Bryan Harsin

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin

There are eleven weeks standing between the Auburn Tigers football team and their opening game in September. With the announcement that Jordan-Hare Stadium will be back to full capacity in the fall, there is sure to be plenty of buzz around the Plains leading up to fall camp and the season-opener. 

Auburn will open up the season by facing off against Akron at home. It will be the first time these two teams have ever played one another. 

Hailing from the Mid-American Conference and led by head coach Tom Arth, the Zips will be looking to improve on their dismal year in 2020. While they only played six games, the Zips would end up losing all but one contest. 

After falling in their opening game to Buffalo, Akron got its lone win of the season over Bowling Green before dropping four straight to Miami (Ohio) University, Kent State, Ohio, and Western Michigan. 

Entering the 2021 season, the Zips’ offense will be returning nine starters, and they will need all the experience they can get to add more marks in the win column. 

Last season, Akron managed to only score 14 or more points twice. DJ Irons, a JUCO transfer quarterback, and Anthony Williams, a transfer from Michigan State, are fresh faces this fall who will look to shake things up. 

The defense was not much better than the offense, giving up an average of 31 points per game, and had trouble stopping the run, averaging nearly 250 yards allowed per contest. 

The Zips are led by Arth, who will be entering his third season as the head coach of Akron. He has led the Zips to a 1-17 record so far in his tenure. He began his career as the quarterbacks coach of John Carroll, a NCAA Division III team, from 2010-2012, before being promoted to head coach in 2013, where he amassed a 40-8 record and three Division III playoff appearances. 

From there, he went to Chattanooga from 2017-2018, going 9-13 over those two seasons, before being hired as the head coach of Akron in 2019.

Auburn should not have many issues with handling Akron to start the season. With Jordan-Hare back to full capacity for the first time since 2019, and many people excited to be in the stadium, the Jungle will likely be rocking. 

Akron simply does not have the talent on either offense or defense to match up with Auburn, so unless the Zips catch the Tigers napping, the Tigers should start off 2021 with a win and a much-needed warmup game to test the new head coach Bryan Harsin’s planned offensive and defensive schemes. 

The Tigers’ second game of the season will be against in-state foe Alabama State. The two have only met once before back in 2018, when the Tigers routed the Hornets in a 63-9 blowout victory. 

Alabama State comes from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which did not hold their 2020 football season until spring of 2021. 

Led by head coach Donald Hill-Eley, the Hornets went 3-3 this spring. After dropping its first game to Alabama A&M, Alabama State notched wins over Mississippi Valley State and Jackson State while suffering losses to South Carolina State, Southern University. But the Hornets managed to get a third win over Alcorn State. 

Hill-Eley will be entering his fifth season as the head coach of the Hornets. So far, he has led them to a 17-17 record and will be looking to get over the .500 mark this season. Before his time at Alabama State, he was the head coach at Morgan State, where he went 59-77 over the course of 11 seasons. 

It will be difficult for the Hornets to pull out a victory against Auburn but that doesn’t mean the Tigers need to play with any less effort. 

Following Akron and Alabama State, a slate of tough opponents awaits the Tigers, so Auburn needs to make sure that they find and work out any possible kinks against teams with less talent before they move on.

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