With spring practice merely a month away, the Auburn Tigers are gearing up for what would appear to be a difficult schedule in 2012. It was confirmed today that the schedule wouldn't be easy, as the official 2012-2013 season schedule was released this afternoon.
The schedule is tough, but it doesn't appear as difficult as the 2011 schedule that saw the young Tigers go 8-5.
Here is the Tigers' 2012 schedule (All home games are in bold):
9/1/12: Auburn vs. Clemson -- Atlanta, GA -- ESPN or ABC -- Time TBA
9/8/12: Auburn at Mississippi State -- Starkville, MS -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
9/15/12: UL-Monroe at Auburn -- Auburn, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
9/22/12: LSU at Auburn -- Auburn, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
9/29/12: OPEN DATE
10/6/12: Arkansas at Auburn -- Auburn, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
10/13/12: Auburn at Ole Miss -- Oxford, MS -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
10/20/12: Auburn at Vanderbilt -- Nashville, TN -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
10/27/12: Texas A&M at Auburn -- Auburn, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
11/3/12 (Homecoming): New Mexico State at Auburn -- Auburn, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
11/10/12: Georgia at Auburn -- Auburn, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
11/17/12: Alabama A&M at Auburn - Auburn, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
11/24/12: Auburn at Alabama -- Tuscaloosa, AL -- TV TBA -- Time TBA
(Previews and Analysis after the jump.)
Biggest Game: Outside of the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa (for obvious reasons), the biggest game on Auburn's schedule is the home game against LSU on September 22. The Bayou Bengals are the reigning SEC champions, appeared in last year's BCS National Championship Game (I use the term "appeared" very lightly, by the way), return Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu and are expected to begin the season as the #1 team in the country. It's not clear yet if LSU can bounce back from their disappointing first two months of this new year, but the Bayou Bengals have an easy schedule in their first three weeks, so it is very likely the #1 team in the country will be rolling into Jordan-Hare. A win here could instantly put Auburn in the SEC title discussion. Fun Facts: Auburn is 5-1 at home against LSU since 2000, winning by an average score of 21-13. In three of the last six Auburn-LSU games at Jordan-Hare, LSU has been held to under 10 points (7 in 2002, 9 in 2004 and 3 in 2006). Since 2002, LSU has scored just TWO first-half touchdowns at Jordan-Hare (in five games). LSU's first half scoring since 2002 is as follows: 0 points in 2002, 9 points in 2004, 3 points in 2006, 3 points in 2008 and 10 points in 2010).
Trap Game: The Tigers had better be alert when they play at Vanderbilt on October 20. The 'Dores are on the way up with James Franklin, winning 6 games and going to a bowl in his first year. Even in their losses last year, Vanderbilt was usually competitive. They lost to Arkansas on a missed field goal at the end of the game. They trailed Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium just 7-0 late in the first half. They nearly knocked off Georgia, falling by five. They nearly beat Florida in the Swamp, losing by five in that one as well. Vanderbilt is only going to get better with James Franklin. This game reminds me of the Kentucky game in 2010. If there's a game on the schedule that screams, "TRAP!" it's this game in Nashville. Fun Facts: Auburn historically does NOT have a winning record against Vanderbilt. Auburn is 20-20-1 against the Commodores. This is despite the fact that the Tigers have won 13 of the last 14 games against Vanderbilt.
Biggest Momentum Game: The biggest momentum game of the year is the battle with the Clemson Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game to start the season. Last year, Clemson broke Auburn's 14-game winning streak in the series with a 38-24 win that saw the Purple Tigers outscore the Blue Tigers 31-3 to end the game. This will be a telling game for both teams. Clemson won the ACC in 2011 but ended the year on a very sour note by losing to West Virginia by 37 points in the Orange Bowl. If Auburn beats a Clemson team that may start in the top 15, the Tigers would get plenty of momentum for the rest of the year. Fun Facts: Auburn has won 14 of the last 15 games against Clemson. Win or lose, playing in this game may bode well for the Tigers. Since 2008, the SEC teams playing in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game have combined to go 47-8 and have ended up in the SEC Championship Game 3 out of 4 years, whether they won the Kickoff Game or not. SEC teams are 3-1 in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, including 1-0 against Clemson (Bama thumped them 34-10 in 2008). The only loss by an SEC team in the game was Georgia last season (The Bulldogs still won 10 games and went to the SEC Championship Game). Auburn has won their last 4 games at the Georgia Dome by an average score of 40-22.
How the first five games turn out will make the difference between a darkhorse SEC title contender or an average/bad football team. Clemson, Mississippi State, LSU and Arkansas in the first six weeks? Bring it on.