Auburn has never played these teams in football or men's basketball. Who should be scheduled next?
Auburn football and men's basketball have both played for well over a century, yet they've never crossed paths with several notable schools. Let's break them down.
Yes, there’s a reason why this picture that features Allen Greene with Bryan Harsin and Bruce Pearl was chosen for this newsletter. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
When you’ve been playing sports since 1892 and have been in the same powerhouse conference for 90 years, things can look pretty familiar on a schedule.
In addition to the 131 SEC opponents the Tigers face regularly in football and men’s basketball, plenty of teams from all over the country have crossed paths with Auburn, whether in bowl games, basketball tournaments or good, old-fashioned scheduling agreements.
Considering Auburn has played 1,283 football games and 2,664 men’s basketball games, it’s pretty significant when it squares off against a team it’s never seen before.
This past sports season crossed a few of those first-timers off the list. Auburn played — and got scared to death by — Georgia State for the very first time in football. In basketball, Auburn faced Morehead State, Loyola-Chicago, Nebraska and Yale for the first time.
That number will be much smaller in 2022-23 as it stands right now. Auburn football won’t play any first-time FBS opponent in the regular season, as its non-conference matchups are against San Jose State (2-0), Penn State (1-2) and Western Kentucky (2-0). The lone new non-conference opponent Auburn could play this season is Northwestern, depending on the result of the Tigers’ first game in Cancun.
Scheduling is a fun offseason topic in the major sports, especially when conference realignment is swirling all around. Auburn football has a home-and-home series with Cal, which it has never played before, that starts next season. In 2027 and 2028, Auburn will play UCLA for the first time.
Basketball doesn’t schedule things out nearly as far in advance as football, with schedules getting finalized months before the season2. The Tigers will finish up a home-and-home agreement with Washington3 and make its first visit to USC since 1972 on the same road trip in December.
There’s nothing wrong with a matchup against a team you’ve already played before, like when football will have a home and home with Miami at the end of the decade. But when it comes to thinking about future schedules, fans often want to see something they’ve never seen before.
In football, Auburn has never played or scheduled eight Power 5 opponents, plus two independents that are widely considered to be powers. More than 20 Group of 5 opponents are still left for the Tigers to cross off their list, too.
In basketball, Auburn has never played or scheduled 11 different opponents that would be classified as members of a power conference — but there are a few more “mid-majors” left to play that would swing just as hard as a major-league matchup. And the Tigers have a large number of Division I opponents left to play in the smaller conferences, similar to them crossing off Morehead State and Yale last season.
For today’s newsletter, let’s take a look at the biggest never-played-before teams for both football and basketball and separate them into tiers. Who would be the most noteworthy first-time matchups Auburn could schedule — or happen to cross paths with in a bowl or a basketball tournament? And let’s also knock out some notable smaller teams that would make for interesting games.
Note: I realized after writing this that the headline might be a little misleading, so I specifically marked the schools that Auburn has never played in either sport with an asterisk. Those are the big ones.
Tier 1: Notre Dame*
This one stands alone. Notre Dame has the fifth-most wins in FBS football and is one of the most tradition-soaked programs in the sport. The Fighting Irish are the only team in the top 15 in all-time wins to have never played the Tigers, and you have to go all the way down to No. 19 before the next never-played-before program pops up.
If you poll Auburn fans about which first-time opponent they’d want to see the Tigers play next, Notre Dame is nearly a universal answer. Pretty much every fan base in college football loves to hate Notre Dame4, and it’s truly surprising that they’ve never crossed paths in their lengthy histories. After all, Alabama and Notre Dame have played eight times and have another home-and-home lined up.
Due to their scheduling agreement with the ACC, Notre Dame’s dance card is pretty full for the foreseeable future. The Irish have future matchups set with other SEC opponents, including Texas A&M, Arkansas and Florida. Maybe Auburn could be next in line. Play up the Under Armour connection or the fact that it’s Allen Greene’s alma mater. Just get these two historically strong programs playing against each other.
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