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Auburn Tigers Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

By Pete Fiutak

Auburn Tigers Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Auburn season with what you need to know and keys to the season.


Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

Auburn Tigers Preview
Head Coach: Bryan Harsin, 2nd year at Auburn,
10th year, 82-31 overall, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 6-7, Conference: 3-5
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Auburn Top 10 Players | Auburn Schedule & Analysis

Auburn Tigers Preview 2022

Did anything interesting happen with Auburn this offseason?

Blow off the five straight losses to close the year, and the way the Tigers came this close to knocking Alabama out of the College Football Playoff – oh yeah, and almost winning the Iron Bowl, too – and the loss of several players through the transfer portal, and head coach Bryan Harsin almost getting whacked for a whole slew of alleged reasons, mostly because of all the above things …

Welcome to the SEC.

You beat Alabama and every else gets swept aside. You collapse late against the Tide and in the bowl game against Houston to finish 6-7, and there’s a problem.

SEC and Auburn fans never quite bought into the Harsin hiring. He went 69-19 at Boise State with three Mountain West championships and two other division titles in six years, and that was coming off a Sun Belt championship in his one year at Arkansas State.

To be cynical about all this, and to hammer this home even harder – if Tank Bigsby stays in bounds late against the Tide, there’s a very, very different narrative to the offseason, Harsin still doesn’t have a losing season on his resumé, and the program is building back up on the right path.

That’s why there’s one key aspect that’s been lost here – Auburn has a solid team returning.

It might not win the SEC title, but even with all the big departures among the coaches and personnel, the team should have a better record and be in for a stronger season.

And if not, buying out Harsin’s contract is a lot cheaper now.

Auburn Tigers Preview 2022: Offense

Out goes Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator – Auburn finished 11th in the SEC scoring and averaged just over 400 yards per game – and in steps Eric Kiesau into the role after coaching the receivers last year. First and foremost, he’ll try to get the passing game going.

Bo Nix is off to Oregon, but the parts are in place to start coming up with more deep shots, being more consistent, and most of all, being far more efficient to keep up with the high-octane attacks across the SEC West. That starts with …

The quarterback situation has to be settled. Former LSU transfer TJ Finley is the most likely choice for the gig after seeing enough time to throw for 827 yards and six touchdowns with one pick, but Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada and Oregon transfer Robby Ashford will get a shot.

The receiving corps is fine, but it has to be more explosive. Leading receiver Kobe Hudson is gone to UCF, but almost everyone else returns with enough depth to play around with the lineup a bit in fall camp.

The running backs are fantastic. Tank Bigsby needs to come up with a few more big dashes, but he’s a tough runner who hit the 1,000-yard mark with ten scores, and Jarquez Hunter averaged close to seven yards per carry. They’re good, the offensive line – once everyone is healthy – should be a positive, and the balance should be there.

For more Auburn football, check out Auburn Wire

Auburn Tigers Preview 2022: Defense

The defense needs to be better. It was good at times at getting behind the line, and it held up relatively well against the big boys on the slate, but it had a weird way of not coming up big when it absolutely had to. Experience should help that, the recruiting classes have been good, and a few transfers will help round things out.

The back seven needs work, but …

As long as everyone can stay healthy, the front four should be one of the team’s biggest positives. Getting 6-6, 328-pound Jayson Jones in from Oregon to help gum up the works helps, and everyone else up front is back.

The pass rush was there last season, and the run defense allowed just eight touchdowns – none in the last five games – and just 3.5 yards per carry. However …

The secondary and linebacking corps could need a little bit to get going. Owen Pappoe is back after missing most of last season from his spot in the middle of the linebacking corps, and the rotation will fill in around him.

Most of the key guys in the secondary have to be replaced around veteran safety Zion Puckett – CB Roger McCreary and S Smoke Monday are the biggest losses. This group got ripped up at times last year and didn’t hold up well enough in several clutch moments, but that’s life in the SEC. The passing game are just that good.

O, D BreakdownSeason Prediction, What Will Happen
Auburn Top 10 Players | Auburn Schedule & Analysis

Auburn Tigers: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

Auburn Tigers: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

Auburn Tigers: Key To The 2022 Offense

Keep the chains moving

The Tigers ended up statistically fine on third downs – converting close to 41% of their chances – but that was front-loaded to the first part of the season.

Team moved chains, team controlled ball, team controlled games, team usually won.

Team didn’t move chains, bad things happened.

