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SEC 2013: Auburn's Schedule is Actually Kind of Manageable

The Tigers will still need a lot of things to go right to get to the postseason. But the schedule could have been a lot worse


This is an overview. Predictions come later.

9.21.13 | at LSU

There's a little bit of everything for Auburn in the first month. A technically BCS AQ opponent in Washington State, a grudge match for the coach in Arkansas State, a conference game in Mississippi State and a conference reality check in the trip to LSU. If Auburn can win three of these games, they actually have decent shot at a bowl; there are two more eminently winnable games on the schedule, as we'll see, and that means the Tigers just need one more victory to get to the postseason. The Washington State game is fascinating simply as a test for the secondary, if nothing else; and if the offense can't score against the Cougars, it could be tough sledding the rest of the year. And some fans weren't pleased with Gus Malzahn leaving ASU, though it's not clear whether that's enough motivation for the Red Wolves to pull what will be a significant upset.

10.5.13 | OLE MISS
10.19.13 | at TEXAS A&M
10.26.13 | FAU

See? Two more games that Auburn should be heavily favored to win, against Western Carolina and FAU, means that three September wins would leave the Tigers with at least five going into November. If only the two remaining games in October didn't feature teams that scored a combined 104 points against Auburn last year. (For those of you who prefer yards, Auburn gave up 1,112 of them -- including 552 rushing -- in those two games.) The Tigers return a lot of defensive starters this year, but they're in many cases the same returning starters that gave up all that offense in the first place. And Ole Miss brings back eight of its offensive starters, so it's not like the Rebels are going to lose a step.

11.2.13 | at ARKANSAS
11.9.13 | at TENNESSEE
11.16.13 | GEORGIA
11.30.13 | ALABAMA

If you were looking to sketch out a bowl schedule for the Tigers, you would probably want to see these four games swapped around. Beating Georgia and Alabama anywhere is likely to be difficult -- though the Georgia game could be a barnburner if Malzahn gets the offense going -- so why not play the two more winnable games at home? Instead, the Tigers will travel to Arkansas -- where the natives there also have a history with Malzahn -- and to Knoxville, another team that will be in the first year of a rebuilding effort. This goes back to why getting five wins before November looms large. With five wins, the Tigers only need to split those road games to get to a bowl. But if they still have just four wins when the calendar turns, that means a sweep is necessary to avoid having to beat one of the conference rivals to make the postseason.

Overall, this is about as favorable a schedule as you could expect if you're Auburn, given the rivalry with Georgia. The Tigers avoid Florida and South Carolina out of the East and have four winnable nonconference games. The open question remains whether its good enough to get through the season with at least a .500 record.