The Auburn Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats will square off, and what I believe is the marquee game of week one. Although the opening line has Auburn a 7.5 points favorite, this should come down to the last drive.
Auburn Offense vs Kentucky Defense
Auburn fans are hoping that Chad Morris and his smashmouth spread offense will be the answer to the never-ending roller coaster that has been the Auburn offense under Gus Malzahn. It definitely will not be easy as he has two of the nation’s premier defenses (Kentucky, UGA) in the first two weeks of the season without spring practices.
Despite Coach Morris being an excellent fit for Auburn, it will not be without growing pains. The offensive line has four new starters this year, and their leading rusher over the last two seasons, JaTarvious Whitlow, transferred to Western Kentucky. The Tigers will use a running back by committee this season and have a stable of running backs with unlimited potential, and DJ Williams has looked the part at times
The biggest question mark for me is quarterback Bo Nix who won the SEC’s Freshman of the Year honor in 2019. He passed for over 2,500 yards and thew 16 touchdowns to only six interceptions. He also made some clutch plays in the Oregon and Alabama game. We know that Nix will do well with quarterback designed runs. Can he improve in the passing game is the big question. According to PFF.com, Nix ranked 107th in clean pocket passing last season, which history tells us is one of the most revealing stats when predicting future growth. A positive for Nix is that he will have Seth Williams, who loves to bully defensive backs.
You will be hard press to find a more underestimated SEC unit headed into the 2020 season. The Wildcats defense finished 14th in the nation in scoring defense last season. This defense has great depth, and while you might not know them all by name, there are plenty of playmakers as well. Coach Stoops will look to pressure Nix early and often led by the Boogie Man Jamar Watson. He is tied for the most returning sacks in the SEC (6.5), and the third highest-graded returning edge rusher among all Power 5 schools.
The linebackers are loaded, but the biggest difference-maker might be in the secondary. From week four of last season, Brandin Echols only allowed 0.47 yards per cover snap, leading all FBS cornerbacks. He is not alone because this unit could be one of the best in the nation before adding LSU transfer Kelvin Joseph.
Kentucky Offense vs Auburn Defense
If games are won at the line of scrimmage, Kentucky will be in any ball game. They have the best offensive line in the SEC with the return of Darian Kinnard, Landon Young, Drake Jackson, and Luke Fortner. They also return running backs A.J. Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, and Christopher Rodriguez Jr, who combined for 1975 rushing yards. The return of
Perhaps most important for the Kentucky offense, they will have an actual QB in this game. The dual-threat QB gets a lot of unfair criticism and will have a big season this year.
Yeah…Auburn is loaded again on defense. Defensive end Big Kat Bryant and tackle Tyrone Truesdell are going to have an all-conference type season. K.J. Britt will lead one of the top linebacker units in the nation.
The secondary took a hit losing starting cornerbacks Noah Igbinoghene and Javaris Davis and safeties Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas. However, I am not convinced they will take even the smallest step back, and Roger McCreeary is going to be one of the nations best.
I love this Auburn team as the season goes forward and could very well see them winning the SEC if Nix develops as a passer. The problem is that they have an experienced Kentucky team to start the season and JHS with only 20k.
I expect this game to be like the old smashmouth SEC game. Both teams have an excellent defense and running game, with athletic QB’s. The difference, in my opinion, will be the Kentucky offensive line vs the Auburn defensive line. As long as Terry Wilson does not turn the ball over, and Kentucky limits Auburn in special teams, the Wildcats should win this game.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 24 Auburn 21
Stat Prediction: Terry Wilson 250 total yards and two touchdowns.