The past few seasons for the Auburn Tigers have been up and down under Head Coach Gene Chizik. Despite going above and beyond what the “experts” and talking heads have predicted each preseason under Chizik’s tenure, the following year’s preseason rankings and “expectations” are always perceived to be quite low and have almost no significance in the conference title race.
This year, as I looked into some preseason magazines I have found this trend: The experts think that AU will not finish any higher than fifth in the West. In saying that, I could legitimately see having Auburn finish third or possibly fourth in the West based off of the big game performances or lack thereof in 2011. The teams that are predicted to finish ahead of Auburn in the SEC West during the 2012 season are as follows: 1- LSU 2-Alabama 3-Arkansas 4-Texas A&M/Miss St.
My first argument is with the two fourth place teams that seem to be the “favorites.” Texas A&M is beginning its first season in the SEC. I believe they will be a very legitimate team in the SEC in years to come, but they have lost a leader in Ryan Tannehill, they have a new Head Coach in Kevin Sumlin, and no one can know how those guys will be able to handle the monster schedule that is the SEC. Let us not forget, Kevin Sumlin loves to throw the football…A LOT! Who is to say that his offense will even work out these first few years of his tenure in College Station.
Now, my thoughts on Mississippi St. There has been nothing but pure hype behind the Bulldogs each preseason since Dan Mullen arrived. He has not been able to defeat a Western Division opponent other than a down Ole Miss team. Now that Ole Miss has made a great hire in Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss will once again rule the state of Mississippi. None of Mullen’s recruiting should suggest a burst of talent over the past few seasons, which would insist the 2012 season should be no different from the rest of his tenure in Starkville.
Arkansas, now they have the potential to do great but their directions on both sides of the ball under interim HC John L. Smith will determine much of their success in 2012. Auburn did not do so bad in Fayetteville in the 2011 campaign and at the time Arkansas was considered one of the best teams in the country.
Alabama has lost one very large key element that we seem to forget as sports fans, media members, etc: EXPERIENCE! It lost the Tide three games in 2010, a season in which many “experts” had them repeating as national champions. There is no doubt they have talent in Tuscaloosa, but experience has a lot to do with SEC Title contention and a trip to Atlanta in December.
LSU will pin its offensive hopes on QB Zach Mettenberger, which if you will remember, beat out UGA QB stud Aaron Murray during Mettenberger’s short time at UGA, for the starting job. Also, Les Miles addressed his dire need for LBs in the 2012 recruiting class and I believe that the Bayou Bengals will be the team to beat in the SEC for the second consecutive year.
The main point I am trying to make is that the “experts” somewhat disrespect Auburn each year during the preseason and eventually I hope to see them catch on and realize that Chizik can and will make the best of each year’s situations and go above the expectations of the so called “experts.”
Until next time, I believe in Auburn and love it!