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Brutal road schedule stands between Auburn and success

Now that I have predicted the Alabama Crimson Tide to go 10-2 during the 2007 regular season, it is time to look into my crystal ball and see how the Auburn Tigers will fare.

Prior to last season, I predicted the Tigers would go 11-1 during the regular season, although they finished 10-2, with the only loss coming at the hands of Georgia.

I was right about Georgia beating Auburn, except I picked it as a one-point difference instead of one of the most embarrassing beatings in Auburn football history.

I was also way off on the Arkansas game, which was almost as embarrassing as the Georgia game.

I was, however, really close on several games.

My best picks were Auburn over LSU 17-13 (real score: 7-3), Auburn over South Carolina 23-22 (real score: 24-17), Auburn over Florida 22-7 (real score: 27-17) and Auburn over Alabama 30-20 (real score: 22-15).

The Tigers return a talented group on both offense and defense, but with the loss of key offensive linemen, skill position players, linebackers, kickers and a brutal schedule, Auburn could be in for a long, long season.

If Brandon Cox does not come out of his shell, the Tigers could be out of postseason play.

Here are my predictions for the Tigers' 2007 season:

Sept. 1- Auburn vs. Kansas State

Jordan-Hare Stadium will be rocking for this season-opening night game and the Wildcats better be ready. The Tigers whipped the PAC 10's Washington State Cougars in a season-opening night game last season, but got embarrassed by the ACC's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the 2005 season opener at night. The Tigers are on a two-game win streak stemming from last season and are still celebrating the Cotton Bowl victory over the Big 12 powerhouse Nebraska Cornhuskers. The streak should go to three gamesŠ

Auburn 30, Kansas State 17

Sept. 8- Auburn vs. South Florida

South Florida is a program on the rise and a program that has just gotten better and better each year. And that's no bull. No matter how good the Bulls have gotten, this is still a game Auburn should win and, with it starting at 8 p.m. CST, the Tigers have plenty of time to get hyped up. The fans surely will beŠ

Auburn 33, South Florida 20

Sept. 15- Auburn vs, Mississippi State

Sylvester Croom has restored integrity and class back to the Mississippi State program, but it's certainly not showing on the field. Even though Croom has figured out how to beat rival Ole Miss, it won't be enough if he doesn't start posting winning records or at least being competitive in every game. Croom barely survived last season with his job, but a victory against his alma mater in Tuscaloosa secured him at least one more year. Mississippi State will be better this year, but they still won't be better than the Tigers. Auburn plays terrible when the kickoff is at 11:30 a.m. CST (see Arkansas and Georgia last season), but, for some reason, the Tigers love playing the Bulldogs in the morningŠ

Auburn 40, Mississippi State 14

Sept. 22- Auburn vs. New Mexico State

For the fourth game in a row, the Tigers will be playing at home as they host New Mexico State. If you don't have a ticket for this game, you're not alone. Scalpers should have plenty of tickets to sell and fans should have plenty of legroom for this oneŠ

Auburn 55, New Mexico State 10

Sept. 29- Auburn @ Florida

Murderer's row begins in Gainesville and ends in Baton Rouge for Auburn as the Tigers play three of the next four games on the road at Gainesville, Fayetteville and Baton Rouge. The defending national champion Florida Gators will be looking for sweet revenge against the Tigers as Auburn was the only team to defeat the Gators during their magnificent title run. The Gators will have a relatively new face at quarterback as Tim Tebow will take over fulltime for the graduated Chris Leak. The Tigers seem to play well in Gainesville, but The Swamp is also the loudest and most intimidating environment in the SECŠ

Florida 24, Auburn 22

Oct. 6- Auburn @ Vanderbilt

The Commodores always seem to play both Alabama and Auburn good games each year, although the Tigers do not play Vanderbilt every season. Vanderbilt has experienced recent athletic success since combining the athletic department with the intramural sports, but none of that will matter when these two teams face off because the Tigers always play good after a lossŠ

