Auburn Football: Ranking Tigers’ 2020 opponents by toughness

Big Kat Bryant, Auburn football (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Big Kat Bryant, Auburn football (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Southern Miss football
Jay Hopson, Southern Miss football (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Jay Hopson’s squad finished 2019 on a tough note. After a 36-17 win at UTSA, the Golden Eagles lost three straight against Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, and Tulane. After a strong middle stretch of the season, all the momentum in Hattiesburg disappeared in November.

The biggest positive in 2019 for Southern Miss was their pass rush. Eagle rushers sacked the quarterback on 9.6 percent of plays, a rate that was good for tenth nationally. Replacing that production will be tough, considering that Jacques Turner is the lone returner in the defensive line room.

Chad Morris’ tenure in Fayetteville was rough, finishing off with a 2-10 overall mark and an 0-8 SEC record, but it’s a new era for Arkansas in 2020.

Morris is now the Auburn offensive coordinator, while former Georgia offensive line coach, and tremendous recruiter, Sam Pittman is the new man for the Razorbacks. Despite it being his debut season  as a head coach, he’s already brought renewed energy to a program in desperate need of exactly that.

This team is led by one of the nation’s best running backs in Rakeem Boyd, and he’ll run behind a line that returns four of five starters, and the unit’s lone underclassman is one of those four.

That’s a huge asset to new quarterback Feleipe Franks, who transferred from Florida, as well as new offensive coordinator Kendall Briles. There are also a few young playmakers on the outside in Mike Woods, Treylon Burks, and Trey Knox, who should blossom in 2020.

Former Missouri head coach Barry Odom takes over a massive rebuilding project on the defense, but after the absymal 2019 campaign, the Razorbacks still appear set to win more games than they did a year ago. That’s not saying much, but for a program in such dire shape, the resurgence won’t happen immediately.