If you're the sort of person who believes in home-field advantage -- and I'm somewhat but not altogether skeptical of the idea that it has a lot to do with anything -- then Auburn has a dream schedule. The Tigers are unlikely to face a Top 25 team on the road until the last game of the regular season, at Alabama. All of the other teams who can plausibly think about being ranked at the end of the year -- Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia -- travel to Auburn to play their games. Even if you give Ole Miss a shot at a Top 25 season, that leaves the Tigers waiting until Halloween for their first road game against a ranked opponent. (And if you have Kentucky in your Top 25 ... well, we need to talk.)
RECLAIMING THE LOST MONTH
at KENTUCKY | Oct. 9
The Tigers will go into this game looking to exact revenge for perhaps the most inexplicable of last year's losses and part of a three-game October skid that ended hopes of a true breakthrough season for Gene Chizik. It marked the Wildcats first win against Auburn since 1966 and their first road win in the series since 1961. History suggests it's unlikely to become a trend; the Tigers hold a 24-6-1 lead in the series, and UK has never won back-to-back games against Auburn, with the closest call being a win in 1954 followed by a tie the following year.
ARKANSAS | Oct. 16
Someone best keep the scoreboard operator well-hydrated in this one. If Gus Malzahn and Bobby Petrino have their offenses working, last year's 67-point barrage (a 44-23 Arkansas win) could see its equal or even something more. There's also the question of whether anybody on either side can get their defense functional, in which case we might have something closer to an SEC score than a Big XII result. And if you believe that Alabama will have no more than two conference losses, which seems like a solid assumption, it could also be a game that neither team can afford to lose.
LSU | Oct. 23
Why would you not watch this game?
And if that's not enough, there have also been earthquakes, fires and controversial calls at Auburn-LSU games. It is one of the most bizarre series in college football. And it tends to have no small impact on the race for the SEC West.
CLEMSON | Sept. 18
It's not as attention-grabbing as some of Auburn's other rivalries -- mostly because the two teams haven't met in the regular season in almost 40 years -- but this is a 111-year old series. The Tigers have played the Tigers -- um, Auburn has played Clemson far more often than it has played current SEC member South Carolina (46 times vs. eight times). The Tigers -- the blue and orange ones -- are 33-11-2 in the meetings, including a 2007 win in the Game Formerly Known as the Peach Bowl that prompted may Auburn fans to go, "We really like this Tony Franklin offense." That is enough to make anyone hate an opponent.
GEORGIA | Nov. 13
This is the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, a game first played in 1892 and fairly evenly divided between the two teams. At this point of the season, we could have pathos galore: Georgia will either be having another mediocre season or Richt will have "turned it around"; if Auburn and Alabama are close in the standings, a Tiger win could set up a "winner-take-all" clash for the West; and then there is the normal hatred that this game brings out. Just ask the Mayor about Auburn. (He hates Auburn.)
at ALABAMA | Nov. 26
After having coming off the evil BYE WEEK, Auburn will be well-rested, it's starters completely healed. Alabama will still be repairing from the havoc of having played GEORGIA STATE a little more than a week earlier! Actually, you might be surprised to learn that Auburn has not just played Alabama fewer times than Georgia -- but 39 fewer times. But the two have been making up for lost time ever since, with the sort of hatred you only see in intrastate rivalries.
9.4.10 | ARKANSAS STATE Hey, the Red Wolves ... um, return 11 starters? To a team that went 3-5 in the Sun Belt last year. Never mind.
9.9.10 | at MISSISSIPPI STATE One of those "road trips" that Auburn has heard so much about. If there's a land mine on the schedule for Auburn, it could be this one: Second game of the year, big interconference game against Clemson the following week -- the perfect mix for an upset. But probably not.
9.25.10 | SOUTH CAROLINA After playing Clemson, Auburn meets the other Tigers' cross-state rivals. This one, though, is a league game. The Gamecocks' last win in the series came in 1933. South Carolina has never won a game at home or away in this series; back then, the game was played at a neutral site. As far as the score goes, it's anyone's guess. Auburn has won by 4, 17, 41 and 7 in the four league games between the two.
10.2.10 | LOUISIANA-MONROE How many Tide fans do you figure will be cheering for ULM in this one?
10.30.10 | at OLE MISS The Tigers helped ruin the Rebels' breakthrough season dreams last year, but they had a lot of help. Will Ole Miss be looking for revenge?
11.6.10 | CHATTANOOGA Have I mentioned that I hate cupcakes in November?