Auburn 33, Vanderbilt 10

Oct. 13- Auburn @ Arkansas

If you look out your window at this exact moment, you may catch a glimpse of Arkansas running back Darren McFadden because, I believe, he is still running from last year's thrashing at Auburn. The Razorbacks entered Jordan-Hare last season when the Tigers were ranked No. 2 in the nation and then made Auburn look like the No. 102 team in the nation as the Hogs ran up and down the field to the sum of a 27-10 whipping. The Hogs have experienced some turmoil off the field this season and that could translate onto the field. Regardless what has happened off the field, McFadden is still the best offensive player in the nation and he will prove it once again against the TigersŠ

Arkansas 27, Auburn 9

Oct. 20- Auburn @ LSU

This Tigers. Tigers match up has become a classic in recent years and has also been a deciding factor in which SEC West team advances to the SEC Championship game. Auburn has guarded the home turf successfully in recent years and so has LSU. The last time in Baton Rouge, Auburn kicker John Vaughn missed five field goals, including two in overtime, in one of the most embarrassing performances in college football history. If recent history proves true, this game goes to the home teamŠ

LSU 20, Auburn 10

Oct. 27- Auburn vs. Ole Miss

This game is a trap that could send the Tigers into a tailspin. If the Tigers do, in fact, lose to Florida, Arkansas and LSU, a loss here would be devastating and would, more than likely, led to further losses against Georgia and Alabama. A win would be huge and would give the Tigers the confidence they need going into Amen Corner. Ole Miss fans still love to see Tuberville suffer after his defection in 1998 and they would love nothing more than to kick him while he's downŠ

Auburn 23, Ole Miss 17

Nov. 3- Auburn vs. Tennessee Tech

Watson Brown returns to Jordan-Hare this season with his third school after leading Vanderbilt and UAB into The Jungle, This game is a perfect tuner before Georgia and a must-needed off week. Don't expect too much flair, though, as many backups will see action on what should be an uneventful dayŠ

Auburn 38, Tennessee Tech 0

Nov. 10- Auburn @ Georgia

Last season's showdown of The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry wasn't much of a show or showdown as the Bulldogs decimated the Tigers to the tune of 37-15. Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox threw four interceptions and completed just four passes in the worst performance by an Auburn in school history. Cox had Auburn fans wanting back the likes of Jeff Klein and Daniel Cobb that day, and that is the worst compliment an Auburn quarterback can be paid. However, this series is strange and the visiting team usually walks away the victor. During the last game in Athens, Cox had a miraculous night and threw the game-winning touchdown to Devin Aromashadu. The play was voted as the Pontiac Game-Changing Play of the Season and it will take another play like that to pull this one offŠ

Auburn 30, Georgia 28

Nov. 24- Auburn vs. Alabama

In the last two installments of the Iron Bowl, Alabama quarterbacks have looked like pinatas and Auburn defensive linemen have been the sticks. Nick Saban has taken over at The Capstone, but Tommy Tuberville is no stranger to Slick Nick and boasts a 4-2 record against the former Miami Dolphins head coach. ‘Bama should have a great team and a great season, but until the Crimson Tide figures out a way to stop Quentin Groves and Sen'Derrick Marks, Tuberville will continue his winning streak by extending it to sixŠ

Auburn 28, Alabama 27

With a 9-3 record and a four-game win streak, the Tigers should be in contention for a New Year's Day bowl like the Cotton Bowl or the Outback Bowl.

However, the Tigers could also drop games at Georgia and against Alabama and be on the outside of the bowl picture looking in.

Or, the Tigers could pick up the win at Florida, like last season, and carry that momentum all the way to the SEC Championship.

In just 62 days, we'll all know a lot more.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor and can be reached by phone at 334-382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 334-382-7104 or by e-mail at austin.phillips@greenvilleadvocate.com