A participant in last year’s national championship game.

The winner of the country’s best conference last year.

A returning quarterback who is up for the Heisman.

Perhaps the best wide receiver duo in the country.

A backfield littered with depth.

A secondary that is only getting better.

A staff that returns every coach and includes one of, if not, the brightest offensive minds in the game today.

So why are there five teams ranked higher than Auburn in the AP Preseason Poll?

Some can’t understand it. Some will say how is Alabama, a team on a two-game losing streak that lost their All-American quarterback, the No. 2 team in the country. Others will say that Ohio State, who plays in the mediocre Big Ten, has no business being No. 5 with a schedule that includes just one ranked opponent.

Auburn is use to not getting “love” from the media which is who votes in the AP Poll. But college football writers and broadcasters have looked at who the Tigers play – and more importantly where the Tigers play them –  this year. They are skeptical that Auburn can run through such a gauntlet and come out unscathed or with just one loss. The gauntlet includes seven ranked opponents, the most of any Top 25 team in the country. Of the seven, four of them are on the road.

ROAD: No. 2 Alabama, No. 12 Georgia, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 20 Kansas State

HOME: No. 9 South Carolina, No. 13 LSU, No. 21 Texas A&M.

Of the 8 SEC teams ranked in the Top 25, five reside in the SEC West and Auburn has to play all four. The only ranked SEC team that Auburn doesn’t face this year is, ironically, No. 24 Missouri, the team the Tigers defeated in last year’s SEC Championship game.

As far as the five teams ranked ahead of Auburn, here are how many ranked opponents they face and who they are:

No. 1 Florida State – 2; Both Home Games: vs. No. 16 Clemson, vs. No. 17 Notre Dame

No. 2 Alabama – 4;  2 Home Games: vs. No. 21 Texas A&M, vs. No. 6 Auburn. 2 Road Games: at No. 18 Ole Miss, at No. 13 LSU

No. 3 Oregon – 4:  3 Home Games: vs. No. 8 Michigan State, vs. 25 Washington, vs, No. 11 Stanford. 1 Road Game: at No. 7 UCLA

No. 4 Oklahoma – 2: Both Home Games: vs. 20 Kansas State, vs. No. 10 Baylor

No. 5 Ohio State -1: 1 Road Game: at No. 8 Michigan State.

Of course, all of the above schools expect Oklahoma could play another ranked opponent if each team makes it to their respective conference championship game. That would also be the case if Auburn does. That would push the Tigers total to 8 ranked opponents which would be, at the very least, three more than all of the teams in the Top 5.

Here is the AP Top 25 (bold indicates SEC team; asterisk indicates an Auburn opponent)

  • No. 1 Florida State
  • No. 2 Alabama*
  • No. 3 Oregon
  • No. 4 Oklahoma
  • No. 5 Ohio State
  • No. 6 Auburn
  • No. 7 UCLA
  • No. 8 Michigan State
  • No. 9 South Carolina*
  • No. 10 Baylor
  • No. 11 Stanford
  • No. 12 Georgia*
  • No. 13 LSU*
  • No. 14 Wisconsin
  • No. 15 USC
  • No. 16 Clemson
  • No. 17 Notre Dame
  • No. 18 Ole Miss*
  • No. 19 Arizona State
  • No. 20 Kansas State*
  • No. 21 Texas A&M*
  • No. 22 Nebraska
  • No. 23 North Carolina
  • No. 24 Missouri
  • No. 25 Washington