Bryan Harsin faces a ton of pressure in his second season leading the Auburn football program.
While there were signs of promise in year one, a second-half swoon and a bad showing in the Birmingham Bowl had Bryan Harsin go 6-7 in his first year as the Auburn football head coach.
Though year one is challenging for any incoming head coach, Harsin was hired away from Boise State to replace a good, but not great Gus Malzahn to do one thing: Get Auburn over the top. Malzahn was elite at going 8-4 and having a special season every few years when the schedule lined up with getting bitter rivals Alabama and Georgia at home. Harsin faces immense pressure.
Here is what Auburn will have to navigate in year two of the Harsin era down on The Plains.
Auburn football schedule 2022: Game-by-game prediction
- Sept. 3: vs. Mercer Bears — W
- Sept. 10: vs. San Jose State Spartans — W
- Sept. 17: vs. Penn State Nittany Lions — L
- Sept. 24: vs. Missouri Tigers — W
- Oct. 1: vs. LSU Tigers — W
- Oct. 8: at Georgia Bulldogs (Athens, GA) — L
- Oct. 15: at Ole Miss Rebels (Oxford, MS) — W
- Oct. 29: vs. Arkansas Razorbacks — W
- Nov. 5 at Mississippi State Bulldogs (Starkville, MS) — W
- Nov. 12: vs. Texas A&M Aggies — L
- Nov. 19: vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers — W
- Nov. 26: at Alabama Crimson Tide (Tuscaloosa, AL) — L
Early record prediction: 8-4
This is really simple for Auburn’s overall viability in 2022. How the Tigers do in their first five games will let everybody and their brother know if this program can turn the corner under Harsin. Auburn should look to go 5-0, or at the very least go 4-1, to have any hope for a bright future in the second half. A new starting quarterback does not matter, as the first five games are at home.
Auburn should get to 2-0 fairly easily with home wins over Mercer and San Jose State before the first litmus test arrives. While the Tigers pushed Penn State to the brink in Happy Valley, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. With Sean Clifford back at Penn State, Auburn will need to play a complete game to avoid the non-conference sweep at the hands of the Nittany Lions.
After that, Auburn has two very winnable home games vs. a rebuilding LSU squad and a middle-of-the-pack SEC East team in Missouri. Those are more winnable in all likelihood than Penn State. However, there are two upsides in Auburn’s favor when the Nittany Lions come to town: A raucous Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd and southeastern humidity ever-present in the middle of September.
So of these five games, Auburn is going either 5-0 or 4-1, depending on the outcome of the Penn State game. After that, this is where it gets very interesting…
Under no circumstances is Auburn beating Georgia in Athens. It has not happened in nearly two decades, and it’s not happening Between the Hedges in the midst of Georgia’s national title defense. Auburn does have a decent chance to steal one on the road at a rebuilding Ole Miss before their Oct. 22 bye. At best, Auburn is going 1-1 in those two games with an Ole Miss win.
Looking at their final five games, Auburn is not beating Alabama at Bryant-Denny in their regular season finale, so that is a certain loss like the Georgia road game. Auburn should beat Western Kentucky in the date before the Iron Bowl, but sleeping on the Hilltoppers would be a big mistake. Their three other games are home vs. Arkansas, at Mississippi State and home vs. Texas A&M.
Though Auburn can beat any of these three teams, the Tigers are not winning all three. They could drop all three, but that does not seem very likely either. Arkansas is the most likely win because it is at home coming off a bye. Mississippi State is the trap game with the home date vs. Texas A&M looming large. Let’s say they split the pair with a Mississippi State win and a Texas A&M loss.
At best, Auburn is going 10-2 (6-2) with road losses to Georgia and Alabama. If it hits the fan, it could be a 4-8 team, but that is an absolute extreme here. Ultimately, Auburn is going somewhere between 6-6 again or as good as 9-3 with a signature victory over Texas A&M. If they go 8-4, they are losing to Penn State, Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M. That should help Harsin keep his job.
Auburn does not have an easy schedule next year, but the Tigers have to improve under Harsin.
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