Auburn surprised most people last season as it went on to SEC Championship after taking down Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers kind of ran out of gas to lose their final two Games, but it was still an impressive campaign any time you can beat the Crimson Tide. The hope is to repeat in 2018 and make the College Football Playoff, especially with Jarrett Stidham under center. But with a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball, it won’t be easy for Gus Malzahn. The Tigers had the eighth-best odds in the spring to win it all (+2300) at 5Dimes Sportsbook and Stidham was +2700 for Heisman.
Stidham is the reason for Auburn’s hope, finishing with 18 touchdowns and only six picks last year, completing 66.5 percent of his passes. Most of his top wide outs are back in Ryan Davis (84 receptions, 815 yards) and Darius Slayton (22.2 ypc), but also Eli Stove, who is returning from a torn ACL. The biggest question for the Tigers is the offensive line, which loses Four starters and only has three guys that have started at any point in their careers. That’s never a good thing going into the season, but this group always seems to come through in the SEC, even with inexperience. Some new names will lead at running back, but Kam Martin should be plenty capable as the top option with redshirt freshman JaTarvious Whitlow making a big jump in the spring.
But even if the offense returns to its elite levels, rushing for almost 220 yards per Game, the defense may not be able to top last season’s 17.3 points per Game allowed. That’s mainly because the secondary is set to lose two senior safeties, a top cornerback in Carlton Davis and also stud sack man up front in Jeff Holland.
While those are big losses, Kevin Steele has plenty to work with in his third season in charge on the defense. The Tigers will need someone to replace Holland, but they are stocked at tackle and linebacker with seniors across the board, including linebacker Deshaun Davis, who has been wrecking offenses the last two years. Auburn is confident in its new secondary with juniors Jamel Dean and Javaris Davis likely to start at corner with Daniel Thomas at safety. Still, those guys have some ways to go in order to replace the starters that were in those positions a year ago.
Going against Washington in the opener will be difficult, but not impossible for Auburn. In addition to favorable non-Conference Games sprinkled in, the Tigers get to host their first two SEC Games, which is extremely helpful. Of course, having to travel to Georgia and Alabama in two of their final three Games isn’t great, but there’s a chance they’re undefeated heading into the trip to Athens. If that’s the case, another double-digit win season is on the horizon for Auburn as long as the offensive line and secondary don’t completely collapse. On the downside, it’s hard to see Auburn winning the SEC West again due to those late road trips, which means the CFP is also off the table.
2018 Auburn Tigers Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Washington
Sept. 8 vs. Alabama State
Sept. 15 vs. LSU
Sept. 22 vs. Arkansas
Sept. 29 vs. Southern Miss
Oct. 6 at Mississippi State
Oct. 13 vs. Tennessee
Oct. 20 at Ole Miss
Nov. 3 vs. Texas A&M
Nov. 10 at Georgia
Nov. 17 vs. Liberty
Nov. 24 at Alabama