tigers will start 2017 ranked 12th in the country, and they’ll be the second-highest of six SEC teams in the Top 25. Auburn falls one spot behind Michigan, a spot ahead of LSU, and they’ll sit in front of Georgia at 15th, Florida at 17th, and Tennessee as the 25th ranked team in the land.
In the top five, there’s no surprise as Alabama begins the season ranked atop the poll once again, followed by Ohio State, Florida State, USC, and defending national champion Clemson, who Auburn will visit in Week 2.
So what does this mean for the Tigers and the heap of expectations that have been thrust upon them as kickoff has neared? Well, in the three years of the College Football Playoff, there’s been plenty of examples of teams ranked near Auburn’s spot reaching the end.
In 2014, things went pretty much according to plan. It’s uncanny, in fact, if you remember the playoff games — Florida State vs Oregon and Alabama vs Ohio State — they featured four of the preseason top five teams in the country. Ohio State placed 5th to start the year, just behind Oklahoma. FSU, Alabama, and Oregon were the top three and all reached the playoff.
One year later, however, things got a little more interesting. Auburn fans know all too well about how 2015 fared with high expectations, and when Alabama, Michigan State, Clemson, and Oklahoma reached the playoff, it featured the 3rd (Alabama), 5th (MSU), 12th (Clemson), and 19th (Oklahoma) place teams in the preseason poll.
2016 was a bit of a mix of the first two seasons of the playoff. Alabama and Clemson were #1 and #2 to start, and both played in the national championship game. Clemson beat Ohio State in the semifinal, and the Buckeyes began the year ranked 6th, but Alabama’s opponent, Washington, started the year at #14 in the rankings.
That’s all to say that there’s plenty of sample size showing that Auburn’s in a good spot right now. There are expectations, sure, but they’re not as high as in years past and it could be a great spot to start the year. We’ll almost assuredly see the Tigers get a bump in the polls with a solid win over Georgia Southern to create a top ten matchup at Death Valley against Clemson.