Thu, 29 Oct 2020

Experienced Nix to lead No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 23 Kentucky

Field Level Media
23 Sep 2020, 07:55 GMT+10

Quarterback Bo Nix will look to begin building on a solid first season when No. 8 Auburn opens the season at home against No. 23 Kentucky on Saturday in SEC play.

Nix set school freshman records of 2,542 passing yards and 16 touchdown passes but the belief is his ceiling is much higher.

"He'sa different player right now and he should be," Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said. "He's got a year of experience. He's one of our leaders. ... I think you'll see him definitely improve."

Nix certainly took care of the ball with just six interceptions. He enters the season with a school-record streak of 191 thrown passes without an interception, which is the second-best active streak nationally behind Clemson star Trevor Lawrence (276).

The Tigers (9-4, 5-3 SEC in 2019) also reached the 50-point mark four times during Nix's initial campaign. That ties for second in program history behind the six 50-point outings Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton put on the board during the school's 2010 national championship season.

Kentucky (8-5, 3-5 in 2019) will have senior Terry Wilson back behind center after he missed the final 11 games of last season after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee against Eastern Michigan in the second contest of the season.

Wilson isn't a big thrower but the Wildcats primarily were a run-first operation that couldn't stretch the field without him.

In 2018, Wilson completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,889 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Coach Mark Stoops said he sees a quarterback ready to step his game up a level after dealing with the injury hardship.

"He missed the year and that hurts but he's still older and wiser and has more understanding of the offense," Stoops said. "It comes with reps. We've got to have a great week and he's got to get out there and get started. We'll ease into it with a road game at Auburn."

Stoops laughed after the easing into it with Auburn comment because he knows the opener is no easy task.

The Wildcats are just 6-26-1 all-time against the Tigers and 2-12 when visiting Auburn.

The trip to Auburn is the first for Kentucky since 2009 -- before Stoops was coach -- and the end result that time was a rare Wildcats' victory, 21-14.

Stoops sees this contest as the beginning of an ultra-tough schedule as the COVID-19 situation led to the conference pushing back the start of the season and going to a 10-game, all-SEC slate.

"We've got a challenging schedule ahead of us," Stoops said. "It's brutal. Brutally hard. I just shake my head in amazement at how difficult and how well-prepared that each and every team we play is. That's a challenge."

Capacity for Jordan-Hare Stadium has been reduced to approximately 17,500 for the opener, and Auburn students will make up the bulk of the people inside the stadium.

"If you look at it, the majority of our fans will be students." Malzahn said. "Our students are the best in the country, so I really expect those guys to bring their A-game, make it loud as possible and make it a good home-field advantage."

Auburn's top returning defender is senior middle linebacker K.J. Britt, who had 69 tackles (10 for loss) while earning first-team All-SEC honors last season. Kentucky's defense is led by senior outside linebacker Jamar "Boogie" Watson, who has 13.5 career sacks.

--Field Level Media

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