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Gus Malzahn’s eight-year tenure at Auburn played out much like a rocky romance.
Some days were better than others, but, in the end, the bad ones outnumbered the good.
At least according to the powers that be on the Plains.
After last season’s middle-feeding 6-5 showing, Auburn decided to part ways with Malzahn and ultimately selected Boise State coach Bryan Harsin as his successor.
The hiring of the 44-year-old Harsin, who has spent most of his playing and coaching career west of the Rockies, was curious in some corners.
After all, Auburn resides in the SEC West -- inarguably college football’s toughest neighborhood. Nick Saban still rules the roost in Tuscaloosa, and the Tigers’ new man in charge will have to win at least a few recruiting battles against St. Nick and the almighty Crimson Tide.
And Harsin is not exactly a familiar face in living rooms across the Deep South. His experience east of the Rockies includes exactly two seasons as Texas’ offensive coordinator under Mack Brown in 2011-12 and one more as head coach of Sun Belt Conference entry Arkansas State in 2013.
Time will tell whether Harsin’s hiring turns out to be a stroke of genius, an exercise in poor judgment or somewhere in between. But in Year 1, the deck looks at least somewhat stacked against Auburn.
Besides having a new coaching staff, the Tigers face the nation’s second-hardest schedule, according to Phil Steele’s 2021 College Football Preview. They are just 9-9 in their last 18 games against FBS opponents, and all but one victory came against teams that finished with non-winning records.
And former five-star quarterback recruit Bo Nix has been good but not great in his first two seasons piloting the Tigers’ offense.
For these reasons, Auburn makes my list of bet-against teams for the 2021 season.
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