In Critical Year for Harsin, Naming Finley Starter Will Be Career Defining Move

Coach Bryan Harsin talks to his team after Auburn football open fan practice on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 Auburn, Ala.Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

If you follow college football in the south and don’t live under a rock, you are well aware of the wild ride of an offseason it had been for Bryan Harsin and the Auburn football program. But at the end of it all, it seemed to culminate in the team rallying around their coach and Harsin himself dropped all formalities, even acknowledging the attempted coup by the “powers that be” at Auburn as it were during SEC Media Days.

I wouldn’t say Auburn had a horrible season season in 2021, and if Harsin had run the ball a bit more in the fourth quarter against Alabama in the Iron Bowl, they probably would have won the game and the offseason narrative could have been wildly different. But a 6-6 season that ended in a bowl game loss to Houston was not even close to enough to satisfy those pulling the strings on The Plains.

And let’s be honest. Those who do “pull the strings” at Auburn never wanted Harsin in the first place. It’s a big part of why Athletic Director Allen Greene stepped down last week with the writing on the wall that his contract would not be renewed when it expires in January.

But even after an attempt on his job, Harsin survived to make it to year two. However, just keeping his head above water will flat out not be enough this season. After Auburn brought in transfer quarterback Zach Calzada from Texas A&M, many suspected that it was his job to lose after TJ Finley struggled during his three starts last season.

But throughout camp, the reports around Calzada became more and more negative and it started to look like Finley would win the job. And that is exactly what happened over the weekend. So what does this all mean?

Has Finley really improved that drastically and did he go out and earn the job? This is certainly possible, but keep in mind he went 0-3 and completed just 55.8% of his passes, which is exactly why Harsin brought Calzada in. But as reports around Calzada became more and more grim, it seemed like Finley was going to win the job by default, with redshirt freshman Robby Ashford just not ready for SEC football.

So what is going on at Auburn? Naming Finley the starter is going to be a career defining move for Harsin’s tenure in the south, whether good or bad. They start with five straight home games, and absolutely must win at the very worst four out of five before going on the road to take on Georgia and Ole Miss and having the gauntlet of their schedule start.

Harsin simply cannot afford to not get off to a great start this season. Taking on Mercer and San Jose State will of course be an easy 2-0, but after this, matchups with Penn State, Missouri, and LSU must bear at least two, preferably three wins. If somehow, the Tigers lose to Penn State and Missouri, don’t be surprised if Harsin doesn’t even make it to week five.