Nov 21, 2020; Auburn AL, USA; Smoke Monday (21) runs ball during the game between Auburn and Tennesee at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics
2020 Results: 6-5, 6-4 (SEC)
2021 Projection: 7-5
Perhaps the biggest wildcard in the SEC West in 2021 resides across the state from the defending national champions. Former Boise State coach Bryan Harsin now helms the Auburn Tigers after Gus Malzahn’s crazy, sometimes brilliant and often times down letting tenure ended last season.
Harsin inherits a team with talent at numerous positions and a reputation for underperforming at times when it needed it most. Junior quarterback Bo Nix didn’t look comfortable in the offense in 2020, and it showed in several games as Nix threw into coverage too much and seemed willing to run out of the pocket on almost every down.
Auburn’s offensive line didn’t help last season. Basically the whole line returns, but it has a lot to prove. Auburn has potential across the board at both tight end and receiver but not tons of experience. The backfield depth is almost non-existent, so if Tank Bigsby goes down with another injury, the Tigers might be stuck using some walk-on players at running back.
Mike Bobo takes over as offensive coordinator and inherits the task of calming Nix and trying to get the junior signal caller back on the same page as his freshman season when he played a superb game in Auburn’s upset win over Alabama.
Defensively, the Tigers have a solid corps of linebackers returning but the defensive line took some hits as did the secondary. Former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason takes over as defensive coordinator and will most likely bring a few new schemes to the defensive side of the ball.
Kicking shouldn’t be a major problem for Auburn as Anders Carlson returns. The punting situation is a bit more up in the air as is the kick returner situation.
As usual Auburn’s schedule doesn’t do the Tigers any favors with an early road game at Penn State and an early visit from Georgia as well as the typical slate of tough SEC West games, including a game at LSU where Auburn hasn’t won since 1999 as well as a road game at Texas A&M.
Many Auburn fans remain split over Harsin’s hiring, but the former Boise State coach did wonders for the Broncos and always fielded highly-competitive teams that could win. Of course the SEC West is a far different story than the Mountain West. Only time will tell if Harsin can work his magic at Auburn.