There is no school out there that could have had a more horrible off-season than the Auburn Tigers. And only one incident capped it: Two former Auburn Tigers – Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian – and sophomore offensive linesman Eric Mack were shot at a pool party in mid-June. Phillips and Christian lost their lives.

The news rocked the University to the core – and it’ll be interesting to see what effect – if any – it has on the Tigers are the start of the year.

In less important news, brilliant running back Michael Dyer was dismissed from the team and is now playing FCS football, and Auburn can still roll the Toomer’s Oaks for the 2012 season (although Harvey Updyke still isn’t in jail – despite admitting his guilt to a student newspaper).

LAST SEASON

Last season there weren’t a lot of nice things to say about Auburn’s offense, expect that we loved the on-side kick against Utah State that rescued the 2010-1 National Champion’s blushes. Here it is!

Otherwise, the Tigers were inconsistent last season, beating the likes of South Carolina, Florida (the latter in one of the ugliest games the SEC saw last year) and the two Mississippis while losing convincingly to Alabama, Arkansas and LSU as well as ancient rival Georgia. They finished the season an untidy 7-5, and proceeded to then trounce Virginia in a 43-24 victory in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

SO WHO’S GOING TO BE THE QUARTERBACK?

Gene Chizik’s an excellent card player, and he’s holding them to his chest as we all try and work out who he’s going to pick: Kiehl Frazier or Clint Moseley (or even freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace) as the starting quarterback in the Chick-Fil-A Kick-Off Game in Atlanta against the mighty Clemson Tigers (who, by the way, are having problems of their own with Sammy Watkins). Nobody knows, and everyone’s getting a little impatient.

Last year Moseley threw for 800 yards and 5 TDs (and 3 INTs) behind the now-departed Barrett Trotter, while Frazier threw for 34 yards, and 2 INTs. In other words, none of those two exactly fill us with confidence going into 2012 – and Moseley’s shoulder isn’t great – when the Tigers have to face SEC ballhawks at Georgia, LSU and Alabama, so could Wallace actually get the job? It’s all quite exciting!

BUT AT RUNNING BACK…

The Tigers are absolutely loaded – even without Michael Dyer. Onterio McCalebb, Corey Grant, Tre Mason and Illinois transfer Jay Prosch are going to take turns battering defensive lines- although put your money on McCalebb to do most of the work. He ran for 640 yards last year and he’s got an excellent change of speed. Frazier can also give Chizik an option if the Tigers go Wildcat – something that he seems to enjoy doing!

HOW GOOD ARE THE RECEIVERS?

Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn’s giant tight end, put together an excellent 2011 (especially where he consistently dug the Tigers out of trouble), and don’t be surprised if he ends up continuing to be Auburn’s go-to-guy this year (he had 7 TDs). Emory Blake’s also going to cause defenses problems – and McCalebb will also provide some receptions too (he had 344 receiving yards last year on top of his running numbers!). Auburn fans – if they find a quarterback capable of hitting the receivers properly (a problem in 2011) – could find they have a dangerous offensive punch.

AND IN THE DEFENSIVE LINE…

This year the Tigers bring back nine returning starters to the defense, including 3 of the top 5 tacklers – led by linebacker Daren Bates, who had 104 tackles. Watch out for redshirt freshman Kris Frost, who’s had some standout practices and everyone’s hoping will become The Future in Brian VanGorder’s defense.

Corey Lemonier will lead the defensive line, who are all coming back this year.

WHILE THE SECONDARY…

Defensive MVP for last season Jermaine Whitehead, as well as Chris Davis, T’Sharvan Bell and Demetruce McNeal are back for an Auburn secondary that’s looking a little more seasoned this year.

THE 2012 SEASON (thanks, Yahoo)

September 1 CLEMSON (In Atlanta)

September 8 at Mississippi State

September 15 LOUISIANA-MONROE

September 22 LSU

October 6 ARKANSAS

October 13 at Ole Miss, TBA

October 20 at Vanderbilt, TBA

October 27 TEXAS A&M

November 3 NEW MEXICO STATE

November 10 GEORGIA

November 17 ALABAMA A&M

November 24 at Alabama

BOTTOM LINE: There seems to be no question that the Auburn will go to a bowl game this year – but will it be with a 7-5 record or a 6-6 record? That’s all because of their difficult two games at the start of the year against Clemson and on the road to Mississippi State – both banana skins if ever we’ve seen them. Anyway, we think the Tigers split the series, beat ULM, lose back-to-back games against LSU and Arkansas and win for in a row at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, and at home against Texas A&M and the might New Mexico State. They then go 1-2 in the Georgia, Alabama A&M and Alabama series. Guess who they beat…. That gives them a 7-5 record and probably another Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

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