Why Auburn Will Win the SEC West Division in 2014
In Gus Malzahn's first year as head coach, the Tigers used two unbelievable plays to catapult themselves into the SEC title game before ultimately falling to Florida State in the national championship.
But while last season's success shocked many, that won't be the case in 2014.
Auburn will enter the new season as the prohibitive favorite to not only win the SEC West, but the entire conference as well. Despite losing key pieces like Tre Mason and Dee Ford, the Tigers return a lineup that will definitely allow them to compete for a second straight SEC title.
And, as always, the march towards a national championship begins with the quarterback.
It's safe to say that the Tigers have a pretty good one coming back in potential Heisman candidate Nick Marshall.
Marshall's game last season revolved primarily around gaining lots of yardage on the ground, but come August, expect Auburn to sport a much-improved passing attack.
With a plethora of talented receivers at his disposal, Marshall is set to have a breakout year throwing the football, which, should in turn, will allow Malzahn's team to once again be one of the best offenses in the league.
The loss of Mason in the backfield obviously hurts, but Corey Grant could compliment Marshall in the running game quite nicely.
On the defensive side of the ball, the line takes a hit with Dee Ford gone, however, this defense should be ready for the challenge that it will face on a weekly basis in the SEC.
It was tough to get a feel for just how good this defense might be after Auburn's spring game due to the fact that several potential starters didn't play. But, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has the pieces in place to make this unit special in 2014.
Combine that with a superb offense, and the Tigers should be in good position to capture another SEC crown.
The road to a title won't be easy, though. Three of Auburn's final four games in conference play come on the road at Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama, which is absolutely brutal. South Carolina is also on the schedule, so it's going to take some phenomenal play for the Tigers to stand atop the standings at season's end.
But as Malzahn and company proved a season ago, they are more than willing to step up to the challenge.
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