5 biggest concerns Auburn should have about stopping Kentucky
Auburn is set to get its 2020 season underway Saturday against a Kentucky team that’s capable of creating some noise in the SEC East. The Wildcats aren’t an ideal opening week opponent, but this is still a very winnable game.
That is why the Tigers are favored by 8 points, after all.
With that being said, Gus Malzahn and Co. can’t take this game lightly. Many media members have put Auburn on upset alert.
Below are 5 of the biggest concerns the Tigers should have about stopping the Wildcats.
1. Kentucky brings an impressive run game
When going on the road to take on a formidable SEC opponent, a team needs to be able to field a run game that can take pressure off the quarterback. Kentucky brings that aspect to the table with a dominant offensive line and a trio of impressive running backs.
The Wildcats return 4 of 5 starters along the line, including preseason All-SEC picks Drake Jackson and Darian Kinnard. That plethora of experience can help tremendously when trying to control the line of scrimmage. But there’s also the talent in the backfield.
Lynn Bowden Jr. and his 1,468 rushing yards and 13 scores are gone, but the trio of Asim Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Christopher Rodriguez Jr. at running back means success can be had on the ground. The trio combined for 1,975 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry in 2019.
2. Auburn’s losses in the trenches
If Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson were back, the potential for Kentucky’s success on the ground wouldn’t be concerning. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
We love the potential breakout candidates such as Big Kat Bryant, Derick Hall and T.D. Moultry on the edges, but will those guys be able to set the edge against the run well enough Saturday? Interior guys such as Tyrone Truesdell and Daquan Newkirk need to have a big impact.
Offensively, Auburn is experiencing even more turnover with 4 of 5 starters along the line gone. There’s hope that this new group can be better than last year, but that remains to be seen. Jamar “Boogie” Watson, Josh Paschal and big-man Quinton Bohanna (6-4, 347 pounds) make up a good group for Kentucky’s defensive front.
Kentucky is far removed from its pushover days on both lines.
3. The return of Terry Wilson
The Wildcats will look more traditional this season with Terry Wilson back under center. He suffered a season-ending knee injury early in 2019, all but forcing the Wildcats to abandon the passing game. And as much as Wilson has been scrutinized during his career, he’s the type of player who can have a lot of success with a stout offensive line and a complementary run game.
Oh, and Wilson has some wheels too.
The 6-3, 202-pounder rushed for 547 yards and 4 scores in Kentucky’s 2018 breakthrough season.
Wilson is an underrated quarterback who should be taken seriously.
4. A new offense for Bo Nix
Bo Nix has already seen ups and downs during his young career. He brought home SEC Freshman of the Year honors over several impressive first-year players like LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. But there also were times when Nix was a liability within the offense.
Former Arkansas head coach Chad Morris has been brought in to install a new offense that is tailor-made for Nix’s skillset. That is fantastic news and should help over the long haul, but will that success come in Week 1? That is the million-dollar question.
If it takes time for the new offense to gel with a new play-caller and offensive line, that can open the door for Kentucky to create a few issues for the Tigers. It will certainly be something to monitor.
5. Crowd limitations with home-field advantage
In any other season, Auburn getting to play this game at home could prove to be a major difference-maker. Unfortunately, the combination of it being an 11:00 a.m. CT kickoff with the limited stadium capacity negates some of the magic found within the walls of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Still, that doesn’t mean that playing at home with a limited crowd won’t play to the Tigers’ favor. It just means that it won’t be as big of an advantage as it could have been otherwise.