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OPINION: Drubbed in Death Valley & Midseason Outlook

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By Mike Hamilton

WJLX Auburn Sports Analyst

There isn’t much to be said for this one, so I wont harp on the LSU vs AU game too much. “Obviously a difficult night for us,” Auburn coach Hugh Freeze said. “They beat us every way that you could. We had no answers defensively for them.” The “difficult night” and “no answers defensively” comments were an understatement. Auburn was already at a talent disadvantage, and then pair that with a flat out bad performance from said talent and here we are. Auburn’s defense uncharacteristically folded right out of the gate, giving up 10 quick points, and Auburn’s offense never found any consistency driving the ball or chewing clock. LSU scored the most points they ever have on an Auburn team, and their defense played well backed by their sellout crowd at night. LSU won 48-18. Auburn fans probably wonder how you can look this bad coming out of a bye week, and that is a fair question, but we have to step back and view the larger picture here.

 

This is a true rebuild, one that Auburn fans haven’t seen since Tommy Tuberville took over in 1999, possibly even before that. The negligence by the prior two coaching staffs in terms of recruiting, roster management, and player development have all been exposed since SEC play has begun, culminating most recently Saturday night in Baton Rouge. LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia, all three of the losses this Auburn team has endured so far, all have vastly superior rosters that have been built and maintained the right way, at least compared to Auburn as of late. This isn’t something that can be fixed overnight, or even in the 8 months that Hugh Freeze has been on the job. Freeze was never hired for championship success in the 2023 season, or because of what he was able to achieve at Liberty. He was hired for his ability to recruit and rehaul the current roster into one that can compete for the SEC in the 2025 season, or potentially before.

Auburn has just a handful of SEC quality players on it’s roster, and these recent conference opponents have been stacking these type of players for years now. This is a deep hole that Freeze and his staff have to climb out of, but if you look close, you can see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Auburn is currently tracking for a top 10 recruiting class, something that hasn’t been done in the last 4 years on the plains. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, and stacking top ten or better classes is the first and most important step to competing for championships like Auburn expects to do. A record of 7-5 and a top 10 recruiting class would be considered a win for this season based on what this staff has to work with currently, so that should be the adjusted expectation for this year if that isn’t where your head is already. If the LSU loss hurt, then good. That means apathy hasn’t set in and people still care, but fans must remain supportive and patient.

Every game that remains on Auburn’s schedule up until Alabama is a winnable (but also losable) game, and the Iron Bowl is played in Auburn to conclude the regular season, so anything is possible in that one. Next up on the slate is another high-flying offense in the form of Ole Miss visiting Auburn for a night time clash in Jordan-Hare. I would expect a much more competitive game for a couple of reasons: 1) Auburn matches up far better with the Rebals than they do with LSU, 2) Auburn get’s the voodoo of Pat Dye Field at night to back them up, and 3) This is a rivalry that has some new spice to it due to the events of Auburn’s coaching search in the offseason. None of this guarantees an AU win Saturday night, but I would be shocked to not see a spirited performance from the Tigers and their Coach this weekend. Freeze would never admit this out loud, but he wants this win against his former employer bad, so get ready for what should be one hell of a game and atmosphere.