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For the first time since 2017 and only the second time since Missouri football joined the Southeastern Conference, Auburn will visit Columbia this season.

The season is approaching. Mizzou will send three players to SEC Media Days in Dallas. Quarterback Brady Cook, wide receiver Luther Burden III and defensive tackle Kristian Williams will join coach Eli Drinkwitz on Tuesday for the unofficial start of the college football calendar. In seven weeks, Missouri will open its season on August 29 against Murray State at Faurot Field.

MU’s game against Auburn will be its seventh of the season and is part of the Week 8 schedule on Oct. 19, one week after the Tigers visit UMass for their final nonconference game of the season.

The SEC has already announced that the game between Missouri and Auburn, MU’s home game, will kick off in the early time slot, meaning it will begin between 11 a.m. and noon on October 19th.

Can Missouri keep the unusually early parade intact?

Here’s everything you need to know about Auburn in 2024, including key offseason additions, a coaching change and potential playmakers to keep an eye on in Columbia:

More: Missouri’s football team receives fifth signing in a week, bringing in 4-star safety Charles Bass from East St. Louis

What names should you know about the opponents when Missouri football hosts Auburn?

Quarterback: Payton Thorne will be the Auburn Tigers’ quarterback this season after an up-and-down first season. Thorne, who previously spent three years at Michigan State, threw for 1,755 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games last season. Auburn’s average of 162.2 passing yards per game last year was the lowest in the conference.

Offensive playmakers: Good news for Thorne: He’ll be paired with a new pair of promising playmakers in 2024. Wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith transferred from Penn State as a top-100 transfer, and Auburn also signed five-star wideout Cam Coleman, the No. 5 player in the class of 2024. Rivaldo Fairweather is also an option in the air as one of the league’s better pass-catching tight ends.

Auburn’s offense also boasts one of the SEC’s best running backs, Jarquez Hunter, who will likely be named All-SEC in the preseason.

More: Missouri football opponents preview: Why Texas A&M could be one of MU’s most important games

Defensive playmakers: Jalen McLeod, who transferred from Appalachian State and will play a hybrid position of linebacker and defensive end at Auburn, recorded 10.5 sacks for the Mountaineers last season and is expected to play a major role in Auburn’s pass-rushing core.

Indiana defensive end Philip Blidi and Kansas defensive tackle Gage Keys were the highlight scorers on Auburn’s defense. Blidi had four tackles for loss last season as part of 30 total stops for the Hoosiers, and Keys recorded 21 tackles and four QB hurries for the Jayhawks in 2023.

What was the offseason like for Auburn?

Important additions: Lambert-Smith (WR); Coleman (WR); Blidi (DE); Jerrin Thomas (S)

Important losses: Nehemiah Pritchett (CB); Jaylin Simpson (S); DJ James (CB)

Important changes in the coaching team: Derrick Nix (OC, Ole Miss)

Auburn’s defensive depth appears to have suffered somewhat between a group of graduates in both the NFL Draft and the transfer portal. Seven of AU’s defensive players were either drafted, signed UDFAs or received minicamp invites, and 13 more, mostly reserve players, found new college programs for the upcoming season.

Auburn looks a little weak at the cornerback position, as both of last season’s starters – like Mizzou – have moved on to the NFL. Freeze’s Tigers have filled out their secondary with safety Jerrin Thomas from Texas, but will look to some of their own talent to take on larger roles in the new season.

On the other side of the ball, Auburn seems to be better positioned than it was a year ago, at least in terms of quality passing options.

The Tigers fired offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery in the offseason and replaced him with Ole Miss wide receivers coach Derrick Nix. With Nix and the offensive-minded Freeze, they’ll have to get things under control quickly. Patience has rarely been a great resource on the Plains.

More: Missouri football opponents preview: Vanderbilt’s strengths and weaknesses in 2024

How will Mizzou and Auburn compare?

Auburn has a lot of questions to answer after a 6-7 season in the first year of the freeze era.

Will AU’s offense take a step forward under new leadership compared to last season’s uninspiring output? While preseason personnel turnover has raised some questions, Missouri should know what it has to offer defensively by Week 8 and the visit of Auburn. If Auburn is still mediocre, this could be a good opportunity to throw some punches.

With all the turnover, is Auburn’s defense strong enough to compete against tough SEC opponents? Last year, it ranked just outside the top half of the league in total defense. Meanwhile, Mizzou is expected to field one of the most promising offenses in the country, which should pose a challenge for even the most battle-tested defenses.

Missouri appears to be the favorite going into this game, at least in the preseason. But MU will have to hang on because it almost certainly can’t lose this contest if it wants to maintain a chance at a spot in the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff.

Between home games against Auburn and Oklahoma and road games at Alabama and Texas A&M, Mizzou must win at least two of them to stay in the race for a CFP spot.