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2019 SEC Football Preview: Auburn Tigers

2019 SEC Football Preview: Auburn Tigers

2018 Recap

2019 SEC Football Preview: Auburn Tigers
2018 Schedule

2018 Record: 8-5 (3-5)

5th in the West

What began as a promising season sputtered midway through and culminated with an anti-climactic Music City Bowl win over Purdue.

Auburn came out with a bang after upsetting then No.6 Washington in the season opener. This would end up being the biggest win of the season. Washington remained right around the No.10 team for the remainder of the season.Auburn fell just short of starting the season 5-0 after losing to No.12 LSU 22-21 at home the third game in.

From there things took a turn as Auburn finished off the season with a 3-4 record and 0-2 against bitter rivals Alabama and Georgia. Trouncing an abysmal Purdue team that just barely scraped a bowl appearance did not do much to quell grumbling Auburn fans.

2019 Schedule Breakdown

2019 SEC Football Preview: Auburn Tigers
2019 Schedule

Ceiling: 9-3 (5-3)

Floor: 4-8 (1-7)

2019 Projected Record: 5-7 (2-6)

Conference Standings: 5th in the SEC West

  • Week 1 Oregon*: L
  • Week 2 Tulane: W
  • Week 3 Kansas St: W
  • Week 4 @ Texas A&M: L
  • Week 5 Mississippi St: W
  • Week 6 @ Florida: L
  • BYE
  • Week 8 @ Arkansas: L
  • Week 9 @ LSU: L
  • Week 10 Ole Miss: W
  • BYE
  • Week 12 Georgia: L
  • Week 13 Samford: W
  • Week 14 Alabama: L

* denotes neutral site game

Auburn is one of the more difficult teams to judge in the conference. A season ago a team which had extremely high expectations entering the season ended up spending the majority of the season outside the polls. Arguably the only reason Gus Malzahn kept his job was an upset over Texas A&M and an increasingly regrettable contract for Auburn following the 2017 season.

2019 SEC Football Preview: Auburn Tigers
The last and only time Auburn and Oregon faced each other was the 2011 BCS National Championship. Auburn won 22-19. (Photo courtesy of si.com)

This year could be the year the seat is too hot. If the season starts as predicted, a 3-3 start could certainly see the end of Malzahn’s tenure in Auburn. A loss to Arkansas would lock up an early exit.

From the gate Auburn will be facing an uphill battle. Oregon returns 17 starters from a 9-4 team last season, including almost the entire starting offense. Oregon ranked 30th nationally in PPG. Auburn returns 7 starters from the 20th best scoring defense from last season. It will be undoubtedly be the most exciting game Week 1 in the SEC.

Earlier this year Auburn was listed as an underdog in 5 SEC games. They’ll face potentially six top 15 opponents – four of them away from home. The two at home being Alabame and Georgia.

On the flip side, you don’t have to squint too hard to see Auburn holding on to a 6-3 record following the first week of November. The biggest question is how the Auburn fan base would react to mediocrity two years in a row while their rivals are in the national spotlight yet again.

Team Outlook

Questions at Quarterback

Auburn lost it’s quarterback to the draft last season as the New England Patriots drafted Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of last year’s draft. This means Malzahn will use a quarterback without any starts to kickoff the season for the first time in his eight years at Auburn.

2019 SEC Football Preview: Auburn Tigers
Jake Gatewood is the only QB on the roster with any experience – 0/1 passing and 28 rushing yards on 3 attempts. (Photo courtesy of 247sports.com).

To make matters worse, the battle likely comes down to two freshmen. The first candidate is true freshman Bo Nix. The Alabama native had a good spring game throwing for 155 yards on 11-of-16 passing with two touchdowns. He was the No.1 dual threat quarterback and No.33 overall prospect in 2019 according to 247 Sports.

Redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood also had an impressive spring game. He threw for 130 yards on 8-of-11 passing, also throwing for two touchdowns. He barely edges out Nix in experience after playing in one game last season – the Music City Bowl blowout.

The greatest concern, obviously, is the vast lack of experience. Whoever the starter for the Oregon game is going to have their hands full taking over an offense that didn’t exactly shine in the rushing game last season. Inexperience at the quarterback position is a large reason Oregon will have the advantage to start the season, despite a potent Auburn defense.

Defensive Line Among Best in SEC

The questions on the offensive side are concerning, there’s no doubt about that. But Auburn returns 7 starters from the 20th best scoring defense in 2018. They’ll be tested right out the gate against Oregon’s high powered offense.

2019 SEC Football Preview: Auburn Tigers
Nick Coe recorded a season high 3.5 sacks agains Ole Miss last year. (Photo courtesy of auburntigers.com).

Malzahn is huge on his defense. “I think we’ve got a chance to the best defense we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Malzahn said. “We’ve got a lot of experience, we’ve got a lot of really talented guys on defense, specifically up front. The strength of our team is up front. That’s a good thing in this league.”

Derrick Brown leads the way on the defensive line with 115 career tackles, nine sacks, 21 TFL’s and three forced fumbles. Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson add another 18 TFL’s combined and 10.5 sacks from last year. The front will wreak havoc all season for opposing offensive lines.

Recap

A tough schedule adds up to what may be a disappointing season for the Tigers. Auburn hasn’t won on the road in Baton Rouge since 1999. They’ve beaten Alabama and Georgia only four combined times in the Malzahn era. They’re facing an excellent Oregon from a year ago that returns the majority of their starters; with a freshman quarterback no less. A team capable of greatness looks to be bogged down by a brutal schedule.

On the other hand, if the Tigers can figure things out early on offensively, the defense can carry this team to a dominant season. The defensive line will provide some of the best pressure in the country. This will allow an already talented and experienced secondary to be the quarterback’s next worst nightmare every time he drops back. Auburn will be a tough team this year, regardless of the record.

 

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