Is Auburn the Biggest College Football Odds Sleeper in the SEC

Posted by Alex Murphy on July 1, 2015 in

The 2014-15 season was not one of the most memorable ones for the Auburn Tigers who finished their season on an 8-5 (4-4 SEC) mark, culminating in a 34-31 overtime loss to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. Even so, the Tigers did a good enough job to warrant them being recognized as one of the teams to watch in 2015 NCAA Football betting odds.

Taking a Look at Auburn, the Biggest College Football Odds Sleeper in the SEC

Auburn’s 2014 Season at a Glance

Despite their rather average season, the Tigers came out with a number of positives from 2014, particularly in the conference play, where the Tigers managed to give a good account of themselves against Mississippi State and Alabama on the road. In addition, the team claimed valuable wins in the course of the season against football powerhouses like LSU, Ole Miss and Kansas State.

Meanwhile, Auburn had many standout performers, including QB Nick Marshall (who accounted for 20 touchdown passes against seven picks, while running for 798 yards and 11 additional touchdowns), star running back Cameron Artis-Payne (who was a constant pain in the ass for most defenses with his solid running game) and Sammie Coates (who led the team in receiving, tallying nearly 750 yards). The defense equally had its mark on the season, with Jeffrey Whitaker, Ben Bradley, Angelo Blackson and Gabe Wright giving a lot of quality minutes on the field.

The Returning Starters

Unfortunately for Auburn, Blackson and Wright are now in the NFL, while Bradley and Whitaker have both graduated. The offense has also lost the dominant trio of Marshall, Artis-Payne and Coates, giving the team an uphill task in terms of rebuilding their effectively serviceable unit from 2014. Despite those losses, there is a lot of hope that the Tigers will be having a good season, as the team boasts of good replacements and a number of strong returning starters.

In the defensive side of the ball, Auburn returns with eight starters, including top-rated defensive tackle Montravius Adams—a former five-star recruit that is likely to take a leading role in the team now that other experienced defensive starters are gone. The Tigers will also benefit greatly from the services of defensive tackle Dontavius Russell, a player that has continually gotten better in the team during practice. Last fall, the coaches were very impressed by him, and the praises have gotten higher recently, following the strong showing by the redshirt freshman during spring practice.

Offensively, junior Jeremy Johnson looks to take over the reins as the team’s QB. Johnson did not make many appearances in 2014, but whenever he did so, he proved effective as a prolific passer. With him at the helm of the offense, the Tigers figure to adopt a pass-oriented game. Such a passing game could greatly profit the likes of wideout, D’haquille Williams (coming of a junior season where he impressively collected 730 receiving yards and 4 TDs) and the serviceable receiving duo of Ricardo Louis and Tony Stevens.

But even if the Tigers decide to use running as their main source of offense, the team should be able to do just fine with Jovon Robinson and Roc Thomas leading the backfield in Artis-Payne’s absence.

The Will Muschamp Factor

Perhaps the biggest of all offseason developments in Auburn is the arrival of Will Muschamp, a former Florida head coach who decided to take on the duties of a defensive coordinator for Auburn after he was fired by the Gators in 2014. Muschamp is a renowned defensive tactician, so his presence in Auburn should mean a stronger defensive unit in the team in 2015.

What About the New Recruits?

Auburn has always been able to attract and recruit good players and 2015 was no different, as they brought a talented class, led by No. 1 overall defensive recruit Byron Cowart, a highly promising defensive end who could be a key player for the Tigers in 2015. Added to the rest of the recruits in the team, the rebuilding agenda in the team should be well on-course, particularly with the long college football offseason that allows for sufficient training and gelling among members of the team.

Is 2015 the Year For Auburn to Win it All?

In the majority of the preseason top-7 rankings ahead on the 2015 college football season, it’s hard to find one without Auburn’s name, mainly because of the aforementioned factors. Irrefutably, the competition in the SEC Conference (particularly in the West Division) won’t be easy, with the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and LSU likely to maintain their reputations as strong conference title contenders. Nevertheless, most of the teams in the conference will be entering 2015 with a good number of lost players just like Auburn, which will level the playing field for everyone.

So, even with the pieces they lost on both sides of the ball, the Tigers should have more than enough talent and motivation to claw their way up the SEC West division and the conference, at large. And if they can win the conference title and possibly qualify for the playoffs, as we anticipate them to do, then the genius in coach Gus Malzahn should be able to take them all the way to a strong contention for the national title.