Auburn’s 2022 football schedule is broken down into eight home games this season and four away games. Over the past five seasons, Auburn has won 79% of its home games against a 42% winning percentage away from Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Having an extra home game this season could be a big part of improving on last year’s 6-7 record. The pressure is on Bryan Harsin’s staff to get a better product on the field in Year 2, which could be a major challenge due to personnel losses starting in 2021.
With that in mind, I’ve divided the upcoming schedule into four categories. Keep in mind that this is primarily based on results for the 2021 season, which are subject to change from season to season.
Sure wins: Mercer, San Jose State and Western Kentucky should be wins in 2022, although nothing is guaranteed. Auburn will be heavily favored in these three games and an upset loss to any of this group would be considered a disaster. Auburn faces all three at home.
Favored: Based on last season’s results and history against the opposition, Auburn will likely be favored against Missouri, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State. Two of those four games are at Jordan-Hare.
Prize draws: Penn State, LSU and Texas A&M fall into this category with all three games on the borders of Jordan-Hare.
Safe losses: Auburn faces Georgia and Alabama on the road. Both opponents will outplay Auburn on the field, making an upset in either game highly unlikely.
Looking at the schedule in all four categories, Auburn must win all three games in the “certain victory” column. The Tigers must win three of four games in which they will be favored and two of three games in the draw to earn eight regular season wins. It’s not a stretch unless Auburn continues to lose games on the sidelines.
Each year, as I assess the outcome of games from week to week, there are two statistical categories that weigh in on my predictions. How well does the opponent defend the run and how effectively does the opponent generate explosive plays in their passing attack? Looking at these two categories, here’s how the season could unfold in 2022.
Opposition Pass Infringement
Based on last year’s results, Auburn is expected to face seven opponents ranked below No. 50 nationally in generating passing plays over 20 yards. These teams are San Jose State, Penn State, LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Mercer.
Five of the seven opponents will be home games for the Tigers, which doesn’t include Western Kentucky. It sets up eight potential wins with a safety net of Arkansas and Ole Miss, opponents Auburn defeated in 2021. If Auburn lost two of those eight games, the Rebels and Razorbacks could make up for the losses to get eight wins in the regular season.
Of Auburn’s 12 opponents, six have ranked below No. 50 in run defense with four of those games at home. These six include Penn State, Arkansas, Western Kentucky, Ole Miss, Missouri and Mercer. That doesn’t include San Jose State, which finished with the 36th run defense last year. That is seven possible victories, including five played at home.
Win those seven games and Auburn needs just one more win over the combination of Mississippi State, Texas A&M and LSU to reach eight regular season wins. Of those three games, Auburn is at home to the Aggies and LSU Tigers. Again, if Auburn can avoid losing games on the sidelines, it’s no big deal for this team to win eight regular season games.
Alabama and Georgia are the only two opponents who will easily surpass Auburn in talent and both are great on run defense and generate explosive plays in their passing game. That means the season will come down to how competitive Auburn is in its remaining ten games. Eight of those ten are at home, including five straight home games to start the season. It’s critical that Auburn come out of the first five games with at least four wins. Two losses in the first five games would likely make a winning season nearly impossible.
It hasn’t been since 1998 and 1999 that Auburn has had back-to-back losing seasons, making the 2022 season critical for Harsin to survive as Tigers head coach.
A winning record gives hope that the Harsin staff is on the right track to rebuild the program. There is enough talent on the current roster to be competitive in ten of 12 games and to win eight of those ten. Winning eight regular season games and picking up a bowl win would help restore confidence in the program under Harsin. Fewer than seven wins in 2022 would continue the program’s downward trajectory.