2023 is a big year for the Auburn football program. This fall will bring the first season under new head coach Hugh Freeze, and though the bar is set pretty low on a national scale, Tiger fans are full of anticipation for Freeze’s first-year team.
With many new players, a new coaching staff, and new schemes, there is a lot of hope for the coming season, but there is also a lot riding on the Tigers’ progress. Recruits for the classes of 2024 and 2025 want to see improvement, and they want to know they are committing to a place where they can be successful.
However, Auburn football notoriously has one of the toughest schedules in all of college football, year in and year out. With both Alabama and Georgia heading to Jordan-Hare this season, the Tigers will have the home field advantage, but will that be enough in Freeze’s first year?
According to On3 analyst Jesse Simonton, it’s not either of the Tigers’ biggest rivalries that will be the most important game this season. Instead, it will be the October matchup against Ole Miss:
"A late October matchup between Auburn and Ole Miss will feature two head coaches who went head-to-head for the Tigers’ opening this offseason, with Kiffin leveraging the Rebels for a big raise and Freeze returning to the SEC.Both programs have hit the transfer portal aggressively to rebuild their rosters, but with Auburn likely big underdogs against LSU, Georgia and Alabama, this stands to be Freeze’s best opportunity for a statement win in Year 1."
After last year’s drama regarding Lane Kiffin potentially becoming Auburn’s head coach, both teams are likely looking forward to this showdown. Kiffin will be looking to prove he made the right choice by staying with the Rebels while Hugh Freeze will be working to set the standard for the Tigers.
While beating Alabama and Georgia is the dream, and the ultimate goal, it may not happen in Freeze’s first year. Putting Ole Miss in their place would be a pretty close second.