3 things to know about Auburn before the SEC opener
Jordan-Hare Stadium will host Missouri football for the first time on Saturday.
The schools have only met three times so far, most recently with an Auburn win at Faurot Field in 2017.
The two schools also met once in the 1973 Sun Bowl, a win in Missouri, as well as the 2013 SEC championship game, which Auburn won. Ahead of Saturday’s game, here are three things you should know about the southern Tigers’ current iteration.
How hot is Harsin’s seat?
Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin has reached the end of his rope on the prairie. In the wake of the Penn State debacle, rumors of Harsin’s imminent layoff roared.
He made it to the Missouri Game, but if he and his Tigers don’t win, Harsin’s tenure at Auburn could be short-lived. At his weekly press conference, Harsin deflected whether Saturday’s game was a must-win game.
“I would classify every Saturday as a must-win,” said Harsin. “I don’t really have an answer for you. Yes. Every time you ask me that from this point on, yes it’s a must-win. ”
Harsin’s status was in limbo for part of the offseason. He survived an investigation into his handling of the program, which could have resulted in his dismissal on good cause, which would have nullified his acquisition.
Despite weathering that, Harsin’s status as a coach remained tenuous. He confirmed the implications of the investigation at the SEC Media Days in July.
“It united our football team, our players, our staff, our football team,” Harsin said. “I’m really proud of our boys. I’m proud of what something like this could be very challenging and difficult for a lot of people, like our guys did and overcame.”
Despite all the chaos surrounding Auburn this season, defensive Front Seven remains a major strength. The unit is probably the best positional group on the team, possibly with the exception of the running backs.
The line is led by junior defensive end Colby Wooden, who has 10 tackles so far this season, including one for the loss. He will be joined by Marcus Harris, who has one sack and three tackles to lose so far in 2022.
Eku Leota has been a force at the edge rusher position for Auburn so far this season. Leota leads the team with four tackles so far this season and has a sack for a nine-yard loss.
With so much talent in the unit, it’s become especially important for Missouri to fix some of its offensive line problems that have plagued it throughout the season. The Tigers struggled to give Brady Cook time to throw and get a big boost for the run game.
Unless these issues are addressed, Auburn’s defensive line seven could make for a long day on the Missouri plains.
Auburn’s starting quarterback for the first three games, TJ Finley, will not play in Saturday’s game against Missouri. However, Harsin had yet to announce a starter for the matchup after Finley and the rest of the offense struggled against Penn State.
Robby Ashford played against the Nittany Lions during the matchup, so it stands to reason that he would have crack first against Missouri at the start. Ashford finished the Penn State game with 10 completions on 19 attempts for 144 yards and a touchdown.
However, Ashford also threw two picks last week. Should Harsin decide that the performance combined with his training week isn’t enough to secure the starting job, he has a few other options.
Zach Calzada should be at the top of the list with Ashford. However, it was reported on Thursday that Calzada is undergoing shoulder surgery and is expected to miss Saturday’s game against MU.
Calzada was playing for Texas A&M last season when the Aggies came to Faurot Field and defeated the Tigers 35-14. He played well in that game, throwing for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
In addition to those two, Auburn also has newcomer Holden Geriner who could see play time.