| FTBL 5 reasons Auburn football could win the 2020 SEC title

17Champs

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AUBURN, Alabama--With big losses on both sides of the ball, including four offensive line starters and running back Boobee Whitlow along with names like Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson and Noah Igbinoghene on defense, Coach Gus Malzahn's Auburn Tigers face an uphill climb if they hope to end the 2020 season in Atlanta playing for the SEC Football Championship. While there are some challenges, there are also some things working in Auburn's favor heading into next season that could put the Tigers in the hunt for a title once again.

Returning starter at quarterback

There may be a more important part of this equation, but I’m not sure what it would be. Bringing back a quarterback with experience is a huge deal, especially when you’re talking about the SEC Freshman of the Year in Bo Nix.

As recent seasons have shown in college football, having experience at the position isn't a prerequisite to winning championships, but without a spring practice to work with and likely minimal summer throwing sessions as well, Nix coming back gives Auburn the most important player in place and ready to go. Even though there is plenty to replace, having the quarterback is a big piece of what is right not a very incomplete puzzle for every team in the country.

A player who improved in the second half of the season as he settled in to being a starter in the Southeastern Conference, Nix completed 61 percent of his passes in the final six games for 1,176 yards and five touchdowns. More importantly he didn’t throw an interception during that span.

With plenty of weapons back and Chad Morris running the offense, Nix should only see his production increase. Speaking of increased production on offense.



More explosive offense

Last season Auburn lost three games by seven points or less. There were two of those games in 2018 and two more in 2017, not including a 14-6 loss at Clemson. It’s intriguing to think about what Auburn’s last few seasons would have been like with just a little more scoring on offense. You don’t have to go from 32 to 48 points per game to win a championship like LSU did.

Last season Auburn averaged 33 points per game. Increasing that to 38-40 per game could have a huge impact on how the season turns out for the Tigers. Being able to consistently put points on the board, especially against LSU and Georgia, could mean another trip to Atlanta for \ Malzahn’s program

Continuity on defense

Auburn lost very important and experienced players from its 2019 defense like Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, Noah Igbinoghene, Daniel Thomas, Jeremiah Dinson and Javaris Davis. That’s not an easy group to replace in terms of talent, but the Tigers have recruited well the last few years and have guys who could come in and make noise on defense this fall.

The biggest thing for Auburn is that the Tigers return Kevin Steele as the defensive coordinator along with assistants Rodney Garner, Travis Williams and Wesley McGriff. Bringing in Al Pogue to replace the departed Marcus Woodson gives Auburn someone who was already very familiar with how the Tigers do things.

Having the same system in place is a really big deal when you’re having to compete against offenses that want to go fast and spread the field. Being able to be on the same page as a defense is imperative to having success.

Linebackers hold the key on defense

If there is a position that has to be very good in today’s college football world then linebacker is right there at the top of the list. Gone are the days of guys that just plug the middle to stop the run. You better be able to play sideline to sideline or else you’re not going to be on the field very much nowadays.

Seniors K.J. Britt and Chandler Wooten lead the way for the group and both are capable of being versatile enough to play both inside spots. The guys to watch for the group however are junior ZaKoby McClain and sophomore Owen Pappoe.

Last season McClain came into his own for Williams at the position with 55 tackles and three forced fumbles. He also had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the win over Alabama. Pappoe was all over the field for the Tigers, racking up 49 tackles with two sacks, four quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

With the speed to make plays in coverage and also cut off running lanes on the perimeter of the defense, McClain and Pappoe should be a formidable duo to go along with the veteran combination of Britt and Wooten. Throw in redshirt freshman Octavius Brothers and newcomers Cameron Riley, Wesley Steiner and Desmond Tisdol and the Tigers are in great shape at the position.


Schedule
It’s far from an easy schedule for Auburn in 2020, but as far as schedules go it sets up much better than any we have seen for the Tigers in the last few seasons. Getting an opener against Alcorn State before facing North Carolina at Atlanta in week two gives some younger players on both sides of the ball an opportunity to get a full game under their belts before facing an improving Tar Heel team.

Playing at Ole Miss in week three shouldn’t be a big issue for the Tigers, who get Southern Miss and Kentucky at home the next two weeks before their Oct. 10 trip to Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs. Catching Georgia earlier in the year could be helpful for Auburn with the Bulldogs learning a new offense with a transfer quarterback while replacing a boatload of talent up front.

It should be an advantage to play Texas A&M at home, but it hasn’t worked out that way for much of the time the Aggies have been in the Southeastern Conference.

A road trip to Mississippi State follows, which could be interesting with Stanford transfer K.J. Costello coming in to play for Mike Leach. Who knows what the Bulldogs will look like? There’s no getting around the difficulty at the end of the season, but getting LSU at home is huge for Auburn. If things go well it could set up a really big Iron Bowl on the last weekend of the regular season.
 

Bama Guy

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Plus, Bo is the leading Heisman candidate. Will go first in the draft as a Sophomore.
 

jdpas29

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Their offense will likely take a step back IMO from their production on 2019 which was already spotty. Their defense will be tough again though.
 

rick4bama

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This thing is about That school.
 

PurlJam

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The 1 reason Auburn wins the 2020 SEC Championship....the season is cancelled and they didnt get the memo and they go undefeated playing inter squad games finishing the year 5-0-7.
 

MunchyOs

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Their cult leader has a seller 0-10 record in Baton Rouge, Athens, and Tuscaloosa. That'll increase to 0-12 this season. Little Bo Prick will be run out of Bryant Denny Stadium
 

MunchyOs

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I just heard that despite the TP shortage that happened due to the panic buying, those clowns will continue to roll the trees. Lord, what a bunch of losers.
 

UAgrad93

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5 reasons they won’t
1) OL gone!!! No experienced depth behind the departed.
2) Seth Williams is the only WR worth a shit and all he runs is deep routes.
3) Bo Nix is back as their QB and he really is nothing more than a game manager.
4) Defense was decimated by graduation and draft. Steele has been fortunate with injuries and depth. Can’t continue.
5) Gus is a egomaniac and it doesn’t matter if Chad Morris is the Offensive Messiah, Gus will screw him up. Personally, I think Morris has lost his way.
 

mando

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5 reasons they won’t
1) Barners gonna barn
2) Gus the mule is their coach
3) Barners gonna barn
4) Gus the mule is their coach
5) Well Barners gonna barn
 

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