Auburn football: 10 bold predictions for the 2020 season
Auburn finished 3rd in the SEC West after going 9-4 in 2019, which could classify as a pretty successful season, considering the Tigers also secured an Iron Bowl win over Alabama. However, it still felt like the season was a big disappointment.
In 2019, the defense carried the load, while the offense lacked the consistency it needed to secure wins against LSU and Florida. Is Bo Nix ready to take the next step in his career? Will the turnover at the offensive line be too much for the Tigers, especially with no spring practice?
Here are 10 bold predictions I think we will see during Auburn’s 2020 campaign.
1. Auburn will finish 2nd in the SEC West
Yes, the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide in 2019, but I do not believe that will be the case in 2020. Auburn has never defeated Nick Saban in consecutive seasons. Unfortunately for the Tigers, I expect that trend to continue in 2020. The talent gap is just too wide for Auburn to overcome it this season and Alabama should be the favorite to take the West.
2. Bo Nix will get the Joe Burrow makeover
This is not hard to believe. Bo Nix had several All-SEC, All-American moments last season, but he also had true freshmen moments (see Nix’s game against Florida). If Auburn plays a full schedule, I can see Nix, who was voted the SEC Freshman of the Year after he completed 58% of his passes for 2,542 yards and 16 scores (all Auburn freshman records), breaking Auburn’s single-season passing mark this season under Chad Morris’ tutelage. Dameyune Craig set the mark with 3,277 yards in 1997. He and Jarrett Stidham are the only Tigers QBs to top 3,000 yards.
Morris is known for his quarterbacks’ big passing numbers and it also doesn’t hurt that Nix has plenty of weapons around him to help boost his passing numbers.
The key to this will be Auburn’s offensive line.
3. Anthony Schwartz is set for a breakout season
Just imagine one of the fastest men in college football in Morris’ offense? You won’t have to imagine it because Auburn fans will see it on Saturdays with Anthony Schwartz. The South Florida native has been quiet in his first 2 seasons – with a combined 1,126 yards and 10 total touchdowns. However, he has shown time and again that if he is given the chance he can break the game wide open.
Auburn’s new offensive coordinator is not afraid to sling the ball and Schwartz could be a top target for Nix to stretch the field. I expect to see Schwartz in not only the passing game but also the run game as well.
4. The running back room is better this season
Auburn doesn’t return a starting running back, however, the talent in the room has a few excited. The Tigers will have Mark-Antony Richards, DJ Williams and Tank Bigsby available in 2020.
This group could very well provide the speed necessary to earn some big yardage plays that was lacking last season. (Vanderbilt had more 40-yard runs than the Tigers last season, 5-4.)
Although every running back in this room is talented, all eyes will be on true freshman, Bigsby. The 6-foot, 209-pounder with home-run speed could secure his place in the front of the group.
5. Christian Tutt will be an All-SEC punt returner
Tutt finished 313 punt return yards in 2019, which was good for 3rd in the nation. He averaged about 13.6 yards per return.
His ability to make people miss could see result in his first TD return in 2020.
6. The defense will be better than predicted
Yes, Auburn lost 2 All-Americans up front, but the foundation is there. It may take a bit for the pieces to line up perfectly, but there is potential for the Tigers to put together a very productive defense.
Big Kat Bryant is one of the reasons. Bryant recorded 16 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery last season. He was overshadowed by Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, however, this season will allow the defender to shine as not only a good pass rusher but as a player that can hold his own against pulling linemen to stop the run.
7. Owen Pappoe will lead the team in sacks
Pappoe is a freak athlete and Kevin Steele could have some fun with the 6-1, 219-pounder. The rising sophomore is one player that took advantage of his freshman season and featured plenty in 2019.
Now a year wiser, the second year Tiger is expected to have breakout year and I could see Pappoe leading the team in sacks. Why? I think Big Kat Bryant will be getting a lot of attention when it comes to opposing coaches scheming against him.
Pappoe, who had 2 sacks last year, demonstrated his physicality in his first season. I think it will be a fight between KJ Britt and Pappoe for the top sack spot.
8. Bo Nix will punt the ball
It’s not a foreign concept for a starting quarterback to add punting to his duties (see Steve Spurrier at Florida) and it could be a possibility at Auburn.
The Tigers only have 1 punter listed on the roster, Partick Markwalter, a redshirt freshman walk-on.
Nix showed he could punt in 2019 by punting the ball three times last year – the longest going 42 yards. I can see Nix to punt more than three times this year with maybe a little trickeration tossed in there – because why not.
9. Auburn will fall to Georgia
Georgia has won 3 consecutive in the rivalry and can match its longest streak since the 1940s with another victory. This year’s game is in Athens, too, where Auburn hasn’t won since 2005.
This game will be close, but I can see Kirby Smart’s men securing a victory with a 4th-quarter field goal.
Although Auburn’s defense should have had enough time to settle in before this matchup, I can see Nix and the Tigers’ offense struggling against a Bulldogs defense that returns 9 starters and is being touted as the best Kirby Smart has had.
10. K.J. Britt will have an All-American season
K.J. Britt brings with him a toughness to Auburn’s defense. Britt, who recently was named on the watch lists for the Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award and Bednarik Award, is entering a 2020 season made for him to shine.
With the Tigers losing leaders like Brown and Davidson, Britt will be looked upon as a leader and as a contributor. The linebacker is one of the better downhill players in the country. He can pursue a running back in space or inside. According to ESPN, Britt had 33 run-stops in 2019, 2nd in the SEC (behind Missouri’s Nick Bolton, and tied with South Carolina’s Ernest Jones). I expect him to be No. 1 in 2020.