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Auburn Panelists: Arkansas State week

Do you think Auburn has improved significantly enough on both sides of the ball this summer to warrant Kirk Herbstreit’s prediction?

Bill Meador: I think AU has enough talent and senior leadership to have a really good season, but if they start worrying now about whether they will win the Iron Bowl game, they could lose focus and trip up along the way. Herbstreit raised the bar and the awareness of AU, but the Tigers need to just take one game at a time.

Jonathan Jenkins: Herbstreit is being his typical self, a Corso wannabe. SEC West should be decided by the Iron Bowl, but I’m not ready to call a winner.

Rick Dunn: I think that his is a very bold prediction that is more reflective of his opinion of how UAT will fair this season. Auburn will be universally improved over last year. Our defense is deeper, we are stronger at QB, and we have had a year under Malzahn’s system. I don’t see how UAT’s defense could be even as good as last year’s, although their offense should be very solid and improved.

Were you surprised to see Auburn come in with a preseason ranking at No. 22?

Bill Meador: I think No. 22 is a good place to start. Auburn should have a really good team if they can answer some questions early about depth, defense and quarterback.

Jonathan Jenkins: Preseason rankings are based upon last season’s results. No. 22 at least shows respect to the AU program.

Rick Dunn: I was not surprised. I think the bowl game win helped us tremendously. Those who studied the two teams in that game and understood what we were up against had to have been impressed. Honestly, after reviewing the current rankings, I would place us at No. 19. I will be somewhat disappointed if we do not finish the season in the Top 10.

What does Auburn have to do this year over last year for most fans to consider this season a success?

Bill Meador: For AU to have a better season, they obviously need to win more games. I think more wins are entirely possible. If the defense plays more consistently and the entire team keeps progressing, AU beats the teams they are supposed to beat. An upset win along the way would be nice. Then the Tigers will have had a more successful season.

Jonathan Jenkins: Defense has to gain depth and the offense has to increase consistency.

Rick Dunn: Maintain our positive momentum. Most Auburn fans understood the challenges that we faced last year and, with the exception of the Kentucky game, were at least satisfied with the team’s performance. We now have a standard or base line with which a comparison can be made. We understand that our defense should be much better, but we still lack the depth that is needed to play at our traditional level. I appreciate Chris Todd’s efforts last year, but I think he would be No. 4 in the rotation this year. If we lose close games to two of the four currently ranked teams and maybe one “oops” game to another SEC team, we should consider this year’s season a success.

Would you like to see the Tigers play a more prominent opponent in an effort to establish strength of schedule or do you like a warm-up game to knock off the rust?

Bill Meador: I personally like opening with a moderate challenge and progressing to a stronger opponent. Often, scheduling depends on what kind of team the coaches feel they have coming back. This game should allow AU to play a lot of players. It is also about money and Auburn, as well as ASU, will make a pile of it this weekend.

Jonathan Jenkins: Arkansas State should have AU’s respect, but hopefully not AU’s number.

Rick Dunn: We are not worried about the rust; we are still trying to find third gear. Our program is still in a neophyte type phase. Playing against an even relatively strong program for a season opener at this point would be ill-advised. Every SEC team plays at least two “cupcake” teams each year. I don’t have a problem with eating dessert first.

What will the final score be?

Bill Meador: AU 47 – ARK St 10

Jonathan Jenkins: Auburn 42 – Arkansas State 14

Rick Dunn: Auburn wins, 38 – 10.