We’ve entered the days now fully filled with professional sports and collegiate diamond sports. Basketball’s over, football’s in that meaty part of the offseason where spring practice is over, and there’s really not much going on.
While Auburn’s run to the Final Four in this year’s NCAA Tournament sustained us for a good long while (we barely spoke of spring football until A-Day), it’s time to turn our attention to what’s indubitably going to be yet another tough season.
My Early 2019 Toughest Schedules in College Football— Brad Powers (@BradPowers7) May 1, 2019
1. South Carolina
4. Texas A&M
6. Ole Miss
As we’ve come to expect over the past couple of seasons, Auburn’s not going to get a break in the schedule game. With both Alabama and Georgia on the docket, the Tigers’ slate’s going to rank among the most difficult in the country. That won’t change this season.
Check out some preseason Top 25 polls and how many ranked teams Auburn will get to tangle with —
SB Nation: 7 ranked opponents (all in the top twenty)
Sporting News: 7 ranked opponents (all in the top fifteen)
USA Today: 6 ranked opponents (all in the top thirteen)
CBS Sports: 6 ranked opponents (all in the top fourteen)
Yeah, no thanks. The consensus here is that Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Oregon, and Texas A&M are all going to be top fifteen teams, with Mississippi State threatening to join that group as well. Instead of getting Clemson or Washington, Auburn adds the Oregon Ducks to the schedule in the opener at AT&T Stadium. Say what you will about the PAC-12 over the past couple of years, but Oregon’s going to have one of the top-rated quarterbacks in next year’s draft class. With an entire offseason to prep, it’s not going to be an easy game, especially if Auburn is breaking in new talent at the quarterback position away from home.
Let’s take a quick look at the schedule week by week...
AUGUST 31st - AUBURN vs OREGON - ARLINGTON, TX
The Ducks will feature Justin Herbert (who’s already projected to be the next quarterback off the board after Tua in 2020) but they did lose some of their offensive firepower in the other skill positions. Dillon Mitchell’s gone after leading the team with 46 catches in 2018, but there’s always talent to burn in Eugene.
Oregon with 8 players in the top 91 in the CBS Sports Early Top 100 NFL Draft Prospects for 2020— Paul (@TheCorpatty) April 30, 2019
5. Justin Herbert
12. Calvin Throckmorton
43. Troy Dye
59. Shane Lemieux
66. Juwan Johnson
75. Thomas Graham
77. Jacob Breeland
91. Jake Hanson
While Oregon was an above-average but still fairly middling team on defense, Auburn’s going to be breaking in either Joey Gatewood or Bo Nix at starting quarterback, so things likely won’t be flowing offensively for the Tigers unless someone really shows out. This could be a strength vs strength matchup with Auburn’s defensive line trying to pressure Herbert. However, that bowl win over Michigan State certainly will stick in everyone’s minds as we gauge how effective the Duck offense can perform against non-conference defenses.
SEPTEMBER 7th - AUBURN vs TULANE - AUBURN, AL
This should be an easy win for Auburn. The Green Wave went 7-6 in 2018, but they didn’t beat anyone with a pulse, and got pounded when they stepped up to major competition. With this game and the next weekend against Kent State, it’ll be a good opportunity for the Tigers to tune up for College Station.
SEPTEMBER 14th - AUBURN vs KENT STATE - AUBURN, AL
Again, easy win. The Golden Flashes secured only one FBS win last year (Bowling Green), and got thrashed in MAC play nearly every week.
SEPTEMBER 21st - AUBURN @ TEXAS A&M - COLLEGE STATION, TX
This is the second of Auburn’s purported top fifteen opponents. In 2018, Auburn broke the trend of the road team winning every matchup, as the Tigers stormed back for a fun 28-24 victory over Jimbo Fisher. It’ll be tougher this year.
Kellen Mond should be poised for a big junior season after a 20-5 TD-INT ratio last year, but the Aggies will need to find someone to replace Trayveon Williams’ production in the running game. A&M gets Clemson in Death Valley on 9/7, but they’ll have a warmup against Lamar the week before Auburn comes to town.
SEPTEMBER 28th - AUBURN vs MISSISSIPPI STATE - AUBURN, AL
Joe Moorhead Cam Newtoned us last year in Starkville, with Nick Fitzgerald going bananas off the zone read. He rumbled for 195 yards, MSU went for 349 as a team, and Auburn got beat up and down the field across the state line. This year it’ll be a pride game for the front seven, as Derrick Brown, Nick Coe, and Marlon Davidson certainly wnt to atone for that performance. Keytaon Thompson may be the starter at quarterback in place of Fitzgerald, and his game is largely the same. He won’t destroy you through the air, but he’s pretty good on the ground. Get through this, and Auburn sets up a rough October.
OCTOBER 5th - AUBURN @ FLORIDA - GAINESVILLE, FL
Here’s the first of Auburn’s SEC East opponents, and it just so happens that we get the Gators when they look poised to return to prominence. Great. With Georgia in the fold every year, it’s imperative that the Tigers do well against the rest of the East, but this season’s schedule shook out against Auburn.
Florida should be good. They were 10-3 last year, destroyed Michigan 41-15 in the Peach Bowl, and finished the season with all the momentum in the world. Couple that with Dan Mullen back in a spot where it’s not hard to recruit top offensive talent, and that just means that life will get tougher for the SEC East on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it gets tougher for Auburn this October. Guys return at all of the skill positions, and a good chunk of a top-twenty defense remains intact as well. There’s not a whole lot of star power outside of C.J. Henderson at corner, but this is a good group. Expect a hard road game for Auburn.
We’ll check out the second half of the schedule tomorrow, but don’t expect it to get any easier as Auburn stays on the road for the remainder of October.