JaTarvious Whitlow

Auburn offensive lineman Marquel Harrell (77) lifts running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) after Whitlow scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Oxford, Miss. 

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Before the start of Illinois football's training camp on Aug. 2 in Champaign, beat writer BOB ASMUSSEN is counting down the Top 50 teams heading into the 2019 college football season:

No. 20: Auburn

Coach: Gus Malzahn

2018 record: 8-5

Projected 2019 record: 8-4

Circle the date: Nov. 30 vs. Alabama

Bowl trip: TaxSlayer

Why No. 20: Last time out in the Music City Bowl against Purdue, the Tigers could have beaten anybody, with a 63-14 romp against the Boilermakers. Despite the great win, Auburn fans weren’t thrilled with the work done by Malzahn. ... The head coach will call the offensive plays this season. His first move will be to name a quarterback. He is down to returnee Joey Gatewood and newcomer Bo Nix. ... Whoever wins the quarterback job will work behind an offensive line that brings back all five starters. ... JaTarvious Whitlow returns after running for 787 yards and six touchdowns last season. ... Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz are the leading returning receivers. ... Seven starters return on defense, led by end Nick Coe. He had seven sacks last season. ... The Tigers will be challenged in the opener against Oregon in Arlington, Texas. The rest of the nonconference slate is a breeze, with games against Tulane, Kent State and Samford. In the SEC, the Tigers visit Texas A&M, Florida and LSU. They host Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama.

Last year’s ranking: No. 10

News-Gazette

College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).