No. 23 Kentucky from the SEC East takes on No. 8 Auburn from the SEC West on Saturday from Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Wildcats are coming off an 8-5 season (3-5 SEC), while the Tigers went 9-4 overall (5-3 SEC). This will be the first game of the season for both teams.
These teams have not met since 2015. A little over 17,000 students are expected to be in the stands in an 87,000-seat stadium.
The line has trended down a bit this week. After opening with Auburn -8.5, it has dropped to Auburn -7.5 points. Auburn is getting a narrow 51 percent of the bets against the spread. Kentucky is getting 62 percent of the bets on the moneyline.
The over/under has ticked upward in this contest from 47.5 points to 49 points. Despite the upward trend, 61 percent of the wagers on the total have come on the under.
The temperature at kickoff is slated to be in the high-70s with a real-feel temperature in the low 80s. It's expected to be mostly cloudy but there isn't any precipitation in the forecast. Winds are expected from the west-southwest at five miles an hour with gusts coming in at less than 10 miles an hour.
Wilson returns as the starting QBLast season, Kentucky managed to win eight games despite losing starting quarterback Terry Wilson to a season-ending knee injury in the second game. Once Lynn Bowden Jr. took over as the starter, the Wildcats became a very run-heavy team. Bowden was a receiver-turned-quarterback, wh ran for 1,468 yards with 13 TDs and threw for just 403 yards. Wilson threw for 360 yards with 2 TDs and picks before the injury. Another player who entered the picture in the offseason was Joey Gatewood (6-4, 220), a talented transfer from Auburn. He rushed for 176 yards and three TDs at Auburn in 2019, while throwing for 54 yards. He was considered a four-star recruit by most services. Gatewood will likely not play this Saturday and is still waiting to get a waiver to suit up this season. He's already been cleared by the NCAA, but not the SEC. At running back, Asim Rose (826 yards, 6 TDs), Kavoseiy Smoke (616 yds, 6 TDs) and Christopher Rodriguez Jr. (533 yds, 6 TDs) all return.
“Interconference definitely is a factor, transferring from one SEC school to another,” head coach Mark Stoops on 247sports.com. “We are waiting to hear back from the SEC. I feel good about it. I understand every situation is different. A lot of times people want to group it all together. Every case needs to be looked at individually. “We’ll wait and see. I have confidence in the leadership of this group. We’ll see where it goes.”
Live Now: Coach Stoops Pre-Auburn Press Conference https://t.co/PBoFUeXmz0— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 21, 2020
Last season, Kentucky averaged just 113.7 yards per game in the air (127th) and should improve a ton with Wilson back. Defensively, they led the SEC and ranked second in the nation in pass defense (167.8ypg). They struggled against the run, allowing 156.8 yards per game (11th SEC, 64th overall). Seven starters return from the defense led by safety Yusuf Corker (74 tackles) and MLB DeAndre Square (69 tackles).
OUT: QB Joey Gatewood, OL Chris Oats
Questionable: WR Isaiah Epps
Welcome to the Bo Nix eraAuburn took some lumps last season, knowing that they were going with a true freshman quarterback in Bo Nix. They struggled against good defenses in Florida (24-13 loss), LSU (23-20 loss), and Georgia (21-14 loss). But the experience that Nix had should pay off this season. He threw for 2,542 yards with 16 TDs and six picks, while rushing for 313 yards and seven TDs. His top target is back in Seth Williams, who caught 59 passes for 830 yards and eight TDs. RB JaTarvious Whitlow (763 yds, 10 TDs) left the program so that means D.J. Williams (400 yds) should be the lead back.
IT'S GAMEWEEK!— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) September 21, 2020
Our journey to the SEC Championship begins NOW. pic.twitter.com/Lid8DNSKL8
The offense was solid last season, averaging 33.2 points per game (28th), but they could use a stronger passing game (207.5 ypg). Enter Chad Morris, their new offensive coordinator and former head coach at Arkansas.
In terms of defense, the Tigers allowed just 19.5 points per game (17th) and 213.8 yards per game in the air (47th). The defensive line took a hit with the loss of Derrick Brown to the NFL, but senior DE Big Kat Bryant (nine QB hurries) and senior DT Tyrone Truesdell (3 sacks) return. The linebacking corps is strong, but there is a concern about the secondary.
OUT: LB O.C. Brothers, LB Romello Height, LB Josh Marsh, LB Chandler Wooten
Auburn is: n/a
- 4-0 ATS last 4 overall.
- 6-1 ATS last 7 on grass.
- 11-5 ATS last 16 as a road dog.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I do like the hook here, but I also think Kentucky is a legit team that has a good enough defense to cause Nix problems. Nix struggled with accuracy against some very good defenses and the Wildcats have a very good one. They held Georgia to 21 points and Tennesse to 17 last season. Their offense should be more balanced this season with Wilson under center. If I know Gatewood was eligible, I'd think lean towards Kentucky winning this outright, because he can give them a different look as more of a dual-threat quarterback.
Prediction: Kentucky +7.5
Full-Game Total Pick
I like this just a tad better than the side. That's because Kentucky does not have a dynamic offense and they need to keep the score low to win. They certainly have the defense to do so, while Auburn also has a quality defense. Both defenses allowed less than 20 points per game. Nix's lack of accuracy against quality defenses is a concern. Take the under.
Prediction: Under 49.5