Utah State Aggies (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) at No. 19 Auburn Tigers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
Saturday September 3rd, 2011, 12:00PM EST, College Football Week 1
Jordan-Hare Stadium Auburn, Alabama
By Jay Horne, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Utah State +22/Auburn -22
Over/Under Total: 55.5
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The Auburn Tigers took the nation by storm last year with a “Cinderella” storybook season. The Tigers were not even considered a threat for the National Championship entering 2010. However as we all know, quarterback Cam Newton emerged as the most unstoppable player in the country to lead the Tigers to their first National Championship in 53 years. The Tigers faithful will certainly bask in the light of just their 2nd National Championship in school history for some time to come, but things will be much different for Auburn entering the 2011 college football season.
Gone is Heisman Trophy winner Newton. Also, gone is defensive tackle Nick Fairley who dominated along the defensive line. Instead the Tigers are searching for potential breakout players in what many onlookers would consider a “rebuilding” year for Coach Gene Chizik in Auburn. Yet we will see soon enough if the Tigers are hiding any superstars when they host the Utah State Aggies to open up the season at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Starting at quarterback this season for the Tigers will be junior Barrett Trotter. Trotter has completed just 9 passes in his career, but has some promising potential. The Birmingham native is a solid passer that should be able to provide consistency through the air. However, he will not be any type of running threat like Newton was a year ago and resembles more closely to a “pocket style passer”. Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn is one of the most brilliant minds in the country. Rest assured he will design the offense in a way that makes Trotter comfortable. Therefore the quarterback ‘option read’ may take a backseat in the playbook this season.
Instead, the Tigers hope running back Michael Dyer can continue to improve after posting impressive freshman numbers with 1,093 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground. Also, tailback Onterio McCalebb is another proven rusher coming off a 2010 season with 810 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns. Therefore, the Auburn rushing attack will again split carries with their talented duo in the backfield as the ground game will rely heavily on their success this season.
Defensively, the Tigers were not the typical dominating SEC defense the nation has seen over the last few years go through the season in dominating fashion. In fact outside of the dominating presence of Nick Fairley, the rest of the Tigers defense rode the coat tails of the offense’s success for the majority of the year. This season the Tigers return just 4 starters on defense from a group that ranked 60th in the country in 2010 giving up 368 yards per game. Auburn will restore the defense with some highly recruited talent from the last several recruiting campaigns. However, they are not what you would consider “game tested” and will have to prove themselves on the field.
On the other side of the field, Utah State returns a team that ended 2010 with a 4-8 record. However, the Aggies had some high points in 2010. Utah State upset BYU by two touchdowns and nearly scored another huge upset in the opening week of the season against Oklahoma. Defensive matters plagued the Aggies last season as they ranked a miserable 100th in the country giving up 428 yards per game. This season Utah State returns some size and depth along the defensive line. The defense overall should be improved, but the question will be how much improved?
Offensively the Aggies will have to choose from freshman Alex Hart and junior Adam Kennedy at the quarterback position. Hart appears to be the frontrunner with more consistently, but Kennedy will likely see playing time as he maintains a lot of potential. The rest of the offense returns 9 starters along with a veteran group at the wide receiver position. If the offense can get consistency out of the quarterback position, they should be able to make some plays and move the ball. However, the Tigers defense they will face in the opener will be much faster and stronger than they are accustomed to.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread:
I am normally a big SEC homer especially when it comes to the SEC vs. out of conference foes. However, I really think Auburn has a lot to worry about this season on both sides of the ball. Add the fact the Utah State is a team that is improving each year and I believe they will surprise a ton of people here and make this game much closer than expected. Take Utah State +22