Before the season began, Auburn’s penultimate regular season game against Idaho could have been described as a trap game. It looked like a matchup against a relatively weak opponent right before the Iron Bowl against Alabama.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the season has not panned out the way the team had hoped. There is no such thing as a trap game for a 5-5 team.
Instead, this is Auburn’s most important game of the season. If the Tigers don’t take care of business this weekend, they will have to pull off a massive upset over No. 2-ranked Alabama to become bowl eligible.
“No,” Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp told reporters Sunday when he was asked if the team spent any time preparing for Alabama yet. “We’re focused on Idaho and getting bowl eligible.”
Reaching a lower-tier bowl game is a far cry from the preseason expectations that had Auburn winning the SEC West and contending for a National Championship. But qualifying for a bowl game has implications that stretch beyond just this season.
“It’s an extra 15 practices,” Muschamp told reporters about becoming bowl eligible.
In addition to preparing for the bowl game, those extra 15 practices can be used to work with the members of the defense who will return next year. That could help avoid the growing pains that the defense experienced in Muschamp’s first season as the defensive coordinator.
With that said, Auburn is a heavy favorite against Idaho. The Tigers opened as 32.5-point favorites, according to VegasInsider.com. Idaho will travel to The Plains with a three-game losing streak. The Vandals are 3-7 overall and lost 59-9 at Southern California earlier this season in their only other game against a Power 5 opponent.
In other seasons, this may have been a time to look ahead to the Iron Bowl. But this team can’t afford to get caught peeking ahead to next week.
“We’ll worry about that week when it comes,” Muschamp said.