2020 Season Preview: Auburn Tigers
Over the course of the next several weeks, the SoBros Network crew will be going around the landscape of the SEC, team by team, previewing the upcoming American tackle football season. Up next, our 2020 Auburn preview!
2020 AUBURN PREVIEW
The 2019 Auburn Tigers finished ranked #14 after a solid 9-3 season (9-4 counting the bowl loss to Minnesota) that saw Gus Malzahn‘s squad register wins over the likes of Oregon, Texas A&M, and the hated rival, Alabama in one of the most scintillating Iron Bowl games in recent memory. Their only losses came at the hands of top 10 teams – Florida, Georgia, and the eventual 15-0 LSU. In fact, nobody played the National Champs better than Auburn did in 2019, losing to LSU by just a narrow 23-20 margin. I don’t know that people realize how good this Tigers team was a year ago.
That’s thanks in large part to how good the Tigers defense was in 2019. But, people slept on how good their offense was in 2019 – scoring 33.23 points per game, they were only behind LSU and Alabama in terms of PPG. That’s some pretty good company to be in. But, that’s going to be a hard mark to replicate in 2020 – the season is going to go as quarterback Bo Nix goes. At times last year, he showed why Malzahn made the decision to go with him. At other times, he looked like he wasn’t quite ready for the spotlight. He’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the SEC, but he’ll have to take the next step in his progression in order to pick up the slack for a lot of losses on offense.
There’s a relatively inexperienced backfield, and Malzahn and new offensive coordinator Chad Morris may take the committee approach. All five starters along the offensive line are gone. Seth Williams is back, which is a huge plus for this receiving corps. Nix-to-Williams could be one of the most dynamic connections in the SEC. The Tigers have to be excited about the speedster Anthony Schwartz, too. Morris has his work cut out for him, though, and the question remains as to what exactly he can do with Nix at the helm.
That defense was so good a season ago – it was one of if not the best defense in all of college football. But, studs Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, who are now on the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons respectively, leave gaping holes behind them. DL coach Rodney Garner is going to have his work cut out for him. Both starting corners from 2019 are out. There’s a lot of defensive talent to replace, but Kevin Steele is a guy that the Tigers faithful have a lot of confidence in. First team All-SEC linebacker KJ Britt figures to be the leader of this defense next season. It might not happen right away, but there are pieces in place to make this a pretty good defense during the home stretch.
It seems like every year, we talk about Malzahn facing pressure. Maybe the window closed after he failed to win a title with that 2019 defense. But, he’s found a way to stick around season after season for a reason, and it’s not like this Tigers team is completely devoid of talent. That roster is still going to be loaded, and the biggest advantage the Tigers may have is some of the other SEC heavyweights coming back to the pack a bit in 2020.
2020 Tigers Schedule
9/5, vs. Alcorn State – Everyone has to get their veritable preseason game in, right? The Tigers are no different.
9/12, vs. North Carolina (in Atlanta) – Mack Brown‘s Tar Heels surprised folks in 2019, but I doubt they’re ready to beat a team like Auburn.
9/19, @ Ole Miss – This could be a tad interesting just because of the game going down in Oxford. But, I think it’s too early in the Lane Kiffin era for them to pull off an upset like this.
9/26, vs. Southern Miss – The Tigers should finish the first third of the season at 4-0, all due respect to Southern Miss.
10/3, vs. Kentucky – The Wildcats could make things interesting, but ultimately, this is one the Tigers absolutely should win at home.
10/10, @ Georgia – I’m not as high on the Bulldogs in 2020 as most people, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers defense pull this off and Nix do just enough to get the win.
10/17, vs. Texas A&M – As it stands now, I say ‘Auburn,’ but watch out for the Aggies this year.
10/24 – BYE
10/31, @ Mississippi State – I think I’m a little more intrigued by the Bulldogs than most analysts, and they’re definitely happy to get this one in Starkville, but I’m going to wait and see how the Mike Leach offense works against SEC defenses before I call this upset.
11/7, vs. Arkansas – The Razorbacks are in a complete foundational rebound. 2020 ain’t the year for going on the road and upsetting Auburn.
11/14, vs. UMass – LOL.
11/21, vs. LSU – This ain’t the historic 15-0 Tigers coming to town. LSU is going to undergo some massive changes in 2020, and it could mean a home win for Auburn.
11/28, @ Alabama – The Iron Bowl is in Tuscaloosa this year, and that certainly bodes well for Alabama. I have a hard time picturing Auburn winning this one.
The current odds are set at 8.5 wins. It feels like the defense is what made the 2019 team so good, and they’ve lost so much talent on that side of the ball that it’s hard for me to imagine them being as competitive in 2020. So, it stands to reason that 2020 won’t be as good. But something about Nix and Malzahn sparks confidence – it’s that kind of ‘dumb luck’ confidence…like, we don’t know how we’re going to get it done. We just know we’re going to get it done. THAT is the kind of confidence you feel when it comes to Auburn.
I could see this going either way – I could see 11-1, and I could see 7-5 just as easily. Like most years with Malzahn, I expect it’ll land somewhere in the middle, 8-4 or 9-3.
OTHER 2020 SEASON PREVIEWS
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley