NCAAF - SEC
Stadium:Jordan Hare Stadium
Coach: Bryan Harsins
SU Record: 6-5
ATS Record: 5-6-0
|Sep-11||vs Alabama State|
|Sep-25||vs Georgia State|
|Oct-30||vs Ole Miss|
|Nov-13||vs Mississippi State|
Auburn Tigers Returning Stats Leaders
OVERALL RETURNING PRODUCTION FOR 2021/22
Auburn Football Team News
Auburn decided to part ways with Gus Malzahn at the conclusion of the 2020 regular season after eight seasons at the helm, the last seven with at least four losses after going 12-2 with a loss to Florida State in the 2014 BCS Championship game and finishing second in the final polls. It cost the Tigers $21.5 million to buy out Malzahn’s contract after they gave him an extension to keep him from making a leap to Arkansas, where he has significant ties.
Malzahn was replaced with Bryan Harsin, who was a success at Boise State, running up a record of 69-19 in seven seasons with the Broncos. Harsin will be charged with rejuvenating an offense that was 89th in scoring and 77th in total yardage in the FBS.
Auburn beat all of the teams they were supposed to in 2020 except suffering a 30 – 22 loss at South Carolina, which probably had a lot to do with Malzahn finally wearing out his welcome with a 6-4 regular season record instead of 7-3, with their other losses coming to Georgia, Alabama and Texas A&M. Defensively, the Tigers were barely in the top half of the nation in yardage allowed, but did a good job of keeping their opponents from putting a lot of points on the board, averaging 24.7 points per game against them and holding LSU and Mississippi State to 11 and 10 points respectively.
As with most SEC teams, the ten-game conference slate was difficult, but the game against South Carolina should have been an edge that the Tigers failed to take advantage of. Then sophomore quarterback Bo Nix failed to complete 60% of his passes and only threw 12 touchdown passes against seven interceptions.
Nix has to be at the top of the list, and his development is one of the reasons Harsin was brought in to take over the program. He added 388 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, but it’s his passing game where Auburn will be looking for improvement in order to challenge the top teams in the SEC West.
Sophomore running back Tank Bigsby averaged just over six yards a carry and got into the end zone five times for the Tigers as a freshman in 2020. If he can emerge as an even bigger weapon, it could free up new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to take some more chances with Nix on play action.
Linebacker Zakoby McClain is one of seven returning starters on defense and led the conference in tackles last season with 113. As a senior, he’ll provide leadership on the inside of the defense along with returning junior Owen Pappoe, who was second on the team in tackles and tied for the lead with four interceptions.
Harsin and his staff didn’t add a lot of big talent on the offensive side of the ball, relying more on a scheme change to make the difference. The top recruits were on defense, with defensive end Dylan Brooks coming to campus after a career in Roanoke, Alabama.
Lee Hunter, a defensive end from Eight Mile, Alabama, will be joined in the freshman class by Ahmari Harvey, who will be looked at early to make a contribution in a secondary that needs help if they’re going to move up from 79th in the nation in passing yards allowed
Receiver Seth Williams, a sixth-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos, led the Tigers in yardage (760), touchdowns (4), and yards per reception (16.2) with 47 catches. His partner at the position, Anthony Schwartz, was chosen by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the draft after leading Auburn with 54 receptions in 2020. The Tigers also lost their third-most productive receiver, Eli Stove, who caught 34 passes last year and is an undrafted free agent recovering from knee surgery.
It’s no surprise that defending SEC and national champion Alabama is again the favorite to win not just the SEC West but also the conference title. A second team to be reckoned with will be Texas A&M, whose only loss in 2020 was to the Crimson Tide, and they bring back nine players from a defense that was at the top of the SEC and ninth in the country.
The Aggies benefit from a favorable schedule, playing Alabama in College Station in what could be a crucial home contest on October 9th. LSU also returns nine defensive starters from a 5 – 5 team that gained some momentum at the end of the season, defeating SEC East champion Florida and Ole Miss to close out their 2020 campaign.
With a new coach at Auburn and the rest of the division coming off sub-.500 regular seasons, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of room near the top of the SEC West for any big upsets. Don’t be surprised to see Texas A&M challenge Alabama and make a run to the College Football Playoff.
The development of Nix and an increased reliance on the running game will be critical for the success of the offense, especially given the losses from the receiving corps. If some of the young guys with limited experience step up on the outside, Auburn could be better than expected and give Harsin some success in his first season in the SEC.
The Tigers have four starters back on the offensive line, which will be relied upon to make different plays under a more grind-it-out offense than when Malzahn was in charge. Overall, there are a lot of “ifs” that have to come together for Auburn to contend, but they have a lot of experience everywhere but at wide receiver.
With seven starters back, the defense might be required to play well to keep the season together if the offense sputters with all of the changes Mike Bobo is looking to incorporate. The linebackers are as talented as they come in college football, and a big test at Penn State on September 18th will be an early indication of how competitive the Tigers will be in 2021.
Senior safety Smoke Monday will need to play well and lead a group that also boasts cornerback Roger McCreary to give the back end of the defense a pair of quality players. If the defensive line can team up with the linebackers to pressure opposing quarterbacks, Auburn could possibly find a way to steal a big upset somewhere along the line.
Frequently Asked Questions
Two. Auburn recognizes championships in 1957 and 2010 when they won the BCS Championship game.
Three. Quarterback Pat Sullivan in 1971, running back Bo Jackson in 1985, and quarterback Cam Newton in 2010.
Ralph Jordan won 176 games from 1951 to 1975