Chances are Auburn’s season will be eventful

Realistically, what are Auburn’s chances this year?

I’ve been asked that question at least once a week since spring practice began last March.

And my first response is, “Chances for what?”

Chances to repeat as national champions?

Do you really want me to answer that one?

Chances to be competitive? To win more games than it loses? To make a bowl game?

If I’m being realistic, realistically, it’s tough to tell.

Picking the Tigers to finish 6-6 is the easy, most common answer. And, on paper, it’s about right. With that road schedule … think about packing a coat and mittens for the Tigers’ bowl game.

But, this game isn’t played on paper. Just checking the “W” or “L” box next to each one of Auburn’s games doesn’t mean anything.

This is college football. Anything can happen.

Moreover, this is the SEC. Anything CAN and WILL happen.

I mean, who picked Auburn to run the table at this point last season? (No you didn’t. Put your hand down.)

Realistically, the only thing the helmet schedule you hang on your fridge will tell you is when and where the games will be played. Nothing more.

You do know that South Carolina won the East last year, right?

There’s a reason that the media has been wrong so many times when picking the conference winner during SEC Media Days year after year. No one knows. Especially the people who are paid to make educated guesses. We’re the most uneducated.

So, chances are, Auburn’s got a chance to be better than .500. They’ve also got a chance to be worse.

Here’s why.

The Tigers have talent and potential, there’s no doubt. You don’t pull together three top-five recruiting classes and open an empty cupboard.

But — and here comes the recording — they’re young. Man, they’re young.

Scan down the Tigers’ roster. Look at the depth chart. Flip through the media guide. There are freshmen everywhere.

And they’re playing key positions. Reese Dismukes is an 18-year old true freshman who will start at probably the second-hardest position in football: center.

Then there’s a redshirt freshman at right guard in Chad Slade starting in his first career game. Oh, and what about Barrett Trotter? Even though he’s a junior and has already graduated in three years, he’s never started a game in college. Never.

And the green keeps spreading past the starting rotation and seeps into the two-deep. There are 26 true or redshirt freshmen on the depth chart Auburn released earlier this week. Twenty-six!

Youth is served … piping hot.

Gene Chizik said he expects to play 12 to 15 true freshmen against Utah State in the opener. It could be more than that.

The participation sheet after Saturday’s game could double as the roster Auburn hands out before the game. Everyone could play. And that’s not an exaggeration.

That’s what happens when you graduate 24 seniors — the largest in program history.

That’s what happens when three of your best players declare early for the NFL Draft.

That’s what happens when you win a national championship.

Players move on, but the competition doesn’t.

This is still the SEC — the toughest conference in the country. This is still Auburn.

That’s not changing, even if the players do.

But there is something to be said for youth. For talent. For ignorance.

And for a young SEC team with swagger, coming off the best season in program history, ignorance is most definitely bliss.

So, the Tigers have that going for them.

Realistically, it’s hard to gauge Auburn’s chances this season for those reasons, not to mention five really, really tough road games.

Realistically, this season won’t always be pretty for the Tigers, but it will be eventful.

The chance of that being the case is pretty good.

MIKE SZVETITZ is sports editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He may be reached at mszvetitz@oanow.com or 737-2513.

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