Auburn enters 2013 with a new head coach and hope that the craptacular display in 2012 will make way for competent football in the upcoming season. However, life in the SEC isn't easy, and the Tigers' schedule isn't filled with many sure-fire wins.
2013 Auburn schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
The season opens with one of those big-time-but-not-really non-conference games against Washington State. Sure, the Cougars are BCS squad from the Pac-12, but Mike Leach's team is also coming off a 3-9 season and isn't expected to make much noise this year. The Tigers have better and deeper talent across the board -- Wazzu could start three walk-ons on the offensive line! -- and since the game is at the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium, it really should result in an Auburn victory. After last year, a win over a BCS team would be a great start to the Gus Malzahn era.
As for the rest of the slate, the Tigers have a few wins that can be penciled in -- home games against Arkansas State, Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic -- and a few contests that will likely end in defeat -- road trips to LSU and Texas A&M, home dates against Georgia and Alabama. What will make or break Auburn's year will be the results against other middle-of-the-pack SEC teams.
The Tigers kick off SEC play against Mississippi State, and really, it's a bit of a must-win. After going 0-8 in conference action for the first time since 1950, Auburn has a chance to break the losing streak against a beatable team at home. Win, and the team will likely be 3-0, equaling the total number of wins in 2012. Lose, and there's the real possibility of starting 0-4 against SEC teams, which could send the season into a nosedive -- again.
Auburn hosts Ole Miss in Week 6 coming off a bye week, and the Tigers play back-to-back games at Arkansas and Tennessee in Weeks 10 and 11. It's probably unreasonable to expect a clean sweep of these three games, but going 2-1 against the Rebs, Hogs and Vols should be a realistic goal. If it happens, a seven-win regular season is achievable. That might not be something to celebrate in Year 4 under Gus, but in Year 1, it would be a monumental step forward.