Brutal SEC Schedule Does Auburn No Favors
After a horrendous 2012 season that saw the team go winless in the SEC, Malzahn led the Auburn Tigers to an SEC title in 2013, marking one of the most tremendous turnarounds in college football history.
But the momentum of last season is to continue, and if Auburn wants to earn a repeat appearance in the national title game, it'll have to go through an absolutely brutal conference slate.
Being in the SEC West doesn't help to begin with, but when you couple that with the fact that the Tigers drew the two toughest teams from the SEC East, that just makes matters worse.
Sure, things may start out easy enough in the season opener against the Arkansas Razorbacks on August 30, but following the three non-conference games after that (which includes a tricky game at Kansas State), the schedule gets ridiculous.
Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself:
October 4 - vs. LSU
October 11 - at Mississippi State
October 25 - vs. South Carolina
November 1 - at Ole Miss
November 8 - vs. Texas A&M
November 15 - at Georgia
November 29 - at Alabama
Replicating last year's SEC success with that schedule? On paper, it seems nearly impossible.
Of course, what stands out the most is the final two games of the conference schedule against Georgia and Alabama. Last year, the Tigers benefited from home-field advantage and two miracle plays to win both games and advance to the SEC championship.
This year, though, don't look for that same type of luck since Auburn must travel to Athens and Tuscaloosa to finish out the season.
If Malzahn and company find a way to win both of those, they'll no doubt deserve a spot in the SEC's biggest game (assuming that they've taken care of most of their business prior to those two contests).
There's no doubting the fact that Auburn will boast a roster that is more than capable of winning a national championship. That's not the concern here.
Heisman candidate Nick Marshall returns under center to lead what should be yet another score-happy offense, and the defense will definitely be better as well. So, the pieces are certainly in place to return to the title game.
But it'll all depend on how the Tigers navigate one of the most brutal conference schedules in recent memory in the SEC.
Do you see Auburn returning to the SEC title game this season? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below! For more college football talk, follow FanIQ College Football and myself on Twitter!