1. Auburn won nine games a season ago, including wins over Alabama and Oregon, and lost one-possession games to Georgia and LSU. They have a slew of talent and returnees this season. So even with it all being abbreviated, what do you view Auburn’s ceiling as in 2020?
Andrew Spanel: Well, according to College and Magnolia, the sky is the limit since a few of them think Auburn can go 9-1 this year. https://www.collegeandmagnolia.com/2020/9/14/21434903/c-m-roundtable-predict-auburns-2020-season-record Maybe that’s not outside the realm of possibility since there is a lot of uncertainty around the SEC this year, but I think we need to take it down a couple of notches. If the Gus Bus is really going to get rolling, they need Bo Nix and their running backs to have a great season. However, they have a completely reworked offensive line, a new offensive coordinator in Chad Morris, and not much time to practice this offseason. It could be another Auburn season where they struggle early before getting better as the year goes on.
Chris Novak: I think the ceiling depends on Bo Nix, which I’ll get to in the next question. Bo has some talent in him but there were times last year where he just wasn’t playing up to snuff. And as a result of that, Auburn suffered. I think they will miss Derrick Brown a bit, even with a loaded defense especially up front. I do think they finish in the upper half of the SEC West, but it all hinges, to me, on the play of their quarterback.
Robert O’Neill: I agree that so much depends on Nix, but a new offensive coordinator and short, weird offseason seems like it could be suboptimal compared to a team like Texas A&M or Florida with a returning quarterback AND same offensive system. That being said, it’s definitely possible to see Auburn near the top of the SEC West.
2. Bo Nix was incredibly enigmatic at times last year. If he cleans up his game this year, what do you think will be the biggest reason why?
Andrew Spanel: I think Bo actually played slightly better towards the end of last season. He took care of the ball better in the big games, had some decent passing performances, and ran the ball a little better. Obviously, he faced some really tough defenses. I think it really comes down to cleaning up some Freshman mistakes by gaining some confidence, improving his accuracy to at least 60% in every game, and pushing the ball downfield a little more. Gus likes to make defenses defend every inch of the field, but as I mentioned, he might struggle just due to the fact of the OL and lack of the offseason.
Chris Novak: Just being able to piece together good game after good game, and improving his passing abilities. He did finish the season strongly in terms of not turning the ball over, and throwing a touchdown in all four of Auburn’s final four games. But, that’s just the thing: He only threw 16 touchdowns all season and had just one touchdown in each game. And he threw for under 200 yards nine times a season ago. And in addition to that, his Y/A was just 6.74. While Auburn has a strong ground game, at some point you’re going to have to ask your quarterback to make big throws. So Nix will have to put that together if he wants to go upward this year.
Robert O’Neill: I definitely agree the biggest thing Nix has to improve on this season is consistency. You’re really going to struggle if your quarterback can’t step up and carry the offense instead of being a game manager. Being a game manager can work in the NFL, but it very rarely works in college. It’ll be sink or swim pretty early for Nix and the Tigers, too, as they open the season against Kentucky and Georgia.
3. If Alabama has the best WR corp in the SEC, Auburn’s may very well be #2. Who’s your pick to stand out amongst this talented pack?
Andrew Spanel: Has to be Seth Williams. He’ll be in the mix as one of the best in the conference.
Chris Novak: I adore Seth Williams. Williams had a robust 14.1 Y/R last season and corralled 830 yards on 59 receptions. He also scored eight touchdowns, a team best by a country mile. I think he is as good as advertised and he’s going to stand out again in 2020.
Robert O’Neill: I think it’s hard to argue with Williams. He was so good last year and is among the SEC’s best returning wide receivers, especially with Ja’Marr Chase opting out.
4. The defense lost Derrick Brown, but still retains Big Kat Bryant, Tyron Truesdell, K.J. Britt and stud sophomore Owen Pappoe. What can we expect out of this defense?
Andrew Spanel: The defense led by DC Kevin Steele has been really good in the past. I’m a little worried about the guys up front though without Brown and Marlon Davidson.
Chris Novak: I think we can expect them to play pretty damn well. They will feel the impact of no Derrick Brown, who was an outstanding defensive lineman to say the very least. His presence did lots for a lot of people, having tied the team high in TFL with Marlon Davidson a season ago. And he was also second on the team in sacks to Davidson as well. But as said in the question, there’s still lots of talent on this team. I think KJ Britt is going to be the leader of this defense, especially after his terrific season a year ago. By season’s end, I expect him to be the star of one of the better defensive units in the country, let alone the SEC.
Robert O’Neill: The defense is going to be solid as it always seems to be for the Tigers. There’s much less to worry about on the defensive side of the ball than the offensive side, in my opinion.
5. What is your prediction for Auburn in 2020?
Andrew Spanel: 6-4 (I really do think they might struggle early)
Chris Novak: 7-3 (with 8-2 being the best case scenario IMO)
Robert O’Neill: 7-3