Poll voters might be year away forecasting AU’s chances

first_imgWill Muschamp talks with Gus Malzahn.Will Muschamp talks with Gus Malzahn.We’ve seen adept sloganeering out of Auburn University’s initials over the years. Who can forget AttitUde and AUdacity?Polls and expectations for this year seem to show that college football punditry has bought into Assumption U.Sports Illustrated picked Auburn to make the College Football Playoff. SEC media picked the Tigers to win the conference … but not the West Division.Auburn ranges from No. 2 (Sports Illustrated) to No. 7 (Amway/USA Today Coaches Poll), and this for a team that finished 8-5 in 2014 and lost four of its last five games and tumbled out of the inaugural playoff picture.Most of those late losses came via an atrocious defense.Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense lost its entire backfield, including the quarterback that got the Tigers to the Bowl Championship Series final in 2013 and the SEC’s leading rusher for 2014.Also gone are a Rimington Award-winning center and the wide receiver that torched Alabama’s secondary for 206 yards and two touchdowns.So long, Nick Marshall.Farewell, Cameron Artis-Payne.See ya, Reese Dismukes and Sammie Coates.They left behind a lot assumptions, and prognosticators are biting.There’s an assumption that a Gus Malzahn-coached offense will always produce, even with significant attrition.There’s an assumption that new starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who Malzahn recruited during his stay as Auburn’s offensive coordinator and has molded as head coach, will pan out.There’s an assumption that Malzahn can plug just about any running back into his system and get 1,000 yards, and Auburn has spent the offseason sorting through three of them.Assumptions are that Auburn has answers at center and a deep-threat receiver like Coates to pair with D’haquille Williams, who does damage from the slot as well as Twitter.Then comes the biggest assumption of all … that Will Muschamp will make a big enough difference in year one of his second stay as Auburn’s defensive coordinator.That last assumption isn’t unreasonable. If Malzahn’s offense is what we’ve all come to expect, that the defense doesn’t have to be great. Muschamp just has to make it hard for opponents to keep pace.Auburn also stands to improve at rushing the passer. End Carl Lawson returns after missing last season because of an injury, and true freshman end Byron Cowart was the nation’s top-ranked recruit.That alone should make it possible for the secondary to play more aggressively. The additions of Michigan transfer Blake Countess and Georgia transfer Tray Matthews should also help.Auburn’s secondary should do better than scorched Earth this season.Throw in attitude that the always-intense Muschamp brings, and there’s reason to believe Auburn’s defense will improve.But remember, Auburn’s defense couldn’t stop anybody the last half of last season. The Tigers scored 44 points and gained 630 yards in an Iron Bowl and still lost by nearly two touchdowns.It’ll take a minor Muschamp miracle for Auburn’s defense to be good enough, assuming that Auburn’s offense doesn’t take a step back.But Auburn made an assumption in making Muschamp the nation’s new highest-paid assistant. Swaths of the college football punditry have bought Auburn assumptions in a way reminiscent of 2003.In 2003, Auburn had more returning talent at key positions, including a backfield full of future first-round draft picks. Those Tigers had the makings of a team that would go undefeated … in 2004.last_img

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