After a long and challenging offseason, the Auburn Tigers will finally hit the field on Saturday to face the Mercer Bears at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn enters the game with a lot to prove. Not only has the team seen multiple predictions that point to them finishing at the bottom of the SEC barrel, but head coach Bryan Harsin has faced his share of criticism as well.
Then, there’s T.J. Finley. Finley won the three-member quarterback battle officially on Monday and is ready for the challenge of leading Auburn’s offense.
“I wasn’t mentally ready last year, nor was I physically ready, to take that job after Bo (Nix) got injured,” Finley said. “I had to be that role because I was the backup,” Finley said Monday during a press conference. “I did some observations after the season, and mentally I wasn’t where I needed to be to lead this team to finish the season out strong. But I strongly believe I’m there this year.”
As Auburn hits the field Saturday for the first game of the 2022 season, here’s a look at five reasons why they will begin the season 1-0.
Jordan-Hare Stadium will be electric
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No matter if it’s Mercer, Mississippi State, or Alabama… Jordan-Hare Stadium is one of the most intimidating venues for a visiting program. The best version of Jordan-Hare Stadium is when the lights are on.
Auburn fans have waited all season to cheer on their team, and will be sure to make Jordan-Hare a hostile environment for Mercer.
Defensive pieces will slow down Mercer's offense
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Mercer had a field day with Morehead State last weekend. The Bears posted 625 yards of total offense in their 63-13 win and set a school record with five touchdown passes.
Mercer quarterback Fred Payton threw for 248 yards, and running back Austin Douglas rushed for 140 yards in the win. Don’t expect Mercer to be as lethal on offense when they visit Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
Derick Hall, Eku Leota, Colby Wooden, Owen Pappoe, and the rest of the Auburn defense will shut down Mercer’s offense in a myriad of ways.
T.J. Finley has the chance to prove himself
The Montgomery Advertiser
Newly-named starting quarterback Finley admitted Monday that he was not mentally prepared to handle being thrown into the fire last season when Bo Nix went down to a season-ending ankle injury.
Now, he has a full season under Bryan Harsin under his belt and is more prepared to handle the responsibility of being a starting quarterback for an SEC program.
Finley wants nothing more than to win the trust of the Auburn fan base in Week 1.
Tank Bigsby is just too talented
AP Photo/Sean Rayford
The title of the “best player on the field” for the Mercer game goes to Bigsby. Bigsby had a breakout season in 2021 by rushing for 1,158 yards.
Sure, Auburn will have other talented athletes on the field. But, if there is a need for someone to step up in a key moment, Bigsby is Auburn’s fail-safe.
A petty Bryan Harsin gets first opportunity to put on a show
AP Photo/Vasha Hunt
Harsin battled through and ultimately won a coup attempt this off-season. Despite winning the battle, he still has to endure constant media scrutiny, as well as added pressure from boosters.
Harsin has had a few chances to speak his peace, but he has not fully gotten his point across. Expect Harsin to prove his worth on Saturday.