One day after CBS Sports placed Auburn football in the top 10 of its ranking of every team in the FBS, Sports Illustrated followed suit with Gus Malzahn’s Tigers.
Auburn football is No. 10 in Sports Illustrated’s preseason top-25 rankings, which came out Wednesday morning. That is one spot behind where CBS Sports had the Tigers on Tuesday, but several places ahead of where they landed in the preseason coaches poll last week.
As the No. 10 team in college football, Auburn is Sports Illustrated’s second-highest ranked team in the SEC behind No. 1 Alabama. LSU is No. 13, Georgia is No. 16, Florida is No. 18 and Texas A&M is No. 25. Auburn will play Clemson, which is SI’s No. 7 team, in Week 2 of the season.
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“Auburn’s trip to Clemson (Sept. 9) will offer an early test, but October will decide the Tigers’ fate,” Auburn’s listing on the ranking reads. “They host Ole Miss (Oct. 7) and then travel to LSU (Oct. 14) and Arkansas (Oct. 21). If all goes to plan, Auburn will host Alabama (Nov. 25) with the SEC West title on the line.”
Each team in Sports Illustrated’s countdown featured a spotlight player, and sophomore defensive end Marlon Davidson took the spot for Auburn. Davidson, who is currently out of fall camp with a left leg injury, earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2016:
If Auburn’s offense improves as expected, the key to competing for the SEC title will be avoiding a drop-off on defense after several losses on the front line. Enter defensive end Marlon Davidson. In 2016, the 6-foot-3, 282-pound Davidson became the first true freshman in 30 years to be a Day 1 starter on Auburn’s defensive front. He finished the season with 38 tackles and 6 tackles for loss, but he’ll need to spend more time in the backfield this year. Along with tackle Dontavius Russell and linebacker Jeff Holland, both juniors, Davidson will have to keep pressure on opposing quarterbacks to take pressure off Auburn’s athletic-but-thin secondary.
Auburn opens the 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Georgia Southern.