Over the coming weeks, College & Magnolia’s brilliant collection of contributors will offer their astute insights on a number of hard hitting topics for the 2020 season. Today, we start with a very simple question. Will Bo Nix throw for over 3,000 yards?
Only twice in Auburn football history has this feat been accomplished. Dameyune Craig did it in 1997 setting an Auburn single season passing record. Jarrett Stidham crossed the 3,000 mark just two seasons ago. Interestingly, both of those teams won the SEC West. They also both lost in the SEC Championship Game but whatever...
While the odds don’t look good for Bo when compared to Auburn’s history, it improves greatly when you look at quarterbacks who have played under Chad Morris. Five times in ten years Morris’s quarterbacks have crossed the 3,000 mark. However, Tajh Boyd accounted for three of those seasons and only once in the past six years has Morris had a 3,000 yard passer.
So what do the fine gentlemen here at College&Magnolia think?
The run game will always be an important part of Auburn’s offensive attack. However, it can’t be the sole driver of success anymore. Last season, Auburn was undefeated when averaging 4 yards a carry. All four losses came when held under that number. Running the football is important but in today’s world of college football, passing reigns supreme. You better be able to spread teams out and win 1 on 1 matchups on the outside. Auburn has the weapons to do so with Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz and Eli Stove all returning. With a brand new offensive line, I have a hard time believing this team can pound top defenses into submission making the passing game even more important. Throw in new offensive coordinator Chad Morris whose offenses in the past, specifically when he was an offensive coordinator, tended to produce highly productive passing attacks and I think it’s pretty likely we see Bo Nix join Stidham and Craig as 3,000+ yard passers.
I don’t think there’s really any doubt that this is going to happen. Let’s assume Auburn plays 13 games like they did last season. Bo is obviously going to be a better quarterback than he was a year ago, especially with another season to mesh with Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. By the totals of some of his games, you’d think he barely did anything through the air last year. In individual outings, Nix threw for 177, 161, 100, 145, 176, 157, 150, 173, 176 yards in 2019. That’s more than 2⁄3 of the time he was failing to hit 200 yards per game. Still, he accumulated 2,542 yards through the air anyway. He just needs to average about 35 yards per game more to hit 3,000 for the year. With Chad Morris running the show, I don’t think there’s any way this doesn’t happen, barring injury. Look at the history. G.J Kinne threw for more than 3,600 yards for Tulsa in 2010, then Tajh Boyd hit 3,800 yards in three consecutive seasons for Clemson before Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson combined for 3,200 yards in an injury-plagued 2014 season. At SMU, Morris’ QBs went from 2,200 yards to 2,900, to over 3,600 in his three seasons. Arkansas is, well... you know. This stat doesn’t really speak to the predictive success of Auburn in 2020, but it’s still fun to look at. With the established receiver group and a year under his belt, I don’t see any way that Bo Nix doesn’t hit that mark considering how close he came last year with an anemic offense at times.
Verdict: Yessirree Bob
Looking at the rich history of Chad Morris leading quarterbacks to very, very successful seasons, it would be easy to assume Nix tosses for at least 3,000 yards in 2020. However, I believe we’re probably a year away from it happening. Look, Nix will get close. Really, really close. If the question had been “thrown for 2800 yards,” I believe it would have been an easy call.
I don’t want to suggest that Nix will have some sort of “sophomore slump,” but it’s difficult for me to assume he will automatically progress from his freshman to sophomore seasons, especially with limited time working with his new OC. I do think he (and the offense) improves from 2019 to 2020, but much of that improvement won’t show up on Nix’s stat sheet - at least not his passing stats. Remember, we’re asking for over 400 yards of improvement here. Auburn’s passing attack will probably be more efficient in 2020, but that efficiency will likely lead to a better ground game than 2019.
Let’s start with the assumption that college football has a regular length season, which might be the boldest assumption I make today. Auburn plays (at least) 13 games, meaning Bo Nix needs to average 231 yards per game through the air to hit the 3,000 yard mark. Let’s play with a few numbers. Last season, Bo threw for a not great 6.7 yards per attempt (ypa), the same as 2015 Jeremy Johnson. With Auburn returning effectively all of its wide receiver production from last season, that bodes well for Bo progressing in his comfort and timing. I don’t think it’s a huge leap to guess he could hit 7.5 ypa in 2020. For comparison, Clint Moseley threw for 7.4 ypa in 2011.
In Chad Morris’s five years as a college OC, his offenses have thrown the ball about 487 times per season, or 36.4 times per game. In 2019, Nix threw the ball 377 times, or 29 times per game. We’ll split the difference and say that without an established #1 running back, Morris trusts the true sophomore to throw the ball 33 times per game.
A little bit of multiplication gets us to this: 7.5 yards/attempt * 33 attempts/game * 13 games = (drum roll please) 3,217 yards! Plenty of room to spare.
I think Bo Nix is primed for a great 2020 campaign with the Auburn Tigers. When looking at that 3,000-yard threshold though, that bar may be a bit high for Auburn’s sophomore passer. I believe the Tigers will go to the air more this season with Chad Morris calling the shots but I am still hesitant in the pass catchers on this roster. Seth Williams may be ready to have the best receiving season that an Auburn wide out has has in quite some time but I have a hard time seeing a clear cut number two arising to help Nix reach that 3,000 yard mark. I know Anthony Schwartz is a fan favorite and a guy that Auburn fans want to see more of but I don’t see him being a consistent threat throughout the 2020 season.
The running game will be a big part in seeing this come to fruition as well. I think Auburn will be able to find more success on the ground in 2020 behind a revamped offensive line. Whether it is behind Mark-Antony Richards, Tank Bigsby, or DJ Williams, Auburn will have a more explosive ball carrier in the backfield than it did the past few seasons.
This is a tough one. I think its close.
You’ve heard our thoughts, now we want to hear yours. Can Bo Nix become the 3rd QB in Auburn football history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a single season?
Assuming Auburn plays a full season, will Bo Nix throw for over 3,000 yards in 2020?
This poll is closed