Despite losing five games last year, including at home to Tennessee, there is some hope at Auburn. That’s mostly because Gus Malzahn is calling plays again and that led to 63 points against Purdue in the Music City Bowl.
Working in a new quarterback doesn’t help, but this offense still has a chance to improve after scoring 30.9 points per game last year. The Tigers are expected to finish third in the SEC West behind Alabama and LSU with +5000 odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook to win the National Championship.
Quarterback Position Up for Grabs
The clear question going into the season is the quarterback battle. This offense wants to play fast and that’s not an easy thing to do with a new quarterback, especially when it wasn’t clear who the starter was in the spring. The top candidates are freshman Bo Nix and redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood. Both looked good at times in the spring, but there’s no telling who will win the job.
Either way, to get more out of the offense, the Tigers need to run the ball better after top running back JaTarvious Whitlow managed just 787 yards and six touchdowns. That’s an area that needs to improve with senior Kam Martin (458 yards) still in the mix.
The good news is that the line returns every relevant piece, including senior left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho. If that group takes another step forward, that could take a significant load off whoever the quarterback is.
There isn’t a standout wide receiver, but sophomores Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz saw significant time last season and Eli Stove should be back from injury. If the offense can improve, there’s no doubt this team should reach more than eight wins.
Defensive Line Should be Strong
That’s possible because the defense shouldn’t take a huge step back after allowing 19.6 points per game. The Tigers lost all of their linebackers, but the line will be elite with Derrick Brown at tackle and Marlon Davidson and Nick Coe at the ends.
Linebacker could be an issue early in the season with juniors K.J. Britt and Chandler Wooten expected to be the new leaders of the defense.
To help the middle of the field, the Tigers have a slew of seniors in the secondary with safeties Daniel Thomas and Jeremiah Dinson, as well as corner Javaris Davis. This group struggled at times last year, but they have a good chance to improve in 2019 if the new linebackers come around.
Auburn Faces A Tough Schedule – Opens Against Oregon
If the Tigers want to improve their record, that means they have to beat Justin Herbert and Oregon in the opener, similar to last year against Washington. If they don’t, they’ll likely need a major upset along the way with the best chances coming at home against Georgia or Alabama late in the season.
While they close with four home games in November, they have a stretch of four of five games on the road in the middle of the season. Winning more than two of those games is far from guaranteed since they’ll likely be an underdog at Texas A&M, Florida and LSU.
Breaking in a new quarterback against Oregon will be difficult and that comes in addition to breaking in a new core of linebackers against one of the best quarterbacks in the country. This team could be better than last year, but the difficult schedule could result in a similar record around eight wins.
2019 Auburn Tigers Football Schedule
Aug. 31 vs. Oregon (AT&T Stadium, Arlington)
Sept. 7 vs. Tulane
Sept. 14 vs. Kent State
Sept. 21 at Texas A&M
Sept. 28 vs. Mississippi State
Oct. 5 at Florida
Oct. 19 at Arkansas
Oct. 26 at LSU
Nov. 2 vs. Ole Miss
Nov. 16 vs. Georgia
Nov. 23 vs. Samford
Nov. 30 vs. Alabama