Year one of both the Hugh Freeze and Bryan Harsin eras of Auburn football ended exactly the same way: a 6-7 record after a loss in the bowl game. While the latter's first season inspired more confidence -- with the Tigers overcoming a losing record within the first seven games to become bowl-eligible -- both teams ended up with losing records by season's end.
Opelika-Auburn News editor Justin Lee believes that the hubris Harsin showed in doubling down on an ineffective offense is the exact opposite road Freeze needs to go down ahead of the 2024 season.
"The most baffling part of the Harsin era was his hubris doubling down after the Bham Bowl even though everyone could see how bad his offense was," Lee wrote. " A bad offense stayed bad because he didn't change anything. Freeze has his next chance to set himself apart."
Auburn football alum affirms faith in Hugh Freeze, predicts 2025 CFP appearance
Former AU and current Carolina Panthers linebacker Chandler Wooten affirmed his faith in Freeze bringing Auburn out of its current down period and into the College Football Playoff by 2025 after the Tigers' 31-13 beatdown at the hands of Maryland in the Music City Bowl on December 30.
"Enjoying the bad times now so I can have documentation when we’re in the playoffs in 2025," Wooten said.
This sort of confidence was not displayed following the 2021 season, with an uneasiness hovering over Harsin's program like a black cloud; one that reached its climax during the February 2022 inquiry into the Boise native's tenure.
Now, that could set up an even greater heartbreak should things not improve. But given how much work Freeze has put in to improve things, there's no reason to assume the worst regarding what comes next for AU.
Unless, of course, Freeze's lack of accountability when it comes to game-planning undoes the brilliance of his recruiting efforts over the next few years.