2020 Auburn Tigers Outlook
Expectations are always high at Auburn, and the modified 2020 season will be no different. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers will begin the season on the cusp of the top-10 but will be expected to challenge for the program’s first SEC championship since 2013. Although we are still waiting for the college football spreads to come out for SEC games, we want to take a look at how the Tigers may fare in the interesting season that is 2020.
As a true freshman last year, quarterback Bo Nix proved that he can play in the SEC. Now he has to prove that he can win in the SEC. Nix completed just 57.6% of his passes last season, a number that dropped even lower against quality defensive teams. He also finished the season with a modest 16 passing touchdowns despite rushing for seven more. The potential is there, but Auburn’s hopes in 2020 are largely tied to Nix taking a big step forward.
Unfortunately for Nix, there are some questions about his supporting cast. The Auburn offensive line has just one proven starter in center Nick Brahms. Outside of D.J. Williams, last year’s backup running back, the Auburn backfield is short on proven options. That combination could make running the ball a challenge for the Tigers, putting even more pressure on Nix.
The silver lining is that Auburn has one of the best wide receiver tandems in the SEC with Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams. Nix and Williams appear to have a great rapport on the field while Schwartz has game-changing speed. He’ll be needed to prevent teams from stacking the box against the run.
Defensively, the Tigers took some losses from last year’s team, but there is always plenty of talent in the pipeline. The defensive line doesn’t have the experience and NFL-caliber talent that last year’s team did with Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown. But Tyrone Truesdell can get a push and Big Kat Bryant is a capable pass rusher.
Behind that defensive line, Auburn will have one of the best linebackers in the SEC in senior K.J. Britt. If sophomore Owen Pappoe takes a big step forward as expected, the Tigers will be able to control the middle of the field with a great linebacking corps.
However, the secondary looks like a wild card heading into the season. Despite seven upperclassmen on the two-deep, the Tigers lost some key players from last year’s team, most notably first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene. There is a fair amount of experience in the Auburn secondary but no proven game-changers.
Auburn always plays a difficult schedule in the SEC West, and the league going to a 10-game, all-SEC schedule doesn’t do the Tigers any favors. In theory, the early part of Auburn’s schedule should be manageable outside of a road trip to rival Georgia the first Saturday in October. The Tigers should be favored in games against Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Ole Miss, which may make the Tigers a college football public betting favorite going down the stretch.
However, things get crazy starting with a Halloween home game against defending national champion LSU. The Tigers then close the season with road games against Mississippi State and Alabama and home games with Tennessee and Texas A&M. That stretch is about as difficult as it gets in the SEC, meaning the Tigers need to take care of business early in the season. Otherwise, things could spiral out of control and Auburn will be lucky to finish .500 much less compete for an SEC title.
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