We are now only 52 days away and counting until Auburn opens its season against the Oregon Ducks at AT&T Stadium on Aug. 31. 

It’s been an incredible year so far in the Loveliest Village with Bruce Pearl’s squad making it all the way to the Final Four and Butch Thompson’s team appearing in the World Series. Can Gus Malzahn follow suit? Well, more than one pundit has ranked the Tigers football schedule in 2019 as the most difficult in the nation. Let’s get a jump on SEC Media Days (beginning Monday in Hoover) and start breaking down the arduous journey awaiting the Tigers.

Auburn vs. Oregon (Aug. 31) 

The Tigers and Ducks will square off at Jerry’s World in a rematch of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, which Auburn won 22-19. Oregon was 9-4 in 2018 with their most impressive win coming over a good Washington team 30-27 in OT in Eugene. Their worst loss was a 44-15 blowout on the road against a pedestrian 5-7 Arizona team. Heisman candidate quarterback Justin Herbert returns for his senior year after throwing for 3151 yards and 29 TDs a season ago. The Ducks return a veteran offensive line and their top two running backs, SO CJ Verdell and SO Travis Dye, who combined for over 1,700 yards rushing. The defense was middle-of-the-road in 2018, but they will be a veteran group as well. All in all, Mario Cristabol has created a lot of expectation in only his second year on the job. It should be a great challenge for both teams to start the season.

Tulane at Auburn (Sept. 7) 

The Green Wave went 7-6 last season defeating Louisiana in the Cure Bowl. They actually had a pretty decent offense running for over 218 yards a game. They were one of the worst in the country against the pass and gave up 27.5 points a game. It really doesn’t matter how many starters they return. They have no chance to beat Auburn.

Kent State at Auburn (Sept. 14) – The Golden Flashes were 2-10 in 2018 and obviously had no impressive wins at all. Their offense was bad and their defense was even worse. This game is scheduled for an easy win between two tough opponents.

Auburn at Texas A&M (Sept. 21)

The Tigers first true road trip of the season will be to College Station. The Aggies were 9-4 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season. A very close loss to eventual national champion Clemson at 28-26 and may very well have been their best game. The 74-72 win over LSU in seven overtimes was the most memorable, but that’s more of a novelty. Without a doubt, it was back-to-back losses on the road at Mississippi State and Auburn to serve as the low point. 

QB Kellen Mond has gotten a lot better under Fisher’s tutelage and will again be under center in 2019. A&M averaged 472 yards of offense and scored 36 points a game, while only giving up 348 total yards. They were one of the best run defenses in the country allowing 95.2 yards a game. Unfortunately or fortunately for Auburn, they only return one full-time starter in the front seven. Auburn is 3-0 in College Station since Texas A&M joined the SEC.

Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.