Prince Tega Wanogho (76) Auburn football vs Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, November 18, 2017 in Auburn, Ala. Photo by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics

What to make of the Auburn football program? Gus Malzahn seemed to be the savoir when he started, but other than his first season and 2017, his teams have underperformed, averaging eight wins and taking multiple losses to Alabama, Georgia and LSU.

This season opens with redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix battling for the quarterback spot behind what has to be a better offensive line than last year. The Tigers return several good receivers but have questions at tailback after a lackluster running game in 2018.

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2019 Schedule:
August 31 vs. Oregon (Arlington, TX)
September 7 vs. Tulane
September 14 vs. Kent State
September 21 at Texas A&M
September 28 vs. Mississippi State
October 5 at Florida
October 19 at Arkansas
October 26 at LSU
November 2 vs. Ole Miss
November 16 vs. Georgia
November 23 vs. Samford
November 30 vs. Alabama
Gus Malzahn Auburn at Georgia on Saturday, Nov 10, 2018 in Athens, GA. Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics

The defensive line might be one of the best in the country after several starters including Derrick Brown spurned NFL dollars to play one final season at Auburn. The linebacking corps is thin on depth but the defensive secondary should be another strong suit for Auburn.

Something that won’t be in their favor is a daunting schedule which sees the Tigers play a slew of top-notch teams, including road trips to Florida, LSU (where they haven’t won since 1999) and Texas A&M. Throw in home games against Georgia and Alabama and the season-opener against PAC-12 title contender Oregon, and Auburn might be lucky to win eight games this season.

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Malzahn shuffled some staff around bringing in Kenny Dillingham as the offensive coordinator, but Malzahn plans to take over play-calling duties, something most pundits believe he’s already been doing the past few years.

The big question for Auburn will be the offense. If the Tigers can settle on a quarterback, get the running game back on track and return to their fast-paced style, they could turn some heads.

However, if the offense can’t get going and the Tigers tumble to yet another eight-win season, not even the massive payout on Malzahns’ contract may be enough to keep him as the coach.

2018 Results: 8-5, 3-5 SEC
2019 Projection: Auburn 8-4, 5-3 SEC

An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.