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Ranking the Toughest Games on Auburn's College Football Schedule in 2015

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It's College Football Playoff or bust for Auburn in 2015. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record and fourth-place finish in the SEC West, thanks to several late-game lapses. 

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Auburn's offense ranked second in the SEC in yards per game (485.0) and third in total yards (6,305). But its defense was No. 61 overall in the FBS and allowed 26.7 points per game, which ranked 10th in the conference.

However, following the hire of new coordinator Will Muschamp and one of the SEC's best returning linebacker groups, the Tigers are expected to be one of the SEC's most complete teams and a favorite to contend for a national championship.

Related: Why Auburn Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

But before fans plan January trips to either the Orange or Cotton Bowl, Auburn will need to survive the toughest schedule in college football, according to TeamRankings.com. Here now are Auburn's 12 regular season games, ranked according to degree of difficulty, from easiest to most difficult.

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12. Nov. 21 vs. Idaho

Auburn faces some of its toughest matchups late in the season. This, however, is not one of them. Idaho finished with a 1-10 (1-7 Sun Belt) record in 2014 and should pose little threat to the Tigers.

11. Sept. 12 vs. Jacksonville State

Jacksonville State dominated the Ohio Valley Conference and made an FCS Playoff appearance last season. But that won't be enough to compete against a heavily overmatched Auburn team, expected to make its own playoff run in the FBS.

10. Oct. 3 vs. San Jose State

San Jose State travels to Auburn in between the team's second and third SEC games. The matchup should provide an easy win before the Tigers face back-to-back conference road games.

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9. Oct. 15 (Thursday) at Kentucky

Kentucky is the first of two SEC opponents that will host the Tigers in October. The Wildcats showed signs of improvement, matching their previous win totals from their past two combined seasons in 2014 with a 5-1 start. However, their season ended on a six-game losing streak and failed to secure bowl eligibility. Kentucky may have learned from its late season collapse, but it shouldn't be enough to defeat an overmatched Auburn team.

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8. Sept. 5 vs. Louisville

Louisville proved to be the more talented of the Bluegrass State's two biggest programs. But with Auburn entering its season at full strength looking to win a national title, the Cardinals should expect to start their season with a losing record.

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7. Sept. 26 vs. Mississippi State

Mississippi State earned its first No. 1 ranking in school history and finished second in the SEC West in 2014. But the Bulldogs need to replace a conference leading 15 starters in order to remain among the SEC's contenders. Auburn should enjoy a victory at home as Mississippi State struggles to find its identity early in the season.

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6. Nov. 14 vs. Georgia

By November we will know whether Auburn and Georgia live up to their preseason hype as national contenders. The Bulldogs have the strongest running back depth of any SEC team, including Nick Chubb, who finished second to former Auburn back Cameron Artis-Payne in rushing yards as a freshman. But the Tigers seem to be the more complete team beyond rushing offense and should earn the victory at home.

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5. Oct. 31 vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss looks like a program on the rise. The Rebels improved to 9-4 (5-3 SEC) and face high expectations with their program-changing 2013 recruiting class in Year Three. This will be a tough matchup if both teams live up to their preseason hype, but the Tigers should remain a favorite at home.

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4. Oct. 24 at Arkansas

Like Ole Miss, Arkansas is expected to make a jump back into contention in 2015. The Razorbacks were the best last place team in any FBS division and finished with a 7-6 (2-6 SEC) record. What gives this game a slight edge in difficulty over Ole Miss and Georgia is that its on the road. Plus, the Razorbacks will be hungry for an upset win after coming off consecutive matchups against Tennessee and Alabama.

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3. Nov. 7 at Texas A&M

Texas A&M is another middle of the road SEC West team. They're best case/worst case scenarios are either double digit wins or finishing last in the division, depending on how soon new coordinator John Chavis can provide an improvement on defense. But the team definitely has the potential to be the conference's best passing offense with a more experienced Kyle Allen and several former five-star receiver prospects. The Aggies also have the luxury of playing at home in front of the SEC's largest-capacity stadium in between favorable matchups against South Carolina and Western Carolina.

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2. Nov. 28 vs. Alabama

While this might be Auburn's most important game, the Tigers have the luxury of playing at home. Still, Alabama should be a difficult matchup for the Tigers as both teams could be playing for both an SEC Championship Game and College Football Playoff berth. There is a chance that both teams, should they survive their difficult schedules, enter atop the conference with undefeated records and see a repeat matchup in the playoffs.

1. Sept. 19 at LSU

No team has a bigger home field advantage than LSU at Death Valley. Auburn hasn't won in Baton Rogue since 1999. Regardless of its quarterback situation, LSU has one of the nation's best running backs in Leonard Fournette, a talented, young wide receiving corps and the SEC's top defensive back group. For Auburn to keep its College Football Playoff chances alive, it will need to survive an early season matchup at Death Valley.

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.