The Auburn Tigers head into the 2013 season with a brand new coaching staff and new look to the football team. After taking a step back offensively with the pro-style offense in 2012, the Tigers are headed back to the Gus Malzahn spread that helped produce a national title in 2010.
The Tigers will have moderate expectations entering the new year after a 3-9 record and a coaching turnover, and there are five games that will cause major struggles for the new Auburn team.
Auburn will need to win at least two of these five if it wants to mark this season a success. The Tigers have issues at a number of positions and a lot of confidence that needs to be built before they make these wins happen in 2013.
Here are the five toughest games of the coming year.
Auburn opens the season with some winnable games, but in the fourth week they take on one of the toughest road contests of the season when they travel to Baton Rouge.
The LSU Tigers will be reloaded at a number of positions and will not make it an easy night on the Tigers. This will be the first test against the upper crust of the SEC for the Gus Malzahn led Auburn Tigers.
If Auburn can come away looking like the fast-attacking offense of old then they will begin to gain respect and will likely start snatching up wins. Playing well against a team like LSU after a 3-9 season will be a huge growth point for the Tigers.
This may be close, or it could end in a slaughter.
The Tigers lost big to Ole Miss last season and the game is not getting any easier. The Rebels are becoming a strong team under the guidance of Hugh Freeze and are looking to contend for the SEC West.
Auburn will be looking to regroup after a terrible season and possible rough road trip to LSU. The Tigers can’t afford to lose this game—if they do then their season will not be a success.
Lose to Ole Miss and the Tigers will have a tough time salvaging a successful season.
The Texas A&M Aggies traveled to Auburn during their inaugural season in the SEC and throttled the Tigers for the entire game. Auburn never stood a chance in the game, and a number of the major contributors to the win will be back next year.
The Tigers will be in a tough environment when they make their first trip to College Station in October. This is a game that will be really tough to win for the Tigers.
The expectations for the Aggies are sky-high, with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel leading the team into the new season. The Tigers will have to play their best football in four years to knock off this squad at home.
The Georgia Bulldogs have put a stomping on Auburn for the past two seasons and the once famous rivalry game has turned into a joke at the hands of the Bulldogs. Auburn hasn’t been able to move the football or stop Georgia’s offense in eight quarters.
This coming year the Bulldogs will be looking to push for their fourth Eastern Division title with the hopes of landing in the SEC title game, winning and getting a shot at the crystal ball.
When they come to Auburn they will need to close the season with a big SEC win. A loss could knock them out of the race for the division at that point in the season. If Auburn can find a solid answer at quarterback, they will challenge the Bulldogs in this late-season contest.
If they don’t find a signal-caller, Georgia may invoke the mercy rule.
The Iron Bowl has been all Alabama in the past few years as the Gene Chizik era screeched to a halt with two devastating losses to the Crimson Tide.
No accomplishment can overshadow two straight embarrassing losses to Alabama. Coaches are hired and fired by their ability to beat the Tide, and Malzahn is seen as a guy that can get that job done.
This will be an interesting game for both parties. The Crimson Tide are likely to be challenging for another SEC Western Division title and heading to Atlanta. Auburn will likely be a five-win SEC team looking for No. 6 and a New Year’s Day bowl berth.
This will be the telling sign of whether the Tigers have a shot at coming back to the top of the SEC in the next few years.