#28 Auburn Football 2021 Preview

Auburn Tigers
Overall Rank: #28
#7 SEC
 Auburn Logo
Auburn went for another former Arkansas State coach after terminating Gus Malzahn. Coach Bryan Harsin was with the Red Wolves in 2013 before spending the last seven seasons with Boise State. In the last four years, Harsin has led the Broncos to a 27-2 conference record. Conference games will be tougher in the SEC, but the Tigers will expect to compete in the SEC and improve on their 6-5 record of 2020.
2020 Record: 6-5, 6-4
2020 Bowl: Citrus Bowl vs. Northwestern (L19-35)
Coach: Bryan Harsin (0-0 at Auburn, 69-19 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Bobo
Defensive Coordinator: Derek Mason
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tank Bigsby, RB, 834 yards
Passing: Bo Nix, QB, 2,418 yards
Receiving: Tank Bigsby, RB, 84 yards
Tackles: Zakoby McClain, LB, 113  
Sacks: Owen Pappoe, LB, 4.0; Colby Wooden, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Roger McCreary, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Shaun Shivers, S Smoke Monday, CB Nehemiah Pritchett, DL Derick Hall, K Anders Carlson
Key Losses: WR Seth Williams, WR Anthony Schwartz, WR Eli Stove, DB Jamien Sherwood, DL Big Kat Bryant
Auburn had a very disappointing offense in 2020. Not long ago this group was putting up big numbers. Last year they ranked tenth in the SEC in passing offense and ninth in total offense and scoring offense. Bo Nix has yet to live up to the hype, but year three could be when everything clicks. If not, LSU transfer T.J. Finley will be waiting. There is a lot of rebuilding to do at wide receiver with all of Nix’s favorite targets gone. And that was a great group too. Now a bunch of younger players will have to step up, most notably sophomore Elijah Canion. Tank Bigsby could be asked to do a lot for Auburn if the passing attack does not improve. Bigsby rushed for 834 yards and five touchdowns and is also the team’s top returning receiver with 11 catches for 84 yards.
The new staff will go away from the 4-2-5 defense, but they will still highlight the linebacker duo of Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe. Those two combined for 206 tackles, including 7.0 sacks. With a solid defensive line in front of them, the front seven should be very good no matter where everybody lines up. Roger McCreary is one of the top corners in the SEC and Ladarius Tennison and Nehemiah Pritchett can more than handle the other side of the field. Safety Smoke Monday earned All-SEC second-team accolades and as long as Coach Harsin can find somebody to play beside Monday, this could be the best secondary in the conference.
The Bottom Line:
The defense should win Auburn seven or eight games despite a tough schedule. As usual, it is the play of Nix that will either limit the Tigers or turn them into a squad that can beat some of the tougher teams in the SEC.
Projected Bowl:  Liberty Bowl
2020 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 162.5 (67th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 220.3 (71, 10)
Total Offense: 382.8 (77, 9)
Scoring Offense: 25.1 (89, 9)
Rushing Defense: 163.4 (62, 8)
Pass Defense: 242,6 (79, 4)
Total Defense: 406.0 (63, 6)
Scoring Defense: 24.7 (38, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (38, 6)
Sacks: 2.36 (53, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.82 (41, 6)