2019 Auburn Tigers Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
Remember when Gus Malzahn was a genius? It wasn't too long ago that Auburn thought he was - they signed him to a seven-year, $49 million deal in 2017. But last year was such a debacle for Auburn that there were boosters allegedly angling to get him out already. Much like Wisconsin, Auburn entered the season with sky-high expectations, a preseason ranking to go with it, and dreams of a playoff berth. And like the Badgers, when the smoke settled the Tigers were 8-5 and trying to figure out what in the world happened. The difference, though, is that expectations are much higher at Auburn and in the SEC than they will ever be at Wisconsin, so patience is in much shorter supply, too.
Paul Chryst probably isn't thinking of calling his realtor to check in just yet, but Malzahn knows that if he doesn't get things back on track in a hurry that things are going to get very uncomfortable for him in his corner of Alabama. You can ask Gene Chizik how long you get to trade on past accomplishments if you start to struggle at Auburn.
2018 in a Nutshell
Things started out well for the program, as they beat Washington in Atlanta to start the season, and then beat up on Alabama State just like a top contender should. And even the loss by a single point at home to LSU, while far from ideal, wasn't a total disaster. And then they crushed Arkansas and beat Southern Miss. So, they were 4-1 with a quality loss. You can work with that. But losing at Mississippi State wasn't great, and losing at home to Tennessee was much worse. They got solid wins at Ole Miss and against Texas A&M, though both felt more significant than they should have because of the prior struggles. But then they got beat up at Georgia, and after whipping Liberty, were just plain humiliated by hated Alabama in the Iron Bowl. They beat up on Purdue in the bowl game, but the mere fact that they were forced to play Purdue in the Music City Bowl after entering the season in the Top 10 is perhaps the lowest point of all.
Key Additions and Departures
Despite the struggles, the team lost six players to the draft. The first off the board was corner Jamel Dean in the third round, but the most significant impact right now is probably QB Jarrett Stidham, who went to the Patriots in the fourth round. That leaves a lot of uncertainty. Junior Malik Willis was the primary backup the last two years but has thrown just 14 passes. Redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood is a prototypical Malzahn QB, but he is unproven. And Bo Nix, one of two five-star recruits in this year's class who is the top dual-threat QB in the nation, is the likely QB of the future, but Malzahn may not be ready to trust his career to him just yet. This is a race that remains open. The offense was a disaster last year with a guy as good as Stidham under center, so this is a big issue.
Another big loss in the draft is linebacker Deshaun Davis, the unquestioned quarterback of the defense. Things could have been much worse defensively, though, as the team was braced for losses on the very strong defensive line that surprisingly didn't come.
The recruiting class ranked 11th nationally, which is within range for the Tigers. Linebacker Owen Pappoe is the other five-star, and the top ranked recruit in the class, and he has a chance to start immediately.
Biggest Area of Concern
It has to be the offense. It was ugly last year, and there is no certainty that it will be any better. They return a full set of starters on the line, but they weren't very good together last year, so that's not as good as it could be. The receivers should be solid despite some losses. But who will be throwing to them is unclear, and they didn't have a 1,000-yard runner for the first time in a decade last year, and have questions there again. It's possible that the offense will be even worse than last year, and that's a serious issue.
Auburn Tigers Schedule Analysis
This is not a good schedule for a team that is struggling. They open with a neutral-site contest against Oregon in Dallas. The Ducks have a very elite QB and are a team on a fast rise after a couple of rough years. Tulane and Kent State are easy games, but then they have to travel to play a Texas A&M squad that should be better than last year. Mississippi State will be well coached, and two of the three consecutive road games - at Florida, Arkansas and LSU - are going to be very tough. Ole Miss at home should be easier, but then they host a Top 3 program in Georgia, then after a gimme against Samford they get another top three program in Alabama. There are a lot of spots where this team could stumble if they are facing some of the same issues as last year - namely if Malzahn can't perform his alleged magic and fix this offense.
2019-20 Auburn Tigers Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has the Tigers at +3300 to win the national title, which places them behind just nine teams. I have a general policy of assuming that oddsmakers are smarter than me, but that is a truly insane price for this team. Bovada has them as the fifth choice to win the SEC at +2500, but that is in a totally different stratosphere than favorite Alabama at -165. That feels more reasonable - though still a long way from attractive.
2019-20 Auburn Tigers Predictions and College Football Picks
I look at this roster and this schedule and I see a seven-win team. Maybe eight at best. I really don't like much about the team right now. I don't know what it means for Malzahn, but it sure won't make his life more comfortable.
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