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(THROWBACK) Game Preview - Auburn vs Arkansas State

New season, new stars, what can we expect??

So, in this ultra-weird time (a new normal, I guess), we’re looking for ways to distract ourselves from what’s going on. Thankfully, we’ll have actual real live football coming back in just three short weeks (and one week for some non-SEC Power Five conferences), but since we’re exactly ten years removed from Auburn’s sizzling national championship behind the Heisman heroics of Cam Newton, we figure that it’s time for a bit of a throwback. Therefore, we’re going to look each week at each ensuing game as if it’s somewhat live.

Friday was actually the true ten-year anniversary of the season opener, when we first saw what Cam Newton was going to do and how the team would begin to work together. However, we’ll still be running things on Saturdays to mimic a true in-season preview series, and we’ll even be throwing in game picks as we try to recall how we actually felt about each game as they approached.

Enjoy a little throwback as you relive some of the calm before the storm that ended up being 2010!

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We made it! It’s been a little more than eight full months since Auburn beat Northwestern in the Outback Bowl in the first game of the 2010 calendar year, and now we’ve reached kickoff for Gene Chizik’s second season at the helm on the Plains.

I think we all had a pretty good feeling at the end of last year — truth be told, it sucked, absolutely sucked, to see Alabama win a national title after Auburn had controlled the rivalry for the better part of a decade — and despite the rise in competition around the SEC, it was hard not to come into 2010 with a bit of optimism.

First of all, Chizik came in and ran through what many would call a pretty successful year one in the SEC West. His immediate competition was coming off of a year when they were ranked #1 for much of the season, and then they won the national championship in Chizik’s first season. The fact remains that Auburn nearly knocked off the eventual champs in the Iron Bowl, failing to get the generosity of a bunch of guys who don’t know that pick plays are illegal. After the Iowa State tenure, Chizik nearly double his win total from Ames in one season at Auburn, and now he’s got some experience, a strong staff that remained intact, and a roster where you can’t swing a dead polecat without hitting a senior.

There are reasons all over the field to perk your ears up when it comes to to the talent that’ll be on the field. Obviously, Gus Malzahn’s offense showed off the run game on many occasions last year, and a senior-laden offensive line will lead the way this fall. Lee Ziemba, Byron Isom, Ryan Pugh, and Mike Berry should pave a ton of roads for some new talent in the offensive backfield.

While we lost Chris Todd and Ben Tate, the work done on Todd from 2008 to 2009 can’t be overstated. With that example, what Malzahn can do with Cameron Newton should be exciting. He’s certainly got all the tools at 6’6, 250 to be mobile and give Auburn a different dimension when things break down, or even on some designed runs...

...and while his passing game could use a little work after a mediocre A-Day showing (although he did win the starting job shortly thereafter), he’s got plenty of help around the rest of the offense.

Ben Tate’s gone after a huge season, but the top-ranked tailback in the country out of high school joins the fun in Michael Dyer. Auburn almost had two or three of the top backs in the land attending school this fall, but Dyer’s the one that stuck, and he should fit into the Tate role pretty smoothly once he gets into the college rhythm. Thankfully, Mario Fannin and Eric Smith are also here to help level out the transition as well.

On the perimeter, Darvin Adams returns after a near-1,000-yard season in 2009. He came up just three yards shy of a grand, and the return of Terrell Zachery, Emory Blake, Quindarrius Carr, and Philip Lutzenkirchen should provide a receiving corps made up of vets and young guys with relevant experience. One of our favorites in Kodi Burns is back as well, but this time at receiver. We’ll see if he still plays Wildcat quarterback in certain situations, which could continue to add a huge element to the offense.

On the other side, the defensive line started to really make strides at the end of last season, bottling up Alabama’s run game before guys like Nick Fairley started to show out in the Outback Bowl. We’ve got Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens returning as seniors at linebacker, with Darren Bates moving in from safety to fill the weak side spot. While the secondary got torn up by Northwestern in the bowl game, Zac Etheridge, Mike McNeil, and Aairon Savage return at safety, with highly-rated JUCO corner Demond Washington showing up to play one of the corner spots.

As for Arkansas State, they’re going to be a bit of a handful, especially when you consider the weirdness of opening games and ironing out wrinkles. Gene Chizik mentioned in his weekly presser this week that the plan may be thrown out the window if things don’t go correctly:

“I think you always have a plan. Obviously, I don’t want to be presumptuous enough to feel like we are going to be able to play second-team guys. Arkansas State has done some really good things in the past when it comes to playing the Iowas of the world like they did last year. They took Texas down to the wire a couple of years ago. This head coach, Coach (Steve) Roberts, has been there nine years. Defensively, they’re always one or two in the league, probably the last three or four years in their conference. They’ve got a new offense that is fast-tempo. It’s very similar to ours in that regard with a new offensive coordinator, so we’re going out and trying to win. If we ever get to the point where something happens where we’re able to play young guys, then obviously we’ll have a plan. But let me backtrack on that because we’ve got a plan right now during the game to play young guys in the middle of the game no matter what the situation is because we have to. We’ve got a good plan on what we want to do. I don’t really have any kind of pregame thought on how it’s going to unfold. I know how I would like for it to unfold, but this is going to be a tough football game for us. It’s going to be new, we are playing a lot of young guys, and it’s going to be fast-paced. Arkansas State is not going to come in here and be wowed by this. It’s not like they haven’t played all over the country, so this is going to be a tough game for us and it’s going to be a good opening game for a lot of our young guys who have never played before, but it’s going to be a tough game.”

Kickoff comes at 6 pm CST tonight at Jordan-Hare Stadium, so be there and be loud for what should be a warm season opener with good weather for early September! War Eagle!