Auburn, ranked 56th overall in SP+ returning production, brings back 15 starters from last season including 8 on offense. You will see a new QB under center as incumbent starter Sean White will now backup highly prized JUCO transfer, Jarett Stidham. The former Baylor product will be tasked with running a new look offense under the new Offensive Coordinator, Chip Lindsey. Expect a scheme that incorporates some air raid principles to fit with Stidham's skill set. Stidham, who some of you probably remember from his Big 12 days, opened at 50/1 to win the Heisman, but those odds have since plummeted to as low as 15/1. If the Tigers experience early growing pains in the passing game, they will have the luxury of being able to lean on an elite ground attack. Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, 1 of 2 running back duos (Kentucky) to rush for over 2,000 yards in 2016, both return to carry the load again for Malzahn. The Tigers are fairly inexperienced at wide receiver, but possess enough talent and depth to succeed as a supporting cast to Pettway and Johnson. Auburn returns 3 starters (C, RT, LT) on an offensive line that should thrive if they can find adequate plugs at both guard spots from the mix of graduate transfers (keep an eye on Bell from Florida State) and talented underclassmen.
The defense, which returns 7 starters and 10 of the 12 leading tacklers from a year ago, has the potential to repeat as a top 5 unit if they are able to find a pass rush. Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson both moved on to the NFL after dominating the left side of the defensive line for Auburn in 2016. Filling the void that Lawson left at the critical Buck LB position should be top priority for Auburn. The entire defensive line on the 2017 roster has a career total of 8.5 sacks; Lawson had 9 last year. Auburn will be tremendous up the middle on defense as they return all 3 starting linebackers who will line up in front of two senior safeties.
Expected Win Totals
CW Projected Total Wins: 8.0
CW Projected SEC Wins: 5.7
Posted Total Wins: O 8.5 -150
Home Field Advantage: 2.7
Opening Power Rating: 64.5
|Sep 2||Georgia Southern||Auburn||-33|
|Sep 30||Mississippi St.||Auburn||-16|
|Oct 7||Ole Miss||Auburn||-17.5|
|Nov 4||Auburn||Texas A&M||7.5|
|Legend: After bye week / Overlook Watch / B2B road games / Neutral site|
Some of the sharper folks I spoke with took positions on the Auburn Under 8.5 Total Wins at + money. I disagree with the position, but understand the logic of essentially counting on road losses at Clemson and LSU in addition to home losses vs. Georgia and Alabama. That doesn't seem unreasonable considering Auburn is an underdog in 3 of those 4 Game of the Year lines (Georgia +9.5 November 11th the one exception). You could also get to the window if War Eagle loses 3 of those 4 in addition to 1 other "bad" loss. Speaking of, who remembers Jacksonville State taking Auburn to OT in 2015?
I would consider Auburn, especially at -7 or better, at Texas A&M on November 4th. The Tigers will be fresh off of a bye week seeking revenge for a 2016 home loss facing a coach that can't win in the month of November. The road team has actually won 5 straight in this series.
I will be looking to fade Auburn on November 18th when they host ULM, who will be coming off of a bye week catching the Tigers one week before the Iron Bowl. War Eagle eked out a cover against Alambam A&M pre-Iron Bowl last year, but previously had ATS losses against Idaho and Samford (twice) in this same spot. ULM at +35 or better will be worth a shot in this spot.
Consider Auburn +460 for the SEC West if you really believe the Iron Bowl will be the de facto SEC West Championship. The Game of the Year line currently sits at Alabama -5.5 so +460 ML on Auburn will provide you with plenty of options should it all come down to November 25th. I personally have stakes in Auburn to win the West and the National Championship as I believe their strength up the middle on both sides of the ball can get them to Alabama with only 1 SEC loss.
Marlon Davidson (DE) - Auburn does return a substantial amount of production from their elite defensive unit last season, but they will need to find a way to replace the production up front of Adams and Lawson. Davidson (6'3 282) has the talent to help fill the gap left by the two DL you will now see on Sundays.
Daniel Carlson (K) - Don't underestimate the importance of an elite kicker especially once conference play starts. The All American can bomb field goals from 50+ and his kickoffs will usually result in touchbacks. His younger brother could actually end up as the starting punter, a special teams position Auburn currently has much less confidence in.
Auburn is 5-1 ATS as a home pup since 2013 which should apply on Thanksgiving weekend at home against Alabama. Alabama leads the all time Iron Bowl series 45-35-1, but Auburn is 8-5 SU at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
It all goes right if…
Jarrett Stidham stays upright and healthy. The knock on him at Baylor was durability so let's see how he holds up over the course of a full SEC Conference schedule. Injuries played a major role in 2016 for Auburn so getting to the October 28th bye week relatively healthy will be critical.
It all goes wrong if…
Auburn loses at LSU and at home to Georgia. Auburn will want a shot at the SEC West in the Iron Bowl when they host Alabama, but they will most likely need to get to that final game of the regular season with at most 1 conference loss for it to matter. Keep in mind the Auburn seniors have never beat Alabama or Georgia.
Auburn 30/1 NCAA Title (Westgate)
Auburn +460 to win the SEC West
ULM +35 or better
Auburn -7 or better at Texas A&M
For more, check out the full SEC Conference Preview.