The 2019 season isn’t even cold yet, there’s still football to be played as bowl season comes to a close, and we’re looking ahead to what the Auburn Tigers have to negotiate for next year. While sentiment heading into the offseason may have been much different based on what could have happened two days ago, there’s still a need to break some trends in 2020 if Gus Malzahn doesn’t want to waste the goodwill he engendered from November’s Iron Bowl win.
Thankfully, the schedule sets up pretty nicely. Yeah, the even year gets us road tilts in Athens and Tuscaloosa, and there will be storylines galore in some of the other games, but it’ll be a longshot for us to play six eleven-win teams again. The schedule should be easier. I think.
AUBURN TIGERS 2020 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
SEPTEMBER 5th - ALCORN STATE (Auburn, AL)
Is Steve McNair suiting up? No? Okay. Auburn should be able to work on the new offensive line and ease into the Chad Morris offense with a seasoned Bo Nix at quarterback. Big win, it’ll be hard to tell anything from this game at all.
Chance to win: 99.9999999999999999%
SEPTEMBER 12th - vs NORTH CAROLINA (Atlanta, GA)
Thankfully we get the big non-conference game after a warmup, but OF COURSE the team we play will get a ton of hype during the offseason. The Tar Heels will likely be a top fifteen team based on Sam Howell’s bowl performance and UNC’s near-upset of Clemson. They’ll be hailed as a division favorite and they’ll definitely make noise in the ACC. We should - should - be the more talented team, but there will be some question as to how we handle a P5 team with new faces across both lines.
Chance to win: 70%
SEPTEMBER 19th - at OLE MISS (Oxford, MS)
If we stub our toe against the Tar Heels, you can bet that Lane Kiffin is going to throw everything he has into this game. He’ll probably do that anyway. Ole Miss will be better and more dangerous on offense. After a close game earlier this year, I really don’t know what to think about this one. The Rebels will be close to an unknown quantity under Kiffin, but they could very well be the spoiler the SEC West doesn’t want to see. John Rhys Plumlee ran for more than 1,000 yards, and Kiffin’s influence could make him a supremely scary guy to gameplan against. Still, Ole Miss won’t have a whole lot else around him.
Chance to win: 69%
SEPTEMBER 26th - SOUTHERN MISS (Auburn, AL)
We played a close game with these guys in 2018, but they’ll always be a complete talent level below Auburn. If we take a loss in the first three games and then struggle with the Golden Eagles, it won’t be good. I don’t think that’ll happen. Auburn wins easily.
Chance to win: 95%
OCTOBER 3rd - KENTUCKY (Auburn, AL)
Get ready for the buildup to this one. Joey Gatewood (if he gets that waiver) is going to roll back into Jordan-Hare Stadium wearing royal blue instead of navy and he’ll be leading a confident Kentucky team. The Wildcats will likely be 3-1 heading into this game with EMU, Florida, Kent State, and South Carolina on the slate before Auburn. If they spring an upset in Gainesville, then we’ll be nervous about this one. I don’t think Auburn’s defense will be susceptible to what Kentucky’s going to want to run, and we definitely know Gatewood, but he also knows us. This game could turn out to be the biggest game in the conference that weekend, depending on how Ole Miss is doing. The Rebs host Alabama that weekend.
Chance to win: 64%
OCTOBER 10th - at GEORGIA (Athens, GA)
Ready to feel weird? Auburn plays Georgia in Athens in October. The last time that these two met before November was 1936, when the Tigers got a 24-13 win over the Dawgs in Columbus on October 24th. The back to back at Georgia and at Alabama was difficult to manage, and now it’ll be much easier. What’s even better is that we can hope that Georgia isn’t settled at all by this point. The NFL Draft took a toll on the Bulldogs — no Jake Fromm, the entire offensive line gone, no running backs, and only one returning receiver. The defense will be great. Still, Athens is tough no matter when you visit. If CBS still has the TV rights, we’ll be part of a doubleheader on this day with LSU @ Florida also on the docket.
Chance to win: 40%
OCTOBER 17th - TEXAS A&M (Auburn, AL)
I dunno, man. Is Jimbo good? He’s definitely not worth the $75 million unless he wins the next couple of national titles in a row. Although, A&M finally got a little of what we all thought Kellen Mond might be in the Texas Bowl, when he ran through Oklahoma State for the game-winning touchdown from 67 yards out. He should be pretty solid next season, but despite good recruiting, everyone’s still waiting for the Aggies to truly put it together. Traditionally, this game would have been an automatic loss since it’s in Auburn, but the Tigers have won three straight in the series. Bo Nix was steady in his first real road start, and I think he’ll have plenty for the A&M defense in this one.
