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College Football Analysis: What Sort of Year Will Auburn Have in 2012?

Auburn’s current regular season college football win totals at 5Dimes are listed at over 7.5 (+140) and under 7.5 (-180). The Tigers ended a mediocre 7-5 regular season with a dominating 43-24 victory over Virginia in the Chick-fil-a Bowl. Can they carry that momentum forward into 2012?

Auburn welcomes two new coordinators

Brian VanGorder takes over as defensive coordinator for Ted Roof. VanGorder spent the last 4 years as DC for the Atlanta Falcons. He was also the DC for Georgia from 2001-2004.

After finishing 11th in the SEC in total defense last year, the D needed new blood. VanGorder brings a new, more aggressive defensive style to the plains.

The new offensive coordinator is Scot Loeffler. While Loeffler is known for his work with quarterbacks, his one year as an offensive coordinator last fall at Temple yielded a unit that was seventh in the nation in rushing.

One of Loeffler’s strengths is that he’s coached in both spread and pro-style systems. He has the luxury of designing a scheme around the talents of his personnel, and that’s exactly what he says he’s going to do.

Auburn is still young, but should be improved

Auburn is still dealing with a lot of youth. Auburn returns 48 lettermen (20 offense, 26 defense, 2 specialists). Of the 68 scholarship players who participated in spring drills, 61 percent (38) were underclassmen.

Auburn does return 16 starters, including 10 on defense. However some of those starters won’t be starters this fall.

“We return 16 starters,” HC Chizik said, not including specialists. “But here’s the good news: All of those 16 aren’t going to be returning starters because they’ve got young guys behind them that are going to beat them out.”

Improved Defense

The defense struggled in 2011, allowing 38+ points on six separate occasions and finishing 11th in the SEC in total defense.

Auburn played a lot of underclassmen on defense last season. This year they’ll be a lot more experienced and deeper at several positions.

Auburn’s defensive line looks especially formidable this season. The unit returns their top 10 contributors from 2011, including 4 starters who combined for 49 starts last season.

Junior defensive end Corey Lemonier is one of the best pass-rushers in the SEC. but junior Dee Ford, who missed most of last season with back problems, was named defensive MVP of the spring game after recording a sack and two TFL’s. The Tigers are deep at both end and tackle, and if some of the injured players come back healthy, this is a defensive line that could be dominant.

Biggest question mark? Quarterback!

Auburn did not get much production from the quarterback position last year. The Tigers finished 10th in the SEC in passing, ahead of only Ole Miss and Kentucky. Auburn only averaged 153.4 yards per game passing and were last in the SEC in TD passes with nine.

One of the reasons Auburn brought in Loeffler as DC was because of his impressive resume coaching QB’s. It looks like sophomore Kiehl Frazier, who made strides as a passer this spring, has the edge over Clint Moseley, who started the last 6 games last year.

Frazier played in all 13 games last year, but he only attempted 12 passes, completing 5. However, Frazier is a former top recruit and is a true dual threat option. He rushed for 327 yards last season (4.3 ypc) and 3 TDs.

Schedule and Projected Win Probabilities

Auburn’s 2012 schedule includes eight games against bowl teams from a year ago. That is actually good news because last year they played 9 bowl teams in the regular season.

Even better news is Auburn only has 4 true road games (@ Miss State, @ Ole Miss, @ Vanderbilt and @ Alabama). LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Georgia all have to travel to Jordan-Hare. They play Clemson in the Georgia Dome opening weekend and the remaining out of conference schedule is the usual SEC cakewalk, getting Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and Alabama A&M all at home.

Below is Auburn’s 2012 football schedule. I have placed the probability of the Tigers winning each game to the right of each opponent.

09/01                   vs Clemson (@ Atlanta, GA)  (50%)

09/08                   @ Mississippi State (50%)

09/15                   vs UL-Monroe (95%)

09/22                   vs LSU (35%)

10/06                   vs Arkansas  (55%)

10/13                   @ Mississippi (65%)

10/20                   @ Vanderbilt  (55%)

10/27                   vs Texas A & M  (65%)

11/03                   vs New Mexico State (100%)

11/10                   vs Georgia (50%)

11/17                   vs Alabama A & M (100%)

11/24                   @ Alabama (30%)

The total number I come up for Auburn is 750, or 7.50 wins based on the win probability numbers.  Only two games appear to be likely losses on Auburn’s schedule — a home game against LSU and away at Alabama.

UL-Monroe, Mississippi, Texas A & M, New Mexico State and Alabama A & M appear to be likely wins. Which leaves the Tigers with 6 swing games that could go either way.

Auburn’s 2012 Regular Season College Football Win Totals

Based on the overall numbers I have Auburn winning between 7 and 8 games. However, I believe Auburn will be improved on both sides of the ball this season.

HC Gene Chizik believes both lines will be improved. ”I would say that certainly our offensive and defensive lines have more depth than we’ve had since we’ve been there.”

Quarterback Kiehl Frazier showed improvement in the spring under new OC Scot Loeffler’s tutelage and the defense is poised for better things after a poor 2011 showing.

Auburn has recruited well the past several seasons and there is an incredible amount of young talent on the roster. The 2011 recruiting class was excellent and many of those youngsters, especially on the defensive side of the ball, saw plenty of game action last season.

With 7 home games overall, 4 of 5 winnable away games and 3 non-conference cupcakes, I like Auburn’s chances to achieve an 8, maybe even a 9 win season. In fact anything less than 8-4 should be considered a disappointment.  With some really good odds on the over (+140), I would recommend Auburn OVER 7.5 (+140)

So will Auburn be improved this season? Let me know in the comments section how many games you think War Eagle will win this year. Thanks – Pez.

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