What is the Auburn Tigers’ path to the College Football Playoff? Despite two losses as the season is now in November, Auburn not only controls their own destiny for an SEC championship but also a spot among the top four in college football. Just the fact that is a discussion makes year one under Bryan Harsin a success. Coming into the season most prognosticators had Auburn as a 6-6 or 7-5 team. Well, they have already hit six wins and are looking for more. But how does this team shake things up and become the first two-loss team in the playoff?
Auburn Tigers Path to the College Football Playoff
It Starts in College Station
Perhaps the biggest game in the country this Saturday pits the Auburn Tigers on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies. Having to deal with the 12th Man will not be easy but the Tigers have had success there. Quarterback Bo Nix has had success there as well. Since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012 Auburn is 4-0 as the visitors. That includes a 28-20 victory in 2019 when Nix was a freshman. Nix has proven to shake those road woes this season as well with wins at LSU and Arkansas.
The Auburn offense will have a tall task against an Aggies defense that has been solid for most of the season. Texas A&M ranks second behind Georgia giving up just 16.1 points per game and they have shown success getting to the passer with 24 total sacks. Leading the way is senior defensive lineman Tyree Johnson with six sacks on the season including two against Alabama in their upset win earlier in the season. Auburn will need to show balance as they did against Ole Miss and use Tank Bigsby to set up the passing game with Nix.
Defensively Auburn has shown some improvements under defensive coordinator Derek Mason. Auburn has given up yards in chunks this season but has stepped up when it matters most to limit the opponent in scoring. The Tigers are third in the SEC giving up just 19.8 points per game. A huge lift was getting both T.D. Moultry and Owen Pappoe are back in the lineup against Ole Miss. The Aggies may not have to elite offense the Rebels do but will need to get constant pressure on the quarterback. Zach Calzada has played well of late after a shaky start to the season but does have seven interceptions on the season. This may equal a great opportunity to Auburn secondary led by Roger McCreary and Smoke Monday.
In the initial College Football Playoff rankings, Auburn is 13 and Texas A&M is 14. A win in College Station could very well catapult Auburn either close or into the top ten. That is also depending what happens ahead of them. Then Auburn will be at home versus 17th ranked Mississippi State and on the road against South Carolina. The Bulldogs will not be a cakewalk but both these games are ones on paper Auburn should win.
If that holds to be the truth it then sets up the winner takes all in the Iron Bowl with Alabama for the SEC West crown. The Crimson Tide currently is second in the rankings and if they keep winning, they should stay with that ranking. Next is a potential rematch with top-ranked Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. When these two teams met last month Georgia won 34-10. An upset over the Bulldogs would erase that loss and insert the Tigers into the College Football Playoffs. Is it likely? Maybe not, but the Auburn Tigers’ path to the College Football Playoff is clear.