Auburn football: Predicting the final 5 games of the 2022 season
If any team needed a bye week, it was the Auburn Tigers. Three consecutive losses followed a 3-1 start, leaving the Tigers at the bottom of the SEC standings with Arkansas; both 1-3 in conference play.
It cemented a foregone conclusion that Bryan Harsin’s tenure at Auburn will end just as soon as a new athletic director is hired. You wouldn’t know it by the fight in the Tigers, but all indications suggest their leader won’t be back for 2023.
At 3-4 Auburn has 5 games left on the 2022 schedule and the question arises: Will the Tigers reach bowl eligibility? If the rush defense, last in the SEC and 119th in FBS allowing 204.43 yards a game on the ground doesn’t improve, it’ll be a long 2nd half of the season.
Here’s a look at each individual game and a prediction on how each one will end.
vs. Arkansas (L)
This could well be the pivotal game in Auburn’s drive for a bowl game.
It’s Arkansas’ strength – running the ball – against Auburn’s weakness. The Hogs, 2nd in the SEC, average 240 rushing yards a game. They should be able to control the tempo and put the pressure on Auburn with long drives to keep the ball away from the Tigers’ offense.
However, Arkansas has been prone to the big play this season, and that gives the Tigers hope. If Tank Bigsby can break off big runs, and if Robby Ashford can find open receivers, the game could wind up a shoot-out. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. The teams have combined for 58-plus points in 7 of the past 8 games of the series.
Still, Auburn loses a close, high-scoring game.
at Mississippi State (L)
This game also could go either way, but the Bulldogs take advantage of the home field to squeeze out a victory. Will Rogers, the SEC passing leader with 332 passing yards a game, does just enough to keep the cow bells ringing and lift State to a hard-fought victory.
It all but ends Auburn’s quest for a postseason berth. It’s the Tigers’ 6th loss and they’d have to win out, and that includes a victory in the Iron Bowl, to go bowling.
Amazingly, nothing changes, Auburn fights to the end in its final 2 games; just as it has for the first 9.
vs. Texas A&M (W)
Despite a 5-game losing streak, Harsin has the Tigers prepared for a struggling Aggies team battling for a bowl berth themselves, and upsets their visitors at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
How do they do it? The never-give-up attitude finally pays off and Auburn wins on the scrimmage line, coming out on the winning side of a tough, hard-nosed, low-scoring contest.
vs. Western Kentucky (W)
The Tigers follow the upset victory against Texas A&M, by looking as good as they have in any game this season while rolling to an easy victory against their non-conference visitor.
It’s a win that puts 5-6 Auburn in position to eye bowl eligibility with a victory against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. That’s incentive enough, as if they needed more, to get Auburn’s best effort in the regular season finale.
at Alabama (L)
The Tigers aren’t about to give up without a fight in one of the country’s more intense rivalries. Auburn outworks the heavily-favored Tide, but Alabama’s talent advantage is too much to overcome. Ultimately, Alabama is one score better when the clock reaches zeroes.
The Tide moves on to the postseason while Auburn ends the 2022 campaign at 5-7.
The decision is an easy one for the new AD concerning Harsin’s future. It’s the Tigers’ first back-to-back losing seasons this century. The last time it happened was in 1998 and 1999, in the final season for Terry Bowden (3-9) followed by the first season for Tommy Tuberville (5-6). It was Tuberville’s only losing season until his 10th and final year when Auburn went 5-7 in 2008.
Doug Barfield, in his first 2 seasons on the Plains, 1976 and 1977, was the last Tigers head coach to have back-to-back losing seasons.