Last year, the SEC was a bit of a one-hit wonder, with Alabama going a perfect 8-0 in conference and 12 of the other 13 teams – including the rest of the SEC-West – finishing with at least three league losses.
Who, if anyone, can challenge Alabama in the SEC-West in 2017?
“I think there’s only one team that could realistically push Alabama in the West, and it’s Auburn,” SEC Network analyst and Alabama-based radio host Cole Cubelic said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “You have Jarrett Stidham, the Baylor transfer, who’s been inserted at quarterback. Chip Lindsey is going to bring a more balanced offensive attack. They’ll still have a run-first mentality with Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, Malik Miller at tailback. They’re loaded at running back. They have an experienced offensive line, good group of tight ends. I think Jarrett Stidham, if he fits and he has an understanding of this offense and can run it the way that he wants to, then Auburn has a chance.”
Auburn struggled out of the gate in 2016, dropping two of its first three games to Clemson and Texas A&M. The Tigers won their next six games but then lost three of their final four to Georgia, Alabama, and Oklahoma, ultimately finishing 8-5.
Auburn is searching for its first double-digit win season since 2013, when it went 12-2 and played for a national title.
“(Auburn has) more depth at defensive line than they’ve had in the past few years,” Cubelic said. “Even though they don’t have maybe an elite edge rusher, they’ve got some bodies up front that can make plays, two or three really underrated linebackers, and they’re good at corner. And by the way, (they have) the best kicker in college football (Daniel Carson), which is a big advantage for the Auburn Tigers coming back this year. If Guz Malzahn truly turns it over to Chip Lindsey and he lets him call plays – and they’ve juggled this the past few years with Rhett Lashlee – then I think the Auburn offense has a chance to be special.”
Auburn, ranked 12th in the preseason poll, opens with a lay-up against Georgia Southern this Saturday before traveling to Death Valley to take on No. 5 Clemson on Sept. 9. Kickoff for that game is slated for 7 p.m. ET.