The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 16: Auburn

Coach: Gene Chizik (15-9, entering his fourth season at Auburn; 17-23 entering sixth season overall)

2011 results: 8-5 (4-4 in Southeastern Conference, fourth in SEC Western Division)


Get the Baltimore Football app for iPhone and Android

Look back: Dynamic quarterback Cam Newton led Auburn to the 2010 national title, then headed to the NFL. The Tigers entered the 2011 season with a lot of questions. The team relied heavily on the rushing attack, ranking No. 32 nationally (182.31 yards per game). Michael Dyer, who shined during the Tigers’ national championship run, ranked No. 20 nationally with 103.50 rushing yards per game.

Auburn won three of its four nonconference games, falling 38-24 at Clemson. The Tigers posted a 4-4 record in Southeastern Conference play, beating Mississippi State 41-34, South Carolina on the road 16-13, Florida 17-6 and Ole Miss 41-23. Auburn lost 38-14 at Arkansas, 45-10 at LSU, 45-7 at Georgia and 42-14 against rival Alabama.

Dyer was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules before Auburn’sChick-Fil-A Bowlgame against Virginia, but reserve running back Onterio McCalebb made the most of his opportunity in the game and helped the Tigers earn a 43-24 win to close out the season with an 8-5 record.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 4/7

Defensive starters lost/returning: 2/9

Key losses: WR Quindarius Carr, LB Eltoro Freeman, OL A.J. Greene, OL Brandon Mosley, DB Neiko Thorpe, WR Jay Wisner, RB Michael Dyer.

Top returnees: TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, LB Daren Bates, KR Tre Mason, WR Emory Blake, OL John Sullen, RB Onterio McCalebb, K Cody Parkey, P Steven Clark.

Strengths: Auburn returns seven offensive starters, nine defensive starters, its starting kicker and its starting punter. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen will bring strong leadership to the offense, while linebacker Daren Bates returns after leading the team in tackles. While the team loses a proven rusher in Dyer, reserve running back Onterio McCalebb turned in a promising performance at the end of last season and could be a go-to runner for the Tigers.

Weaknesses: The Tigers have yet to settle on a starting quarterback, with Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier battling for the top job. Coach Gene Chizik did not provide a timeline for naming a starter, but he did praise Frazier’s offseason progress during SEC football preseason media days. Dyer, an athletic player who could carry a heavy workload for Auburn, was dismissed from the program during the offseason.

Outlook: Auburn is likely a few playmakers short of being able to compete for a spot in the SEC championship game. However, the Tigers return a talented lineup and should be able to finish the 2012 season in the Top 25.

2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Clemson in Atlanta
Sept. 8 At Mississippi State
Sept. 15 Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 22 LSU
Oct. 6 Arkansas
Oct. 13 At Ole Miss
Oct. 20 At Vanderbilt
Oct. 27 Texas A&M
Nov. 3 New Mexico State
Nov. 10 Georgia
Nov. 17 Alabama A&M
Nov. 24 At Alabama

Rest of the countdown:

No. 17 Virginia Tech

No. 18 West Virginia

No. 19 Texas

No. 20 TCU