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Why AU might win big, and might not

Could Auburn defy the experts and put another great football season on top of last season’s national championship, even be a champion again? Sure it could.

Senior Editor Phillip Marshall

Could Auburn fall victim to lack of experience and a challenging schedule and struggle even to break even? Sure it could.

Five reasons Auburn’s could be a championship contender:

Knowing how to win. Auburn’s returning players haven’t been part of a loss since falling to Alabama in 2009. They expect to win. As head coach Gene Chizik says, they’ve seen what great looks like. That means a lot.

The running backs. Regardless of who gets the preseason attention, there’s not a better duo in the SEC than Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb.

Coaching continuity. Other than Mike Pelton replacing Tracy Rocker, the coaches who take the field against Utah State on Sept. 3 will be the same ones who took the field against Oregon on Jan. 10. Auburn players will run the same systems on offense and defense for the third consecutive season. That hasn’t happened since 1999-2001.

Pure talent. In the kind of talent that can be measured, the 2011 Auburn team might actually be ahead of the 2010 Auburn team.

Hunger to succeed. That might sound strange for a team that is coming off a 14-0 season and a national championship, but these players started hearing almost immediately that they wouldn’t be worth much in 2011. They are eager to prove the naysayers wrong.

Five reasons the 2011 season could be a struggle:

A brutal schedule. Does any team in the nation face a gauntlet like road games at Arkansas, Clemson, South Carolina, LSU and Georgia and home games against Florida and Alabama? I doubt it.

Major personnel losses. Only eight of the 24 players who were starters against Oregon return.

Inexperience at quarterback. Barrett Trotter threw just nine passes last season. Clint Moseley didn’t throw any. Kiehl Frazier is a true freshman.

History. Of the five national champions from the SEC before Auburn, only Florida, with a 13-1 record in 2009, followed up with a second great season after winning the big prize. LSU won it in all in 2003 and lost three times in 2004. Florida won it in 2006 and lost four times in 2007. LSU won it in 2007 and lost five times in 2008. Alabama won it in 2009 and lost three times in 2010.

The line of scrimmage. There’ll be four new starters on the offensive line. There’ll be two new starters at defensive tackle. Nowhere is experience more valuable.

Talent, experience, coaching, chemistry and injury luck are the main ingredients in winning championships, Auburn has talent and has coaching. It does not have the kind of experience you’d want. As with any team, we’ll know what kind of chemistry this team had and whether it had injury luck when we look back. You never know looking forward.

Less than two months before the start of preseason practice, there are so many questions. And the answers will come only in the sound and fury of an SEC football season.

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