In the SEC, as in just about every sport in every league, luck is a huge part in determining the conference champion.

Be it a tipped pass (hello, 2013 Auburn), a missed field goal, a fortunate bounce or an injury, championships can swing on seemingly small events.

There’s another off-field factor that plays as big of a role as any, and it’s an area where Auburn has already caught a break this year: scheduling.

In 2014, when Auburn fell from SEC champion to an 8-5 record, including 4-4 in the SEC, the Tigers faced tough sledding. The defense was a major culprit in the team’s undoing, but when you look at the schedule its easy to see how those losses piled up.

Auburn played its non-conference Power Five opponent, Kansas State, on the road in a Thursday night game. difficult circumstances before considering that Kansas State was ranked No. 20 at the time. Auburn escaped with a win, but it was a hard-fought affair.

On top of that, the Tigers’ two biggest rivalry games, Georgia and Alabama, were both played on the road, with Auburn going 0-2 in those matchups. The Tigers also had to do the Mississippi double-dip on the road in what happened to be banner years for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and were fortunate to escape those two games 1-1 — and likely would have been 0-2 were it not for an awful injury to Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell.

Auburn’s fortunes are very much flipped in 2015. There will still likely be three very difficult SEC road games on the schedule: LSU (Sept. 19), Arkansas (Oct. 24) and Texas A&M (Nov. 7). You can find the silver linings in each of those games, though. LSU could still be sorting out its quarterback issues, we don’t know if the Arkansas defense will be anywhere near its standards from last year and Texas A&M has not played well at home against SEC opponents since joining the conference.

The positives of the schedule should outweigh those difficult games for Auburn. For starters, instead of having to travel to a raucous, hostile stadium to play a marquee non-conference game, Auburn will instead open the season in SEC territory against Louisville at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. While Louisville had one of the nastiest defenses in the country last year, losing six defensive players to the NFL draft could knock the Cardinals down a few pegs.

Add in that those four tough SEC road games that the Tigers went 1-3 in last year — Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama — will all be at home this year, and you have the makings of a team that could tear through the SEC.

Auburn does play three of its first four SEC games on the road, but that won’t be their undoing even with a loss. For instance, just last year Alabama dropped an SEC road game in October. From that point, though, the Crimson Tide ran the table and took home the SEC West crown and the conference championship. The last three SEC champions have all suffered a mid-season loss, so it’s certainly not a kiss of death if Auburn drops a road game early in the slate. They’ll also be able to hit their stride with a run of home games down the stretch — four of Auburn’s final five games will be played in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Tigers are going to need a lot of things to go their way if they want to win their second SEC title in three years. Jeremy Johnson will have to live up to expectations, as will the new stable of running backs. Will Muschamp will have to improve the pass rush by leaps and bounds and shore up a questionable secondary.

Luckily, Auburn gets to work toward all of those things with a friendlier slate of games than it had in 2014.