Handicapping the 2003 Auburn Football Season

Columnist Phillip Marshall gives his preseason pick on Auburn's 12 football games for the 2003 regular season.

I'm no oddsmaker and don't claim to be, but I'm going to pretend for a day. Fans who get upset over who is favored or who isn't in a particular game need to understand how that process works. Bookies, legal or otherwise, are simply trying to set the line where they will get the most action on both sides. It has nothing to do with picking a winner.

Today, I'm going to give you my unprofessional point spread for each of Auburn's 12 games. My odds won't have anything to do with betting action, but simply with what I believe a logical point spread would be at this point. That could and probably will change as the season unfolds. Do not construe those point spreads as my predicting a winner. That will come later. Here we go:

USC AT AUBURN: The Trojans lost their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and their best running back, but they return the nucleus of a good defense, a great defense by soft Pac-10 standards. Auburn played them to the hilt in Los Angeles last season and they'll probably play Auburn to the hilt at Jordan-Hare this season. Phillip's line: Auburn by 2

AUBURN AT GEORGIA TECH: It's the renewal of what was once one of the nation's fiercer rivalries. Some older Auburn fans will tell you that they still dislike Georgia Tech even more than they dislike Alabama. The Yellow Jackets are short-handed after losing 10 players to academics in the spring, but it might be a mistake to believe they'll be pushovers. That will probably come later when injuries have depleted their already thin roster. They will be playing at home at newly enlarged Grant Field. Phillip's line: Auburn by 8

AUBURN AT VANDERBILT: Auburn historically has struggled in Nashville. You want to play the Commodores late, when injuries and losses have sapped their strength and their spirit. This could be a dangerous trip if the Tigers aren't focused. Phillip's line: Auburn by 10

WESTERN KENTUCKY AT AUBURN: Western Kentucky could be one of the nation's top Division I-AA teams. That doesn't count for a lot against one of the nation's top Division I-A teams. Phillip's line: Auburn by 31

TENNESSEE AT AUBURN: This could be a preview of the SEC Championship Game. The Vols have vowed to make up for last season's meltdown, and they will view a visit to Auburn as a chance to prove themselves. It would be a mistake to doubt their talent level. It should be one of the season's better games. Phillip's line: Auburn by 3.

AUBURN AT ARKANSAS: Razorback Stadium has been a house of horrors for Auburn. Tommy Tuberville has been there twice as Auburn's head coach and has seen his team routed both times. Phillip's line: Pick 'em

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT AUBURN: Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill changed almost his entire coaching staff after last season. The Bulldogs will be better than last season unless the specter of possible NCAA sanctions proves to be too much of a load to carry. Phillip's line: Auburn by 12

Cornerback Carlos Rogers is a returning starter going into his junior season.

AUBURN AT LSU This one could well decide the West Division championship. There is little question that Auburn and LSU are the class of the division in just about every way. LSU is tough at home, but no tougher than other talented SEC teams. It should be a memorable showdown. Phillip's line: LSU by 3

LOUISIANA-MONROE AT AUBURN: Another big payday for another directional school. Nice homecoming opponent for Auburn. Phillip's line: Auburn by 28.

OLE MISS AT AUBURN: The Rebels will bring Eli Manning, the best quarterback in the SEC and maybe the best in America. He'll be after his first victory over Auburn as a starter. Phillip's line: Auburn by 9.

AUBURN AT GEORGIA: There is no better series in college football than Auburn-Georgia. Perhaps the most unusual part of the series is that the visiting team seems to have an advantage. Auburn has won its last five at Sanford Stadium. Phillip's line: Auburn by 1.

ALABAMA AT AUBURN: When the Iron Bowl went home-and-home, most of us expected the home team would win almost every season. Instead, the visiting team has won the last four seasons. For Tuberville, who has 0-2 against the Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium, this one will be as big as it gets. Phillip's line: Auburn by 7.

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