Due to technical issues, this didn’t post yesterday, so you’ll get two articles today!
Yesterday we discussed the feel of fall returning now that we’ve hit August, and while it may be hot outside, there’s a tiny bit of the crisp fall hope in the air where you can picture brisk mornings, pleasant afternoons, and tense nights watching things happen at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Those days and nights on the Plains will revolve around the usual cast of characters coming to see us, with a new twist or two for the 2022 season. Let’s take a quick look at the schedule (beware, there will be a full Orange and True episode discussing this), and figure out how I can get my expectations to 12-0 before the season starts.
- September 3 - MERCER (6 PM CST): Easy win, obviously. If we don’t fumble 14 times a la the 2017 team against this bunch, then this’ll end up looking like the Akron game last year and it’ll give everyone an inordinate shot of confidence.
- September 10 - SAN JOSE STATE (6:30 PM CST): Opponent’s a little bit of a bigger name, but this will still be a slaughter. They won 4 games against FBS opponents last year, and those wins were by 4, 6, 7, and 6 points. They lost 23-3 to Western Michigan. No threat.
- September 17 - PENN STATE (2:30 PM CST): Revenge game from last year, I wish this was a nighttime affair, but they’ll get to see Jordan-Hare Stadium at likely the lynchpin point of the season. We’ll have a huge crowd for this game, and we have to win it to assure good crowds the rest of the season. Lose this, and you’re limping into two more home games before Athens.
- September 24 - MISSOURI (TBD): If we struggle here, we’re in trouble. Let’s not pretend that Missouri is any good. They lost to BC, Kentucky, and Army last year. They gave up a 60-burger to Tennessee. The only road win was a 9-point victory over Vandy.
- October 1 - LSU (TBD): Can you name the last time we had a winning streak over LSU before this current moment? It was 2000. Amazing what winning one game in Baton Rouge can do for you. I said last year that if Harsin could break that streak, then it was a good year. Obviously I was incorrect, because we saw what happened down the stretch. LSU still isn’t going to be anything special, so this is actually a good chance to extend the winning streak to three for the first time since the Bowden years.
- October 8 - Georgia (TBD): I will say that Harsin broke the Baton Rouge streak, but we’re getting close on an Athens streak at this point. Break that, and I’ll personally push for an immediate contract extension. We haven’t gotten a win in Athens since 2005, with much hilarity in between. Beating Alabama will always be the top priority, but we have to put just as much of an emphasis on Georgia, and it doesn’t seem like we’re going to have someone that can build the same type of monster that they’ve got over there anytime soon. The Dawgs will still be fantastic. Fun.
- October 15 - Ole Miss (TBD): This is a huge game, and could be a large part of the difference between what constitutes Bryan Harsin sticking around for 2023. If Auburn can somehow go 4-1 at worst in the first five games, concede the loss in Athens (unfortunately), then you can still hit the open week at 5-2 if you win in Oxford. It’ll likely be a beaten down team coming in after Georgia and with the off week looking you in the face, so this might need to be Harsin’s best week of coaching during the year.
- October 29 - ARKANSAS (TBD): This team had relatively little trouble with a Hog group that was kind of hyped last season, and that was in Fayetteville. Bring a 5-2 record at worst out of the bye, and here you are. Probably end up with a good home crowd itching for the first game in JHS since October 1st, and you’ve got some mojo working.
- November 5 - Mississippi State (TBD): After what happened last year, this has to be a circled game for the defense. Bo Nix left injured, and then never played again for Auburn, and the TJ Finley era truly started. I can’t picture Mike Leach doing anything consistently, and this game pissed everyone off so much that this has to be Auburn getting back on the right track. If the defense is healthy, they’re going to come in hot.
- November 12 - TEXAS A&M (TBD): If you tend to lean optimistic, this is the game for you. Yes, Jimbo bought the country’s most expensive team, and his oil money boots are scootin’ at the thought of competing regularly with his old boss, but Auburn has his old quarterback, and that game last year got out of hand quite literally thanks to Bad Bo Nix coming back to bite us with that ridiculous fumble of his. It was a 3-3 game at halftime, a 6-3 game entering the fourth quarter, and while the offense wasn’t doing anything, it’s a one-score game until that fumble. You just need something to break through to win a game like that. Home field advantage might be worth that extra boost. No, I need to dial it back, I’m getting optimistic.
- November 19 - WESTERN KENTUCKY (TBD): You’d like to think that this will be the typical pre-Iron Bowl cupcake, but WKU ain’t bad. They were second in the country in scoring last year, never scored fewer than 30 points, and ended the year on an 8-1 spurt. They blasted App State in their bowl game, and we’ll have to watch out. Think of 2001 Louisiana Tech.
- November 26 - Alabama (TBD): Back to Tuscaloosa, where we haven’t won since 2010. I mean, they’ll have Heisman finalists on both sides of the ball, and Nick is probably mad at things that have happened with us almost beating them last year and then finally losing to Georgia. I don’t think they have any wide receivers left, but I’m sure someone will turn into a Biletnikoff finalist. Maybe Jeff Schmedding can concoct a similar game plan to last year, and we can score two touchdowns this time.
Optimistically, we’re looking at 9-3, with losses to Georgia, Bama, and then likely A&M. That’s a good year all around. Realistically, it’s gotta be 7-5, because I don’t know if we can actually start 5-0, and I don’t think we win all three of the Ole Miss/Arkansas/Miss St trio. Pessimistically, it’s a loss to Penn State and either Missouri/LSU, plus Georgia/Bama/A&M, and two of the other trio mentioned above to finish 5-7.