While it has been a bit of a rollercoaster of a debut season for Coach Bryan Harsin and his first Auburn football team, heading into the final quarter of the regular season its record is where I expected it to be.
In a preseason poll, my prediction was that the Tigers would finish with an 8-4 overall record in the regular season and a 5-3 Southeastern Conference record. Currently 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the league, with three games to play, the Tigers are favored to win at home this week and will likely be favored to win the following week at South Carolina.
The Tigers are likely going to be an underdog against Alabama in the regular season finale so an 8-4 record looks like a real possibility after missing a golden opportunity last Saturday with a loss at Texas A&M. If the Tigers had won that game they would be in the SEC Championship Game by winning out, regardless of what other teams in the league do. Considering how much divisional leader Alabama has struggled compared to recent years, the Tide certainly looks beatable.
Even taking into consideration that the Aggies are an improving team and have a lot of good players on defense, without a doubt the Tigers put on one of their worst offensive performances in many years in a 20-3 loss at Texas A&M. It was Auburn’s lowest points total since 2012.
Since coming out smoking hot in the first half vs. Ole Miss, Auburn’s offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in the last six quarters. Considering that this week’s opponent, Mississippi State, looks like it has its act together offensively, Auburn needs to get out of its scoring funk as soon as possible.
The Bulldogs have talented linebackers and a couple of excellent defensive backs. Put that together with the Mississippi State passing attack and it means the Tigers need to play much better offensively than they did last week or they could lose on their home field this week, something that has only happened seven times in the Bulldogs’ 37 trips to Auburn.
From the notebook:
• After being disappointed with being left out of last season’s downsized NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament when they looked to have done enough to earn a bid, the Tigers are back in the field this year as the No. 15 seed in the 64-team field. Coach Karen Hoppa has a relatively young team that will take on the Samford Bulldogs, an opponent Auburn defeated 2-1 on the road back in August. The rematch is set for 5 p.m. on Friday and Hoppa is hoping for a large and supportive crowd.
The early start time is to give fans an opportunity to attend both the soccer match and the men’s basketball game vs. ULM that will tip off at 7 p.m. at Auburn Arena.
• Johnnie Harris will make her regular season head coaching debut on Thursday night at Auburn Arena as the women’s basketball team takes on Georgia Southern.
The Tigers lost their final 16 games last season, prompting Auburn to change head coaches and bring in Harris from the University of Texas, where she was the top assistant on Vic Schaeffer’s staff. Harris knows the SEC well as she played a major role in building the Mississippi State program when on that coaching staff.
Despite losing sophomore forward Romy Levy to a season-ending knee injury and missing point guard Sania Wells with a concussion, the Tigers showed they remember how to win a game with a 102-44 exhibition victory over Miles College. This looks like a rebuilding year for AU women’s hoops, which has a strong signee class on the way for next season. If this year’s team plays with the energy it showed in the exhibition game there is hope for improvement on last year’s 5-19 record.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.