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After several mostly successful seasons under Gus Malzahn, Auburn fired him and hired Bryan Harsin away from Boise State, where in 7 seasons he accumulated a record of 69-19. So, with a new sheriff in town there is renewed excitement for the Tigers. Harsin is hard-nosed and brought in an energetic staff but the jury is still out. Winning at Boise State is a little different than going up against Bama, LSU, and Texas A&M among others in the SEC. But, the message has been well received according to accounts from players, and expectations are high.
Offense: There are seven returning starters on offense including Bo Nix who is entering his third season as the starting QB. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019 but had a down 2020. He needs to bounce back and return to form. Improved line play will be a step in the right direction to attaining that. They return all 5 starters from a year ago but the unit never seemed to gel. The talent is there; the consistency is not. The running backs are solid and Tank Bigsby rushed for 834 yards and five TDs in 2020. He is versatile as he can get the tough, inside yards and also possesses breakaway speed. The receivers will be new but the coaches loved Elijah Canion and Ja’Varrius Johnson this spring so it sounds like there are two top-notch prospects there.
Defense: Auburn always has a physical, aggressive defense and look for that to continue in 2021. DT Tyrone Truesdell decided to return for another year and he will be joined upfront with Colby Wooden and spring standout Marquise Burks. The linebacker unit will be strong led by Zakoby McClain (team-leading 113 tackles) and Owen Pappoe (93 tackles, 4 sacks). No worries at this position. The two returning starters in the secondary are CB, Roger McCreary and S, Smoke Monday(one of my favorite names). They are both have big-play capabilities.
9/11 Alabama State
9/18 at Penn State
9/25 Georgia State.
There are three gimmes on the non-con schedule. Guess which one isn’t? The Tigers are fully capable of heading up to Mt.Nittany and taking down Penn State and if they can do that they are on their way to a very good season.
10/2 at LSU
10/16 at Arkansas
10/30 Ole Miss
11/6 at Texas A&M
11/13 Mississippi State
11/20 at South Carolina
The conference schedule is anything but easy and the first two games at LSU and a home game with East division favorite Georgia could see the Tigers off to a 0-2 start in the SEC. Road games at Arkansas and South Carolina are must wins and the other road game at Texas A&M will be a difficult test. Home games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State should be wins and then there is the home finale against Alabama which is always entertaining to say the least.
Summary: There is a lot to like about this Auburn team and I think they could be better than what a lot of people think. So much will depend on the development and subsequent return to form of Bo Nix. If he elevates his play, they will be good on offense. There are enough players on defense as always. I just don’t know how this staff will react to the rigors of the SEC and how long will the adjustment period be. Having said that, I think changes needed to be made and this staff is an upgrade to the previous one and in time that will be proven. I think the Tigers are better than LSU, but their early schedule could find them 3-3 after six games. Can the coaching staff keep them together if that ihappens?
Predicted Finish: 4th Place in the SEC West
Overall Record: 7-5
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