AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football will start the season as one of the top dozen teams in the nation, according to the most popular preseason poll.
Auburn is ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press’ preseason poll, which came out Monday. The Tigers are the second-highest ranked team in the SEC behind No. 1 Alabama and are one of six conference members to land in the Top 25.
The Tigers are just nine points behind No. 10 Oklahoma State and one point behind No. 11 Michigan in the poll. To show how close that is, No. 12 Auburn is 96 points ahead of No. 13 LSU.
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Auburn’s AP poll ranking is one ahead of where it was in the other major preseason rankings, the Amway Coaches Poll. The AP poll is voted on by sportswriters across the country, including SEC Country’s own Auburn beat reporter Lauren Shute.
Auburn will most likely play a top-five opponent in Week 2, when it travels to defending champion and preseason No. 5 team Clemson. Other ranked opponents are No. 1 Alabama, No. 13 LSU and No. 15 Georgia.
Auburn has only started a season at No. 12 once in its AP poll history. The 1960 Tigers went 8-2 that season with close losses to Tennessee and Alabama.
Gus Malzahn’s team picked up plenty of offseason hype thanks to the arrival of new starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Auburn finished the 2016 season No. 24 in the AP poll with an 8-5 record and three losses in its final four games.
But the combination of Stidham, a defense that ranked inside the top 25 last season in yards per play and a depth chart that could return as many as 16 starters on offense and defense has Auburn on the rise heading into 2017.
Auburn opens the season Sept. 2 against Georgia Southern inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.