Can Bo Nix shake off road game woes at Penn State?
OK, the cupcakes have been properly digested, the confidence-building rent-a-wins are securely in the books. It’s showtime! And that means it’s time for Bo Nix to go on the road against a Top 25 team and have a big game. It’s time for Nix to silence his critics once and for all.
Sure that’s easier said than done and though the No. 22 Tigers rolled up 60-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1932, we still don’t really know how good this Auburn team is that surrounds Nix. We’re going to find out Saturday when the Tigers visit No. 10 Penn State.
It’ll be the first time Auburn has faced the Nittany Lions during the regular season. The teams have met twice, both times in bowl games before these players entered grade school.
For the Tigers to maintain their hot start, Nix must shake off his road game woes and play like we’ve seen him at Jordan-Hare. Again, easier said than done.
Nix has played in 12 games away from Jordan-Hare in 2-plus years as Auburn’s starting quarterback. His numbers are cringe-worthy. He’s never thrown for 300 yards on the road, and his career-high for TD throws is 3, a figure he’s reached just once.
In 2019, his freshman season, Nix recorded a quarterback rating of 112.76 in 6 road games.
For reference, that rating today would rank 95th among QBs nationally.
Most thought those numbers would improve in 2020, but that’s not what happened. Nix digressed and he posted a QB rating of 106.56 away from Jordan-Hare.
Where would that rank today? Try 99th nationally.
How does that compare with his rating in home games? Well, Nix compiled a mediocre 133.68 rating his freshman year. But as would be expected, he improved the following year to 155.05. In 2 games this season Nix has a QB rating of 199.17, which ranks 5th in the nation.
It’s a minor miracle that the Tigers were able to actually win 5 of those 12 road games. But Auburn has won only twice in the past 8 road/neutral games; both were last season and both in the state of Mississippi. Auburn defeated Mississippi State, 24-10, despite Nix completing just 15-of-42 passes for 125 yards and topped Ole Miss, 35-28, with Nix throwing for 238 yards (23-of-30).
It was 1 of only 4 road games in which Nix has thrown for more than 200 yards. That’s the kind of performance Auburn needs to see from Nix on Saturday if the Tigers hope to spring the upset.
But there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Nix’s most recent game away from home was perhaps his best, at least statistically. Auburn was hammered by Northwestern, 35-19, in last year’s Citrus Bowl, but Nix put up fairly impressive numbers. He threw for 292 yards, a career-high away from Jordan-Hare. He completed 25-of-42 passes (59.5 percent). He threw 1 touchdown and did not toss a pick.
Let’s hope that game started a trend for Nix toward coming out from under the dark cloud that hovers over him whenever the Tigers venture away from home. With Tank Bigsby to lean on in the backfield, it will be interesting to see just how head coach Bryan Harsin devises the game plan Saturday. Does he trust him enough to put the game on his shoulders? Or do we see another heavy dose of Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter?
Penn State’s pass defense has given up 411 yards in 2 games and ranks no better than 68th nationally against the pass. Let’s see if Nix can take advantage.