It's always hard to get a bead on a national championship team that loses as much as Auburn has. You can always go the route that Phil Steele followed, dropping the Tigers off the table and into last in the SEC West. Or you can ignore a lot of the losses, and count on Auburn for another eight- or nine-win season at worst.
Both approaches seem a little bit extreme in this case. A team that loses the best offensive player or the best defensive player the season before is going to take a hit; when both of them head to the NFL, that hit is going to be significant. That's not to say that Auburn is going to be chopped liver in 2011. The Tigers still have one of the best offensive coordinators in the game, and a decent amount of SEC-caliber talent. But this is not a squad that's bound for Atlanta.
So where do they go in between those two extremes? Probably not all that far. The schedule is particularly brutal; the draws from the East are annual rival Georgia, reigning division champion South Carolina and Florida. If Auburn makes a bowl game, it will be by the skin of their collective teeth and a couple of upsets.
Arkansas and Florida are the leading possibilities, in part because the Hogs also lose a great signal-caller and in part because the Gators play Alabama and then travel to Baton Rouge before facing Auburn in a particularly grinding part of the schedule for Florida.
But if those upsets don't happen? Look out below.
Place: 5th in the SEC West
Record: 6-6, 2-6 SEC
Could be: 3-9 to 8-4
Best chance for an upset (besides the obvious): at LSU
Bowl: Music City
9.3.11 | UTAH STATE | WIN
9.10.11 | MISSISSIPPI STATE | POSSIBLE LOSS
9.17.11 | at CLEMSON | POSSIBLE WIN
9.24.11 | FAU | WIN
10.1.11 | at SOUTH CAROLINA | PROBABLE LOSS
10.8.11 | at ARKANSAS | POSSIBLE WIN
10.15.11 | FLORIDA | POSSIBLE WIN
10.22.11 | at LSU | PROBABLE LOSS
10.29.11 | OLE MISS | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.12.11 | at GEORGIA | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.19.11 | SAMFORD | WIN
11.26.11 | ALABAMA | PROBABLE LOSS