Though the strength of the competition has been about the level of a deaf, blind antelope, the Auburn Tigers have looked ferocious so far this season. Combined scores against Akron and Alabama State? 120-10.
Bo Nix, who had completed just 58.7% of his passes through his first two seasons, has been deadly accurate, completing 74.4% of his passes so far with five touchdowns and no INTs.
The backfield is in great shape with Tank Bigsby and freshman Jarquez Hunter both already logging well over 200 yards.
The receiving corps has been balanced; six players have at least 40 yards.
But oddsmakers are putting zero significance on what they have seen so far — understandably. The Tigers obviously have a massively difficult SEC West schedule lying ahead, along with a road game at #10 Penn State this weekend. Their odds to win the SEC have gotten longer since the season began, fading from +4000 to +4750. The main reason is the early exploits of Alabama and Georgia. The reigning champs from Tuscaloosa have reloaded, as always, under Nick Saban, while perennial bridesmaid Georgia opened the year with a 10-3 win over No. 2 Clemson in a hostile environment.
It would be nice to look at Nix’s early performance and say he’s turned a corner in his development as a passer. But recent history gives us pause.
Last season, Nix racked up some impressive numbers against the likes of LSU (300 yards, three TDs, no INTS) and Kentucky (233 yards, 3 TDs, no INTs). But in his three games against top-five opponents – #1 Alabama, #4 Georgia, and #5 Texas A&M – he averaged just 183 yards per game with a 58.4 completion percentage. He didn’t throw a single touchdown pass in 12 quarters, but did throw three picks.
Auburn opened as a 4.5-point road underdog to the Nittany Lions in their upcoming Week 3 game this Saturday (Sep. 18th). But less than 24 hours later, the point spread has already ballooned to 5.5 or six points at online sportsbooks. The over/under point total is at 52.5, meaning oddsmakers predict a final score in the 29-23 range. While this non-conference game won’t move the Tigers up or down the SEC standings, it has the potential to influence the minds of oddsmakers going forward. Penn State already owns an impressive 16-10 road win over then-#12 Wisconsin.
If Auburn can escape University Park with a W on Saturday, expect their SEC futures to improve in turn. Currently on par with a struggling LSU and a shade behind Kentucky (+4500), the Tigers should move into the second tier alongside Texas A&M (+2150), Florida (+2350), and Ole Miss (+3150) if they put on an impressive performance in one of the toughest road environments in the nation.