#15 Auburn Football 2020 Preview

Auburn Tigers
Overall Rank: #15
#6 SEC
Auburn Logo
Considering the brutal schedule and a freshman leading the offense, Auburn performed quite well in 2019. They finished 9-4 and beat Alabama in the regular season finale. The Tigers lost some of that momentum falling to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl, but Coach Gus Malzahn has brought in some talented newcomers to fill the holes and remain competitive in the SEC West.
2019 Record: 9-4, 5-3
2019 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Minnesota (L 24-31)
Coach: Gus Malzahn (62-31 at Auburn, 71-34 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chad Morris, Kodi Burns
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Steele
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: D.J. Williams, RB, 400 yards
Passing: Bo Nix, QB, 2,542 yards
Receiving: Seth Williams, WR, 830 yards
Tackles: K.J. Britt, LB, 69
Sacks: Tyrone Truesdell, DL, 3.0
Interceptions: Christian Tutt, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Anthony Schwartz, WR Eli Stove, DB Roger McCreary, DB Jamien Sherwood, LB Zakoby McClain, LB Owen Pappoe
Key Losses: RB JaTarvious Whitlow, RB Kem Martin, OL Prince Tega Wanogho, DB Jeremiah Dinson, DB Daniel Thomas, DL Marlon Davidson, DL Derrick Brown, DB Javaris Davis, DB Noah Igbinoghene
Bo Nix was thrown into the fire as a freshman and played very well. He threw for 2,542 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 313 yards and seven more scores. Nix did what Auburn needed him to do as a freshman, which was mostly managing the game. Now he will be asked to win games on his own and be more consistent. He should be up for the task and then some. Nix will like what he sees at wide receiver too. Seth Williams, a 6-3 junior, has a future in the NFL. For now he will give Auburn at least one more year after catching 59 passes for 830 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore. Eli Stove and speedy Anthony Schwartz are proven pass catchers as well. The offensive line needs to rebuild after losing four starters, but the ground game should be in good shape. D.J. Williams is the team’s top returning rusher, but there are younger players looking to make an impact this year too. Most notable is freshman Cartavious Bigsby. He is a workhorse and they do not call him “Tank” for nothing.
Auburn has quite a few holes to fill on defense. The front line will miss Derrick Brown, the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He ate up a considerable amount of space in the trenches. The line also lost second round draft pick Marlon Davidson. Coach Malzahn hit the junior college ranks to help fill in around tackle Tyrone Truesdell and ends Big Kat Bryant and Caleb Johnson. The secondary has even more reloading to do with four starters gone, including draft picks Noah Igbinoghene and Daniel Thomas. Christian Tutt is suddenly the leader of the unit, but players like Jamien Sherwood and Roger McCreary have waited their turn and are ready to step into starting roles. The good news is all three starters are back at linebacker. K.J. Britt is a steady player and will again be among the team’s top tacklers. Junior Zakoby McClain was just behind Britt with 55 tackles and sophomore Owen Pappoe has the talent to emerge as not just a steady threat in the middle of the field, but a player who can consistently put pressure on the quarterback.
The Bottom Line:
As long as Nix can avoid a sophomore slump, Auburn’s offense will be extremely dangerous. The defense should be fine too. The talent is there and those inexperienced players will have a little time to find their roles. The first five games are against Alcorn State, North Carolina, Mississippi, Southern Miss and Kentucky. For a team in the SEC West, that’s a very manageable schedule. It gets tougher after that, but the hope is by the October 10th trip to Georgia, Auburn will be firing on all cylinders and pushing for a spot in the conference title game.
Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 199.1 (33rd in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 207.5 (87, 9)
Total Offense: 406.5 (64, 6)
Scoring Offense: 33.2 (28, 3)
Rushing Defense: 123.2 (25, 4)
Pass Defense: 213.8 (47, 8)
Total Defense: 337.0 (28, 7)
Scoring Defense: 19.5 (17, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.46 (27, 3)
Sacks: 2.15 (64, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.38 (18, 4)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#22 Seth Williams