Chance to win: 65%
OCTOBER 31st - at MISSISSIPPI STATE (Starkville, MS)
Oh, great. We play these clowns on Halloween and now they’ve got the Mad Pirate running the show? Thankfully, the Bulldogs shouldn’t be very good under Mike Leach since they have, uh, no quarterback, no receivers, and not a whole lot coming back from the 2019 team. Kylin Hill will be returning at running back, but there’s really not much that I can see MSU putting on the field that we won’t be able to handle, especially after a bye.
Chance to win: 77%
NOVEMBER 7th - ARKANSAS (Auburn, AL)
Like Ole Miss and Mississippi State, the Piggies will be breaking in a new coach. Unlike those two, it’s a guy that 99% of college football fans have never heard of. Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman made the move to go lead Arkansas, and while his recruiting has been fantastic, that won’t help anyone in year one. Chad Morris clearly wasn’t cut out to be a head coach, and with his departure, the cupboard is as bare as it gets. Pittman will take his lumps for at least a couple years before he starts to get the ball rolling (if he’s given that much time).
Chance to win: 90%
NOVEMBER 14th - UMASS (Auburn, AL)
Is Marcus Camby playing? No? I see.
Chance to win: 99.999999999999999%
NOVEMBER 21st - LSU (Auburn, AL)
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Meet the new Amen Corner, same as the old Amen Corner. Instead of Georgia, we get LSU. The benefit is that there’s no longer two away games in a row. We get to split the home and away matchups, which will even things out without changing the caliber of the opponent.
Obviously, LSU just wrapped up one of the greatest seasons in college football history, but let’s give you a list of what will be different in 2020 for the Bayou Bengals —
- Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow
- Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- Offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles
- Wide receiver Justin Jefferson
- Safety Grant Delpit
- Center Lloyd Cushenberry
- Linebacker Jacob Phillips
- Linebacker Patrick Queen
And that’s just the juniors plus Burrow. LSU will also lose a handful of seniors, and there are still some decisions to be made from guys like K’Lavon Chaisson. However, that might not be the biggest loss from Ed Orgeron’s group. He’ll have to replace both coordinators in 2020, as Joe Brady made the move to run the offense with the Panthers, and Dave Aranda is now leading Baylor. It’s no secret that the reason that LSU took off this year was largely thanks to Brady’s offensive influence, and now the playmakers plus the chess players are gone. It’s going to be a completely different team in 2020, and now Auburn gets them at home. With the game in November, they’ll certainly be in more of a rhythm, but there’s no way that Myles Brennan replicates Burrow’s performance, especially with a new guy running the show.
Chance to win: 50%
NOVEMBER 28th - at ALABAMA (Tuscaloosa, AL)
In similar fashion to what’s happening at LSU, Alabama lost a ton as well, but I don’t think they’ll feel the sting quite the way they will in Baton Rouge. Tua’s gone, but I’ve said before that he wasn’t the most important player on that team by far. What’s a little more pressing is the fact that Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs have departed as well. Now, you don’t have to stick your third best cover guy on Devonta Smith, and your fourth best on Jaylen Waddle. Unfortunately, Alabama will still be solid. Mac Jones is good enough to utilize the talent, especially with Najee Harris returning (can’t take that paycut by going pro). While the offensive line may take a bit of a hit with Jedrick Wills leaving, Alex Leatherwood is back, along with Landon Dickerson.
Defensively, don’t be surprised if Alabama is good again. This year was hilarious, watching them trip all over themselves, and at times, their offense even had a poor scoring defense. Dylan Moses returns after missing all of last year, and all of those freshmen they played are now experienced. Losing Xavier McKinney is probably a positive, and Trevon Diggs made a ton of highlight reels for Jamar Chase, so there are probably some Bama fans excited to see the backups.
Look, anyone saying that Bama is going to fall on hard times has to know that a 10-2 regular season is likely the floor for them every year. Only with an absolute murderer’s row of injuries and the rare year when they play a real schedule would they hit three regular season losses. This year, they get Georgia... after the Dawgs lose everyone, and it’s early in the year. Watch out for the stretch in October — at Tennessee, bye, at LSU. We have to go to Bryant-Denny, so...
Chance to win: 30%
We’ve still got a few NFL decisions left to be made, but at this point we know roughly how everyone will look roster-wise in 2020. It’s not nearly the schedule we had last year, but it is always going to be difficult with Alabama, Georgia, and LSU on the slate year after year. Let’s see what you’ve got, Gus.