Of course, every team has zero losses right now. However, as the nation looks toward the Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 Chick-fil-A Kickoff games to begin the breaking of this 120-way tie, the Tigers know they have to get off to a fast start in order to not be left behind.
Before all that begins, Auburn has to be prepared mentally and physically for another grueling SEC schedule.
The Tigers reported to the Auburn Athletic Complex July 31 and soon built a steady rhythm as their practice schedule slowly evolved in difficulty.
Shorts became pads and one-a-days became two-a days with two scrimmages in Jordan-Hare Stadium thrown in to break the monotony.
And yet, battling the extreme Auburn heat on the field has not even been the most difficult part of fall practices so far.
The first practice on Aug. 1 kicked off another installation of new offensive and defensive systems introduced by perhaps the two biggest signings of 2012 for Auburn: offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Gone are the days of the no-huddle spread offense run by Gus Malzahn in which a play was called by a single word or a hand motion.
Running backs coach Curtis Luper said plays now include as many as 15 words or numbers, and wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said his group has to do “three times the learning they’ve had before.”
Junior quarterback Clint Moseley is vying for the role of starting quarterback again, this time against dual-threat sophomore Kiehl Frazier.
In addition to learning the intricacies of Loeffler’s pro-style offense, Moseley said he is also expected to know some of the defensive system as well.
“They’re having the same inconsistencies as we are just remembering the amount of knowledge that’s being thrown at them,” Moseley said after the team’s first scrimmage.
With the new systems, almost every player must act like an underclassman again. They must think while they play until the thought becomes instinct.
“The effort is where it needs to be, but the execution is not,” Chizik said after the team’s first scrimmage. “Overall, the message will be inconsistency.”
Although Chizik’s comments at the time were only referring to the scrimmage, he and his staff have reiterated that message daily.
Whether that’s a result of poor play or a coach trying to keep his team’s confidence in check remains to be seen.
On Loeffler’s side, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has been charged with continuing Auburn’s vaunted rushing dominance as well as getting better pass protection.
In 2011, a makeshift line allowed 32 sacks that moved the team backwards a total of 197 yards, good for No. 95 in the country in sacks allowed.
This year, the line is still young, except for senior John Sullen. It showed in the second scrimmage when they were repeatedly flagged for false starts and misalignments as they adjusted to the timing.
Besides easily fixed mental mistakes, they play of the offensive line has been solid.
The same can be said of the rushing game in which senior Onterio McCalebb is locked in for a starting role.
McCalebb has broken some of what junior middle linebacker Jake Holland called “explosive plays” from outside runs and stretch plays; however, his size and questions about his toughness running up the middle give the other backs on the roster something to play for.
Sophomore Tre Mason has shown flashes that he can be the all-around running back Auburn needs and coaches have been continually impressed with his work ethic.
Luper says Auburn will still need someone behind it who can produce for Auburn in the run-dominated SEC, but the addition of fullback Jay Prosch will help the progression of any running back.
“I’m pretty certain that Onterio and Tre can help us win in this league, but we need a third guy to help us,” Luper said.
Luper also divulged that fans will see more multiple running back formations on the field.
As for the quarterbacks, Chizik said there has been no separation between Frazier and Moseley.
Moseley is still nursing a sore shoulder, yet he was able to make all the throws in the team’s second scrimmage without as much pain as he had been experiencing.
As for Frazier, numerous players have said they see more leadership out of him than last year, but the fact that he hasn’t pulled away from Moseley while he was injured says he is still making some mistakes.
Whoever is throwing the ball, it is already established that seniors Emory Blake and Phillip Lutzenkirchen will be catching it.
Other receivers who have earned Taylor’s praise are Quan Bray, Trovon Reed and Deangelo Benton.
Fall practice also marked the arrival of Melvin Ray, a former 2008 signee with the University of Alabama who quit playing minor league baseball to play football again—this time for the Auburn Tigers.
On the other side of the ball, Auburn’s defensive line and linebackers have played well, but have still let up too many explosive plays, according to VanGorder.
“You got a 70 play game, and you play 66 of them real well and four explosive plays, that’s a bad game,” VanGorder said.
Holland said his team gave up about nine explosive plays per game last season.
“That’s unheard of; we have to cut that down,” Holland said.
The secondary has also allowed some big gains, but stifling coverage has been able to force the quarterback into throwing out of bounds on several occasions.
Safeties Ryan Smith and Jermaine Whitehead have learned VanGorder’s system quickly.
They have the responsibility this year of not only playing the ball, but making calls to the rest of the defense, and so far they have excelled in each of those tasks.
All in all, it’s just fall practice.
A lot more preparation will be put in before Auburn reaches the Georgia Dome to start the season.
However, Auburn’s progression will be particularly interesting to watch, and the Tigers aren’t viewing this season as a rebuilding year.
It’s the SEC. They’re playing to win.