2022 Auburn Tigers Preview

by Matt Fargo

Auburn Tigers

2021-22 Season Record 6-7 (3-5 SEC West) - 6-7-0 ATS - 5-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 6
Defense - 7

Overview

Auburn is coming off its first overall losing season since 2012 and just its third since 2000 and second year head coach Bryan Harsin is already under pressure. The Tigers have gone to nine straight bowls games but the last four being the Birmingham, Citrus, Outback and Music City Bowls does not exactly inject a lot of enthusiasm in the fan base. Playing in the SEC makes it more of a challenge to get back to prominence and it will not be easy once again. The offense scored 122 points in its first two games but averaged only 22.4 ppg in its last 11 contests and in the offensively potent SEC West, this has to get better. The defense held its own and kept some of the games within reach but the unit was not good in clutch situations, finishing No. 58 in red zone defense, allowing 40 scores in 49 opponent attempts. Ending on a five-game losing streak only adds to the pressure.

Offense

The offense was average across the board last season finishing between No. 58 and No. 62 in yards, points, passing and rushing but should be better in all areas this season. In one of the bigger offseason transfers, quarterback Bo Nix left for Oregon but he was just average as a starter with 37 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in three seasons. Three transfers from big name schools will be vying for the starting job led by T.J. Finley who came over from LSU and was 70-128 for 827 yards, six touchdowns and one interception last season. He will be pushed by Zach Calzada from Texas A&M and Robby Ashford from Oregon. Whoever wins long-term job will be protected behind a veteran offensive line led by five-year senior starting center Nick Brahms. 1,000-yard rusher Tank Bigsby is back and while top receiver Kobe Hudson transferred, five experienced wideouts are back to fill in.

Defense

The defense has good experience coming back but it is pretty young with only three senior starters. The Tigers finished No. 34 in points allowed per game and No. 35 against the run but they were torched through the air. Only two starters are back in the secondary and they are led by junior safety Zion Puckett and junior transfer corner D.J James to build a more resistant unit. The rushing defense will be better if healthy as three starters are back along the defensive line buoyed by senior edge Derick Hall and fellow end Colby Wooden while getting immediate help from Oregon transfer Jayson Jones at nose tackle. The linebackers are experienced and deep with five juniors or seniors on the three-deep chart. The defense will have to lead, at least early on, until the offense finds its rhythm and one important factor is getting more takeaways than the 12 generated last season.

2022 Season Outlook

Losing the final five games and some on and off field allegations nearly cost Harsin his job after one season so expect a buyout if there is not significant improvement. The schedule opens with five home games, three of which should result in easy wins against Mercer, San Jose St. and Missouri while the other two are against Penn St. and LSU which can go either way but a 5-0 start is not out of the question. Then the fun begins. Three of the next four games are on the road against Georgia, Mississippi and Mississippi St. with a home game against an improved Arkansas team sandwiched in. The final SEC home game is against Texas A&M and the Tigers close at Alabama after a home game against Western Kentucky. The 6.5 O/U win total is spot on and if Auburn does not get to that 5-0 start, it will take a few upsets to get to a winning record and a tenth straight bowl game. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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