The Auburn football team’s season is in the crosshairs of a 6-6 record for 2012. The game this weekend against Mississippi State is as big of a game that Gene Chizik has had to coach since January 10, 2011. It is only September and Auburn has only played one game in the young 2012 season, but this is a must-win.
A loss puts Auburn at 0-2 with LSU, Arkansas, UGA and Alabama remaining on the schedule. Logic says that Auburn will not win more than one of those games and could (should?) lose them all.
After Louisiana-Monroe comes to the Plains in Week 3, defending SEC champion Louisiana State University comes to town and will most likely be ranked in the Top Five in the country. Most Auburn fans probably wrote this game off as a loss when the schedule was created. The Auburn record at the end of September would be 1-3.
Out of all the four games mentioned above, the Arkansas game on October 6th is probably the most winnable. The Hogs have won in Auburn only three times, the last victory coming in 2008. They lost Bobby Petrino after it was revealed that he was involved in an affair with a member of athletic department staff.
All of that aside, Arkansas is still a good football team that can beat Auburn. They will most likely be favored. Tyler Wilson and the offense is still potent without Petrino, who was an offensive mastermind.
In November, UGA makes their way down to Auburn as probable SEC East favorites. Auburn will be looking for revenge after the 45-7 flogging of the Tigers in Athens in 2011. Much of that UGA team has returned for 2012.
Auburn will play Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium this year in the annual Iron Bowl clash on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Auburn has only lost one time in Bryant-Denny but loss number two is expected this year.
It is improbable that a roster comprised of over 50 percent freshman and sophomores can go there and escape with a victory over what will probably be a Top 10 team. A roster of 20-plus upperclassmen barely pulled off the feat in 2010.
It would not surprise anyone if Auburn does come out with a win in one of those four games. However, most people would not put their hard-earned money on it.
What does a win versus Mississippi State do for the Tigers?
A win will insure at least a 2-2 record coming out of their toughest month on the 2012 schedule. This will put Auburn in a good position to make some noise in the SEC West during the month of October.
Aside from Arkansas on October 6th, Auburn has games against Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. At worst, Auburn should be 3-1 in the month of October. If that projection proves correct, Auburn would be 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.
If Auburn beats Arkansas in early October, Auburn could be 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. Even losing to UGA and Alabama would give Auburn an 8-4 record and a probable New Year’s Day bowl. Hopes would be high on the Plains for a 10-win season in 2013.
History is on Auburn’s side this weekend. According to game notes provided by Mississippi State, the Bulldogs have not won a conference opener since 1999.
Since 2002, when Auburn has started out 1-0 in the conference, they have won at least eight games every year except 2008, when they only won five. The Tigers are 18-1 in their last 19 league openers. The only loss came to Mississippi State in 2007.
Under Gene Chizik, Auburn is 7-3 following a loss and 5-1 in morning kickoffs.
So, as you can see, this is a huge game for Auburn and for Chizik. Don't misunderstand, there is no way that Chizik gets fired after this year if he finishes 6-6 in 2012. His seat will be a lot warmer going into 2013, though. With the team in Tuscaloosa looking set to be on top of the SEC for the foreseeable future, excuses of youth and schedule will wear thin in 2013.
A win over Mississippi State can give the Tigers some confidence heading into their home opener next week. Auburn believes they can play with anyone in the country. If they get some momentum heading their way into October, who knows where 2012 will take them.