The time has finally arrived. After much conversation and anticipation, the 2021 college football season has arrived, and the Bryan Harsin era can begin on the field on the Plains. Navigating the Auburn Tigers schedule will be one of the many challenges the new coach will face in year one.
Auburn Tigers Schedule Breakdown
The month of September should be the most manageable for Auburn. The Tigers will open the first two games at home in non-conference games against Akron and Alabama State. The Zips are coming off a 1-5 season and were 0-12 the season before. Alabama State is an FCS program that obviously will not be able to match the Tigers talent level and should be another victory to open the season. These first two games will be great opportunities for the offense. Auburn should be able to get good looks at both Bo Nix and backup T.J. Finley.
Auburn will close out the first month of the season hosting Georgia State out of the Sun Belt. The Panthers return every starter on offense from a team that went 6-4 last season. They averaged 33.3 points per game and are led by sophomore quarterback Cornelius Brown IV. The third game will be the biggest test. On September 18th the Tigers will travel to Happy Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in prime time. Penn State had a disappointing 4-5 season last year and is looking to prove they are Big Ten contenders again. The Sean Clifford led offense was second in the Big Ten last year and return most of their playmakers. The defense though could be vulnerable. Will Nix knock his reputation of not being as good on the road as he is at home?
Wins: Akron, Alabama State, Penn State, and Georgia State
The next two months will be very tough for Auburn to get through. Starting October off will be a trip to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers. This is a place Auburn has not won at since 1999 when then, head coach Tommy Tuberville decided to light up a cigar at midfield after a 41-6 victory. LSU should be a better team than last season’s 5-5 team and will be looking for revenge from their 48-11 loss last season. Then, the Georgia Bulldogs come to Jordan-Hare. The Bulldogs are primed to be a national contender this year, and this will be a good test for Auburn, but they will be outmatched. The best case here is to keep it close and maintain your confidence.
It does not end there. Auburn will next travel to Arkansas and close the month with Ole Miss. These are two games that were hit with controversy that saw the Tigers come out victorious. Both, and especially Arkansas, will be looking for payback. Auburn will be more talented than the Razorbacks but the toughness instilled by Sam Pittman will make this a four-quarter fight. Ole Miss on the other hand will want a high-scoring game like every week due to a suspect defense. The Heisman hopeful Matt Corral will test the Auburn secondary.
Wins: Arkansas and Ole Miss
Losses: LSU and Georgia
They always remember the month of November. Auburn opens the month with Texas A&M and closes with the annual Iron Bowl game with Alabama. More on those two later. The games that are should be wins are against Mississippi State and South Carolina. These teams on paper are in the bottom portion of the SEC. Auburn should be much more comfortable in the Bryan Harsin-Mike Bobo offense and the defense should be at its peak under Derek Mason.
Now back to the Aggies and Crimson Tide. These are programs that should look to be competing for the College Football Playoff and in a race for the SEC West crown when they play the Tigers. Auburn has had some success at College Station since the Aggies have joined the SEC. In fact, Auburn is 4-0 in front of the 12th man. As for Alabama, the Tide had some heartbreaking losses to Auburn at Jordan-Hare during the Gus Malzahn tenure. Will Bryan Harsin inherit that magic like the Kick-Six? It might take that for Auburn to close the season out with a win over Nick Saban and Alabama.
Wins: Mississippi State and South Carolina
Losses: Texas A&M and Alabama
Auburn Tigers Schedule Final Breakdown
Would an 8-4 season that includes losses to LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama be viewed as a successful season from the Auburn faithful? There will always be malcontents, but for the reasonable fan, it just depends on how those losses look. Not all 8-4 records are created equal. If Auburn competes in those games, then the Tigers head into the off-season with momentum. If they are all lopsided losses, then questions will be asked.