It moved the ball fine in the losses to Penn State and Mississippi State, and it wasn’t bad against South Carolina, but there wasn’t enough happening to take control in the other four losses. Those games happened to be against Georgia, Texas A&M, Alabama, and Houston – four strong teams with real defenses – and those were the four times the offense failed to hit 30% of its third down tries.

Over the last three seasons, Auburn is 0-9 against FBS teams when it doesn’t hit that 30% mark.

Auburn Tigers: Key To The 2022 Defense

More takeaways are a must

Not everyone can have 2021 Georgia’s D, and everyone who plays in the SEC West has to find a way to get through the rough days against the Bryce Youngs, the Mississippi State passers, and all the other good quarterbacks in the division and conference.

That’s fine – allowing yards isn’t that big a deal if you can come up with enough turnovers to offset the production.

Auburn forced 12 turnovers last season. Two came in the bowl loss to Houston, two came in the win over Alabama State, and the other eight were spread out over the other 11 games.

It helped that the Tiger O was good at not giving the ball away, but the 12 takeaways from the D – not really counting the shortened 2020, and even then there were 13 – were by far the fewest generated in well over a decade.

Auburn Tigers: Key Player To The 2022 Season

QB TJ Finley, Jr.
Bryce Young, KJ Jefferson, Jaxson Dart, Jayden Daniels, Will Rogers. Throw in whatever quarterback Texas A&M trots out there, and Auburn’s starting quarterback will have to pull his weight each and every week in the SEC West.

Auburn’s guy has to hang shot-for-shot with everyone else’s guy.

If it’s not Zach Calzada or Robby Ashford, the 6-7, 250-pound Finley has to settle the position, the offense has to stretch the field more, and he’s got to be great at making the Auburn O good enough to keep up on a weekly basis.

Auburn Tigers: Key Transfer

DT Jayson Jones, Soph.
The Tigers are bringing in a slew of other interesting transfers – Oregon CB DJ James is going to be a factor – but the emergence of Jones on the nose could and should mean just about everything to the defense as the season goes on.

The 6-6, 328-pounder was a huge recruit for Oregon, made 19 tackles with 1.5 sacks last season, and now he has to rise up and hold down the interior of the Auburn front four.

Auburn Key Game To The 2022 Season

LSU, Oct. 1
Auburn got off to a hot start last season, and it didn’t mean much as the wheels came off over the second half of the season. It opens up the SEC season at home against Missouri, and then a week later there’s more Tiger on Tiger action when LSU comes to town.

Auburn won last year, and this time around if everything goes well, it might be able to beat both Mizzou and Penn State to come into the showdown 4-0. Beat LSU, or else. Three of the next four games are on the road including Georgia and Ole Miss in back-to-back weeks.

Auburn Tigers: 2021 Fun Stats

– Auburn 3rd quarter scoring: 102, 4th quarter: 65
– Fumbles: Auburn 23 (lost 8) – Opponents 20 (lost 3)
– Rushing TDs: Auburn 22 – Opponents 8

O, D Breakdown | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Auburn Top 10 Players | Auburn Schedule & Analysis

Auburn Tigers Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

Auburn Tigers Season Prediction, What Will Happen

If you liked the way the 2021 season went, there’s a chance you’re going to love what’s coming in 2022.

First, the positive spin on the 6-7 season and the collapse as it relates to what’s coming.

Out of the seven losses, the Tigers were in the mix in, let’s say, five of them. That includes the soul-crusher to Alabama, the late bowl loss to Houston, the fight at Penn State, and throw in the shootout loss to Mississippi State.

There wasn’t any hope against Georgia, but whatever – no shame there. The 20-3 loss to Texas A&M was the other, but that was in College Station.

Lost in the late season’s collapse were the great wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss to get to 6-2, but the back half of the year was a bear.

Actually, that was a cub compared to Auburn’s second half of this season.

Set The Auburn Tigers Regular Season Win Total At … 7

The front half of the campaign is full of home games with dates against Penn State and LSU highlighted the fun. And then comes the payback with road dates at Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Alabama to go along with home games against Arkansas and Texas A&M.

Even the supposed layup against WKU might be a dangerous offensive fight.

There are enough winnable games to get to six, and there will be a few victories over good SEC teams, but pushing past seven regular season wins means there can’t be any misfires.

Auburn gets Mercer and San Jose State to tune it all up for when the big boys show up, there’s no letting up.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Auburn Top 10 Players | Auburn Schedule & Analysis

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams

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