It would be exciting to see the Tigers become strong on defense again. My curiosity about the defense is focused on two areas. I am anticipating that this team has a chance to be more athletic up front and I also want to see if this group will play as well as I think it could play in the secondary. How those units perform in crunch time on Saturday will give real insight about Auburn’s potential.
Offensively, if you look at the history of coaches Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee on how they have developed their quarterbacks, I really believe things are in place for this team to have another good season moving the football. I am looking forward to seeing Jeremy Johnson direct the offense on a full-time basis.
It should be the type of offense that gets better as the season goes along when the players become more accustomed to playing with each other.
A key to making that happen is for the guys up front to gel together. I have a feeling this offensive line will turn out to be a good one and Coach J.B. Grimes looks like he has some quality depth to work with this year.
Another reason the offense has a chance to be solid is the running backs group. Whether it is Roc Thomas, Peyton Barber or Jovon Robinson on the field, I think the Tigers will be in good shape at that position. If they need to play the freshman, Kerryon Johnson, I like him, too. He hasn’t had the work or the experience the other kids have, but certainly has the talent to help this year’s team win. He will only get better as he grows physically and matures.
There is a bit of mystery about Louisville, a team that hasn’t named a starting quarterback and will be counting on a lot of newcomers. The Cardinals certainly have some questions on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football, but if you look at Coach Bobby Petrino’s offenses he has a long history of producing groups that are very effective both running and throwing the ball.
I think Louisville is a great opponent to open a season with because it is a great challenge for Auburn’s players and coaches, along with the fans who need to show up in midseason form ready to support their team. I am ready to see what happens. It can’t get here quick enough as far as I am concerned.
Outside the SEC there are a couple of games that I am looking forward to seeing. I think Ohio State will beat Virginia Tech and I like Notre Dame to get past Texas. Minnesota has done a good job lately and could play tough against TCU, but I don’t think they will pull off the upset.
This week’s SEC picks:
Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt--The Commodores really struggled last year so I am picking Western Kentucky, which has an offensive line coached by Neil Callaway, who worked on my staff at Auburn.
Tennessee-Martin at Ole Miss--The Rebels should win this game with no trouble.
Bowling Green at Tennessee--The Volunteers have a significantly more challenging opponent than many of the SEC teams, but should be able to take care of their visitors from MAC.
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M--The Aggies don’t have homefield advantage, but are playing in-state at Houston vs. what is expected to be one of the top teams in the Pac-12. It won’t be easy, but I think A&M finds a way to win.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Kentucky--The expectations are for an improved team in Lexington and it will be a big disappointment if the Wildcats lose their opener, which I don’t think will happen.
Alabama vs. Wisconsin--Alabama’s strong defense should be the difference in a game vs. the Badgers that is being played in Arlington, Tex.
McNeese State at LSU--The home team has way too much talent for this to be a competitive game.
New Mexico State at Florida--This should be an easy win in the debut for the Gators’ new head coach.
Auburn vs. Louisville--If Auburn has the type of team I expect the Tigers will have I think they should get off to a good start on Saturday at the Georgia Dome. I like Auburn’s quarterback and the overall talent surrounding him. I also think the defense will be improved and there is no reason the special teams play won’t be good so I like the Tigers to come home with a victory.
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