On the defensive side of the ball, it should be business as usual with Tommy Tuberville's defensive philosophy in place. Coach Paul Rhoads will be called upon to touch up a few loose ends but Tuberville has been the common denominator for Auburn having a top 10 scoring defense nationally for the last five years.
The biggest change will come on the offensive side of the ball with Coach Tony Franklin's spread offense. Auburn fans have already witnessed a sneak preview of his offense against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. With more than 400 yards in total offense against a Top 10 defense and a 23-20 victory, there still remains a certain level of uncertainty about the future of Auburn's offense. From 1981-2007, Auburn has faced 37 top 10 defenses, gaining 400 yards or more in total offense only five times.
Will Auburn be able to run the football consistently?
How efficient will Auburn be in the red zone?
Because of the change in offensive philosophy, will Auburn become a finesse offense rather than a physical offense Auburn fans have grown accustomed to?
Will the spread offense work against the top defenses in the Southeastern Conference?
Talent level and execution will make or break any offensive scheme. Given enough time, every offense can eventually be defended, which is why adjustments are essential in the game of football. Of all the statistics kept to measure the level of success, only two truly gauge the worth of a team. How many points does that team score and how many does it allow.
From 1970-2007, Auburn has compiled a record of 83-9-1 against opponents with a winning record when the Tigers score at least 24 points. The 1970 Auburn Tigers averaged an amazing 38 points per game against the six opponents they faced that season with a winning record. Far more amazing was their ability to score at least 24 points in five of those six games, the best percentage from 1970-2007. Scoring averages are important but not as the ability to consistently score.
The 1983 Auburn squad is often revered for the grueling schedule it faced, competing against 10 teams with winning records. Though Auburn was not a Top 10 offense that season, the Tigers averaged 25.2 points per game in those 10 games against a quality opponent. The '83 Tigers scored at least 24 points in six of those 10 games, placing them fifth in that category since 1970. Not bad for a wishbone offense competing against one of the toughest schedules in modern day college football.
On the flipside of the football, Auburn is 82-22-1 against opponents with a winning record when its opponent is held to 17 points or less. Under Tuberville, Auburn is 20-3-0, winning nearly 90 percent of its games against quality opponents, when then defense plays well.
The 1988 Auburn defense was the most dominant, allowing just eight points per game against its six opponents with a winning record. In terms of consistency, all six opponents were held to 17 points or less. The 1972 defense was No. 2 on the list since 1970, when it comes to consistency. Six of the seven quality opponents were held to 17 points or less.
What makes for a very special season? The 2004 Auburn offense was No. 5 on the list in terms of scoring consistency. The defense that season was No. 3 on list since 1970, in terms of consistently holding its quality opponents under 17 points per game. A combination of both resulted in a perfect season. Both units had the ability to carry the other when it was necessary.
Many of us are afraid of change even when there is every indication it's for the best. For a long time, Auburn fans have associated success with a strong running game and great defense. It was a formula that worked for Dye and Tuberville. In terms of scoring consistency against quality opponents, the 1995 offense averaged 28 points per games against quality opponents, scoring at least 24 points in five of seven games. It was the defense in 1995 that kept Auburn from competing in the conference, allowing near 27 points per game in its seven biggest games.
In the long run, it really doesn't make a difference how Auburn gets to the end zone, just as long as it arrives there consistently. Last season Troy faced five opponents that finished the season with a winning record. Franklin's offense averaged 32.8 points per game in those five contests, scoring no less than 26 points. Yes, there are concerns about the 2008 offense, but they are no different from any other concerns coming into a new season. Except for the starting quarterback, Auburn returns every starter from 2007 and the talent level at the quarterback position is more than enough to offset the loss of Brandon Cox.
As conservative as Tuberville has been, it speaks volumes of his hiring of Franklin. The Auburn offense was in need of change and Tuberville was confident Franklin was the coach needed to bring about the change. The players have not only bought into the new system but have improved individually under Franklin in a short period of time. Something tells me it might take a little longer for the fan base to fall in line, but it's just a matter of time.