Auburn will be picked toward the bottom of the SEC this week. That’s not always a bad sign.
The Tigers' reputation as the most unpredictable program in CFB rings even more true during SEC Media Days. What does Auburn do when there are low expectations?
HC Bryan Harsin (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Throughout the week of SEC Media Days, the countless conversations on Auburn will center on the Tigers’ five-game losing streak to end 2021 and the internal investigation that created even more challenges — and pressure — for Bryan Harsin to overcome in 2022.
During all the network broadcasts, radio row interviews and social media chatter that inevitably come with “Talking Season” in Atlanta, people will talk about the low numbers in the recruiting class. They’ll talk about Bo Nix’s transfer and wonder if Auburn has the right replacement on its roster. They’ll ask questions about the defense following several stars’ departures to the NFL, the veteran offensive line’s track record and the two new coordinators in charge.
Some will say Harsin has no chance to survive. Others, specifically ones who have been around the Media Days circus for a while, might say something like this:
“You know, when Auburn isn’t predicted to do well… that’s when you’ve got to watch out for them.”1
At some point on Tuesday, the SEC will email all of its credentialed media members2 a link to vote for the preseason all-conference team and the annual team poll. Each voter will submit their predictions, No. 1 through No. 7, for each of the conference’s two divisions and pick an overall champion. Those votes will be tallied, combined and then released to the public with the All-SEC teams on Friday — the traditional grand finale of Media Days, after everyone has already gone back home.
If the preseason magazines and rankings from national sites such as Sports Illustrated, On3 and USA Today are to be believed, there’s a decent chance Auburn will be picked to finish last in the SEC West this year.
Alabama and Texas A&M are both locks to be up front. Ole Miss, Arkansas and LSU — even though they all lost to Auburn last season — have gotten more preseason buzz. Mississippi State is the only other team that might be picked to finish last in the division3, but more than a few media members will remember Auburn’s meltdown in Jordan-Hare Stadium last November against Will Rogers and Co.
If that happens, it would be somewhat historic. You can find the full preseason polls from SEC Media Days dating all the way back to 2001 online. In the last 21 editions of the predictions, Auburn has never been picked to finish last in the division — and it’s only been picked to finish lower than fifth just once, so a sixth-place prediction would still put it in rare territory.
Auburn fans might look at that and lament the current state of the football program. Others who swing a little more optimistic might look at that and expect the Tigers to prove the doubters wrong yet again.
And there would be some merit to that.