#10 Auburn 2018 Football Preview

Auburn Tigers
Overall Rank: #10
#3 SEC
 Auburn Logo
Auburn comes into the 2018 season looking to get the bad taste out of their mouth from a tough ending to the 2017 campaign. The Tigers won the SEC West thanks in part to wins over Georgia and Alabama. However, Auburn lost the rematch against the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game and then ran into a UCF team that was on a mission in the Peach Bowl. Head Coach Gus Malzahn is looking to string together consecutive ten-win seasons and brings back Jared Stidham at quarterback and a great front seven. That will be a combination that will make the Tigers a tough out in 2018.
2017 Record: 10-4, 7-1
2017 Bowl: Peach Bowl vs. UCF (27-34 L)
Coach: Gus Malzahn (45-22 at Auburn, 54-25 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kodi Burns, Chip Lindsey
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Steele
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kam Martin, RB, 453 yards
Passing: Jared Stidham, QB, 3,158 yards
Receiving: Ryan Davis, WR, 815 yards
Tackles: Deshaun Davis, ILB, 82
Sacks: Three players with 3.5
Interceptions: Javaris Davis, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Darius Slayton, WR Nate Craig-Myers, LT Prince Tega Wanogho, RG Mike Horton, HB Chandler Cox, DE Marlon Davidson, DT Derrick Brown, NT Dontavius Russell, CB Jamel Dean, FS Jeremiah Dinson
Key Losses: RB Kerryon Johnson, K Daniel Carlson, G Braden Smith, CB Carlton Davis, OL Austin Golson, LB Jeff Holland, S Tray Matthews
Stidham’s play at quarterback was a definite game changer as it brought that necessary balance to the Auburn offense. Stidham completed 66.49 percent of his passes for 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. Thus, Stidham’s return will stabilize the offense while the rest of the group comes together. Kam Martin is the top returning running back that will have plenty of pressure to replace the lost production of Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway. Martin showed nice potential last season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and rushing for 453 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Davis is a quality number one wide receiver who caught 84 passes for 815 yards and five touchdowns. Darius Slayton and Nate Craig-Myers will need to step up their production to take the passing game up to another level. The offensive line will be a storyline to watch as the Tigers do have to replace four starters in 2018.
The defensive line should be very strong once again this fall. Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, and Dontavius Russell are NFL caliber players that will need to stay healthy to dominate the line of scrimmage every week. Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams anchor a solid linebacker group that has plenty of depth and talent that can be dominant at times. In the secondary, it will be up to Javaris Davis and Jamel Dean to lead a group of young players that will be tested as the SEC will be stronger at quarterback. Anders Carlson is a highly touted incoming freshman kicker that will look to take the baton from his older brother Daniel and take over the kicking job. One point of emphasis for the Tigers on special teams will be to find a way to break their streak of not returning a kickoff or punt for a touchdown in about the past three seasons.
The Bottom Line:
Auburn will take on Washington in the Chick Fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta in what should be a competitive lower scoring game. The key for the Tigers will be to take care of the football and play field position early until they can settle in offensively. LSU visits the Plains on September 15th in what will be a payback for Auburn as they lost in Baton Rouge last season by a score of 27-23. The rest of the schedule is balanced with alternating road and home games starting on October 6th at Mississippi State. Georgia and Alabama will also be lying in wait for Auburn in the month of November, which is a big difference from the 2017 season. The Tigers beat both teams at Jordan Hare Stadium last season and they won’t be intimidated by both environments in Athens and Tuscaloosa. However, when all is said and done those two road games will keep Auburn from repeating as SEC Champions. Look for about ten wins in 2018 by the Tigers and a top ten finishing in the rankings.
Projected Bowl: Sugar Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 218.3 (26th in nation, 4th in Conference)
Passing Offense: 233.4 (65, 5)
Total Offense: 451.6 (26, 3)
Scoring Offense: 33.9 (25, 4)
Rushing Defense: 137.0 (35, 5)
Pass Defense: 182.4 (18, 5)
Total Defense: 319.4 (14, 5)
Scoring Defense: 18.5 (11, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.07 (71, 7)
Sacks: 2.64 (25, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.57 (100, 10)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#34    Jarrett Stidham
#66    Marlon Davidson
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#42      Joey Gatewood
#107    Matthew Hill
#121    Anthony Schwartz
#134    Asa Martin
#142    Coynis Miller 
#157    Harold Joiner
#174    Seth Williams 
#177    Quindarious Monday