For 245 days we have waited. For 5,880 hours we have watched videos, read articles, squeezed commitments out of recruits and anticipated this very day.
On September 1, college football is back.
Granted, games started Thursday, but let’s be honest, the only season that truly matters to an Auburn fan is Auburn’s.
But what kind of season are we talking about?
Will it be a repeat of 2010, with a Cam Newton-second-coming in Kiehl Frazier?
Will veteran Onterio McCalebb take over for Michael Dyer and lead the run game?
Or will it be a replay of last year, where we barely taste success by with an 8-5 record?
Will we have another two-quarterback offense, combining Kiehl Frazier’s legs with Clint Moseley’s arm?
Honestly, I don’t know.
With our youth and inexperience, we could go 3-9 and I wouldn’t be surprised. Heartbroken? Yes. Surprised? Not really.
Then again, all that youth means a surplus of talent unseen by opponents. If they can find a way to let their talent outshine their inexperience, we could improve on last season’s record, going 9-4 or, perhaps, and this might be a little too confident, 10-3.
In one day, that speculation will become a reality. Sure, they aren’t going to play all 12 regular-season games in one day, but Saturday’s game will give us a preview of what’s to come.
As Auburn athletes, students and fans, we know there are few things more painful than a season opening loss.
Why? Because we, the Auburn family, are proud. Proud of our team; proud of our traditions; proud of our legacy.
In 2010, the Tigers rallied behind Cam Newton to beat Clemson in overtime at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Then came the 2011 match, a game most of us are trying to forget.
Auburn entered Death Valley looking to extend its 17-game winning streak, the highest in the nation.
After scoring 14 unanswered points in the first quarter, the Tigers began to feel their lead, and their win streak, slipping away.
By the start of the second half, all Auburn’s inexperienced defense could do was stand and watch as freshman quarterback Tajh Boyd and the Tigers put up Cam-like numbers, going on to win 38–24.
Boyd finished the game with 386 passing yards and four touchdowns.
This year, the game will be in Atlanta tomorrow night. I say all this to say: what does Auburn need to do to pull off an upset tomorrow against No. 14 Clemson?
First off, Frazier has to come out ready. He wasn’t named the USA Today national offensive player of the year following his senior season for nothing, but we’ve never seen him on a stage this big.
If he and the rest of the Tiger offense buy into new Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler’s offense, things could get interesting.
Expect McCalebb to dictate the running game, but don’t count out the supporting cast of Tre Mason and Mike Blakely.
The main cause for concern is Auburn’s passing game, something the team struggled with even last year.
Emory Blake’s talent is apparent. Everyone who knows Auburn football knows who he is and what he is capable. But if there is any chance of an upset, others will have to step up their game.
First off, Trovon Reed, Quan Bray and Travante Stallworth have shown glimpses of what they can do. They just have to make themselves known in tomorrow’s game to truly impact the outcome.
Red-shirt freshman Sammie Coates and true freshman Ricardo Louis have impressed coaches over the summer, so expect them to shine if called upon.
Then there’s Lutzy.
Philip Lutzenkirchen has made a name for himself over the past two years, some going as far as saying he’s one of the nation’s top tight ends.
He has been an offense threat in every situation, propelling Auburn to improbable wins by sneaking past the defense.
This season will be no different. No longer in the H-back position, Lutzenkirchen will work his magic as a true tight end, giving the team from the Plains a much needed offensive boost.
Don’t forget about Tunde Fariyike, Auburn’s starting center. Replacing last year’s freshman All-American Reese Dismukes, Fariyke has big shoes to fill, but never fear. Coach Loeffler isn’t scared. We shouldn’t be either. As a sophomore, he’s been around the block. He’ll prove his ability, as long as he takes care of the ball and blocks for Frazier.
Cross over to the defense.
There’s been a lot of talk about the defensive line, but should we really be that worried?
Think about this. Brian VanGorder, an SEC and NFL veteran, has taken over as defensive coordinator.
What does this mean? Everyone, freshman or senior, has had to learn a new defense. They are all just as lost as the next. Sure, practice is nothing like a game in terms of noise, atmosphere or pressure, but it does level the playing field just a bit.
Senior Linebackers Jonathan Evans and Daren Bates, along with junior Jake Holland, give the Tigers a strong, not to mention a deep, experienced, defensive line. With players like Dee Ford, Corey Lemonier, LaDarius Owen and Nosa Eguae at defensive end, Angelo Blackson and Jeffrey Whitaker at tackle, there seems to be more than enough talent to go around.
All in all, yes, Saturday’s matchup is going to be no easy task.
Clemson is a great team looking to avenge its 70-33 loss to West Virginia.
The Tigers wants to go into Atlanta and prove to the nation that the ACC can play with the likes of the SEC.
But if Auburn’s team comes out and showcases just two-thirds of its potential, I think an upset is 100 percent possible.