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Auburn wasn't expected to be great in 2016 and that’s kind of how the season went, losing two of its first three games before a six-game winning streak and then ending with three losses in the final four games. Still, the Tigers showed some fight and ended up second in the SEC West, which was enough to give hope for this season. To give even more hope, Jarrett Stidham, former Baylor quarterback, has taken the headlines in the spring after throwing for 267 yards and running for a touchdown in the scrimmage.
To help Stidham, the Tigers also have one of the best backfields in the conference between Kamryn Pettway (1,224 yards, 7 TDs) and Kerryon Johnson (895 yards, 11 TDs). With those guys expected to lead the way, Stidham will just be expected to produce more than Sean White and Jeremy Johnson did a year ago, which shouldn’t be too difficult. White is technically still in the QB competition, but all signs point to Stidham. Still, there will be a question of what the offense looks like with new coordinator Chip Lindsey, who comes over from Arizona State. Receiver is still an unknown with Darius Slayton, Kyle Davis and Eli Stove the top returnees after none of them did much with inconsistent QB play
The reason Auburn will be a step above the rest in the SEC is on the defensive end, which was a main reason why the Tigers finished second in the West a season ago. Names like Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams are gone, but they’ll still have plenty of talent in the trenches from Marlon Davidson to senior Paul James III, who missed last season due to a knee injury. A defense that allowed 15.6 points per game a year ago has a lot of talent back and enough experience in the back, starting with corner Carlton Davis, to not lose a step from 2016, coordinator Kevin Steele’s first season with the team.
The schedule isn’t friendly for Auburn, but it’s manageable. Another slugfest is expected in a trip to Clemson in the second weekend of the season, but Auburn gets three winnable games to start the SEC campaign before having to travel to LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M in the middle of the schedule. If the Tigers can survive that stretch with only a loss or two, that’ll set up for some showdowns against Georgia and Alabama, this time both of them are at home.
The Tigers are projected to finish second in the West behind Alabama and have the third-best odds to win the conference (+700 in early May at 5Dimes Sportsbook). As long as the defense can rough it out early on similar to last season, that could give the offense time to come around and Stidham to find his footing. If the run game is as good and Stidham can be what every Auburn fan hopes, the Tigers could pull off a couple late-season upsets, with the Iron Bowl being at the top of that list.
2017 Auburn Tigers Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Georgia Southern
Sept. 9 at Clemson
Sept. 16 vs. Mercer
Sept. 23 at Missouri
Sept. 30 vs. Mississippi State
Oct. 7 vs. Ole Miss
Oct. 14 at LSU
Oct. 21 at Arkansas
Nov. 4 at Texas A&M
Nov. 11 vs. Georgia
Nov. 18 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 25 vs. Alabama
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