SEC Media Days have finally arrived and with them the unofficial beginning of the college football season.

Gus Malzahn will take the podium on Thursday afternoon and be the final head coach of the week to address the media. We’ll take a look back at what Coach Malzahn had to say in next week’s column, but for now, let’s continue our breakdown of Auburn’s 2019 schedule.

The Tigers will be facing an extremely challenging gauntlet (mostly on the road) in the middle portion of the year. These are four absolute “make-or-break” games for Gus Malzahn and company.

Mississippi State at Auburn, Sept. 28

The Bulldogs sported one of the finest defenses in America last season finishing the year No. 1 in total defense. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald ran over, by and through the AU defense on the way to a convincing (at least on the scoreboard) 23-9 victory.

Joe Moorhead enters Year 2 after a, somewhat, disappointing 8-5 season. Fitzgerald is gone and even though he’s the all-time leading rusher as a quarterback in SEC history, a lot of fans aren’t sad to see him go. The Bulldogs were dreadful throwing the football.

The defense lost a lot of production but should still be salty. State could easily be 4-0 when it travels to Jordan Hare.

Honestly, if the Tigers lose this one, it’s going to be a long season.

Auburn at Florida, Oct. 5

Once a great rivalry, Auburn has played Florida only five times this century with the last one coming in 2011. The Tigers have won the last three matchups and four of the last five.

It’s a new era in Gainesville, Florida with Dan Mullen taking the helm a season ago, but Auburn is very familiar with him from his days in Starkville, Mississippi. The Gators won 10 games in 2018 and seemed to improve in practically every area after a 4-7 campaign in 2017. Quarterback Feleipe Franks got noticeably better under Mullen’s tutelage and Todd Grantham fielded a top 20 scoring defense.

It’s been a fairly troubling off-season in the Swamp, but those issues run away and hide from victories.

This is a pivotal game for both teams.

Auburn at Arkansas, Oct. 19

Chad Morris inherited a mess in Fayetteville, Arkansas and the Razorbacks’ 2-10 record in 2018 is proof positive.

The Hogs had a difficult time generating much offense on the ground or through the air last year and, unfortunately, couldn’t stop anyone either. That’s an incredibly pungent combination of futility.

Quite frankly, it will be hard to be worse, so I think they’ll be better. That being said, losing this game would be a fireable offense with two weeks to prepare.

Auburn at LSU, Oct. 26

It’s going on 20 years since Auburn won a football game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I remember it well and would never have believed the previous sentence could be true. Alas, it is true. Very true. Painfully true.

Auburn has found a way to lose the last two years blowing a 23-7 first-half lead in 2017 and blowing a 21-10 third-quarter lead in 2018. Ed Orgeron has gotten the best of Gus Malzahn and that’s gotten old really fast.

The Bengal Tigers are always loaded defensively and at the skill positions, but LSU will go as far as senior quarterback Joe Burrow takes it. While an early road trip to Texas is important, Coach O’s team will be defined by the five-week stretch against Florida, at Miss State, Auburn, Bye & at Alabama.

For the love of platinum, end the streak!

Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.