Auburn Tigers Ranked 7th in Sports Illustrated Top 25


Apr 19, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Quan Bray (4) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the A-Day spring game at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another national college football poll has been released, and this one offers one of the most pessimistic views of the upcoming season for the Auburn Tigers. Sports Illustrated has ranked Auburn seventh in its annual pre-season poll, found here.

SI offers the following blub on the Tigers:

"Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason is off to the NFL, but the offense shouldn’t miss a beat. Senior Nick Marshall is Gus Malzahn’s first returning QB in his nine seasons as a college coach, and Marshall will play behind one of the country’s best lines. Junior receiver Sammie Coates (21.5 yards per catch in 2013) and senior tailbacks Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant (a combined 1,257 rushing yards) will be major contributors. “We focused on being more balanced,” Malzahn says of the offseason. “I really feel like we accomplished that.”"

Sure, seventh is nothing to sneeze at. The Tigers are the second highest rated team in the Southeastern Conference. And, pre-season expectations should only be taken with a grain of salt – especially when it comes to a team that beat the odds so tremendously in 2013.

However, after the historic season the Tigers had in 2013, and with a roster that is arguably better this season, seven seems a bit low. Why are six teams considered to better? The magazine’s website gives a full scouting report of the Tigers here.

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In interesting nugget from the scouting report, an unnamed opposing coach offers some insight into the Tigers success on offense, and specifically how Nick Marshall’s running ability forces opponents to play much more zone coverage than man-to-man.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. When a defender is playing “man,” he often has his back turned to the quarterback, and if there are five players running routes (which is very rare for Auburn because of play-action and running backs in pass protection), that means there are five players not watching the quarterback (if it is a pure cover 0). Therefore, should Marshall decide to take off, he will have a few valuable seconds to scamper down the field before the defenders covering receivers will notice.

And while playing more zone should theoretically cut down on Marshall’s running ability on passing plays, it also allows the quarterback more throwing lanes. That’s a good thing for the Tigers, who plan to throw the football more in 2014 – and for Marshall – who has reportedly improved as a passer since last season.

Overall the piece is positive – and why wouldn’t it be? But, there is some insight as to why Sports Illustrated sees Auburn as a top ten team, but not a top five team. No surprise, it’s the schedule:

"While the only real out-of-conference challenge is Kansas State, few teams face a slate as daunting as the Tigers’. Starting in October they enter a hellish six-week SEC stretch that includes LSU, South Carolina, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and at Georgia without a bye. At least Auburn has a light week against Samford before heading into an emotionally charged Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 29. It’ll need to win at least eight of their last nine to have a shot at the playoff."

In all, Auburn must play seven of SI’s top 25 teams, and four of those games will be on the road. Here is the complete Sports Illustrated Top 25:

  1. Florida State
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State
  5. UCLA
  6. Michigan State
  7. Auburn
  8. Oregon
  9. Stanford
  10. Baylor
  11. South Carolina
  12. Georgia
  13. Notre Dame
  14. LSU
  15. Wisconsin
  16. Clemson
  17. USC
  18. Ole Miss
  19. Arizona State
  20. Texas A&M
  21. Kansas State
  22. Missouri
  23. Oregon State
  24. Nebraska
  25. Marshall