AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn's championship aspirations ride on the right arm and brains of freshman quarterback Bo Nix, and Bo knows he'll have to play better starting Saturday as the No. 9 Tigers host Kent State on homecoming weekend. Auburn was less than spectacular offensively in a 24-6 victory over Tulane last week that featured a 31-yard touchdown catch by senior wide receiver Will Hastings, who is also helping his young quarterback mentally.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: Auburn -35
"I was trying to stay positive with him and let him know it's OK," Hastings told reporters. "It's one game and we're going to win no matter what. … Just have fun. Let's just play." Nix has completed only 47.1 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his first two games but thanks to a solid offensive line (one sack allowed) and a stingy defense, the Tigers are allowing the 6-2, 207-pound Pinson, Ala., native time to grow. This is the final tune-up for Nix and Auburn, though, as they begin a daunting SEC schedule at No. 15 Texas A&M on Sept. 21. The Golden Flashes followed a season-opening 30-7 loss at Arizona State with a come-from-behind 26-23 overtime victory over FCS member Kennesaw State last week.
ABOUT KENT STATE (1-1)
Junior quarterback Dustin Crum was a surprise starter last week over junior Woody Barrett, who began his collegiate career at Auburn before transferring to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi and Kent State. Golden Flashes coach Sean Lewis hasn't publicly announced whether Crum or Barrett, who beat out Crum for the job last season and started every game while throwing for 2,339 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, will take the first snap. Senior defensive end Theo Majette is off to a fast start with three sacks after recording a team-leading 4.5 in 2018.
ABOUT AUBURN (2-0)
The running game is off to a slow start at 189 yards per game - 51st nationally - with sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow leading the way with 206 yards and a score. Senior safety Jeremiah Dinson has already recorded a sack and interception while leading the team with 13 solo tackles among his 19 total. Nix will be down a target Saturday because sophomore wide receiver Seth Williams, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the Tigers' 27-21 season-opening victory over No. 17 Oregon, will not play after sustaining a shoulder injury last week.
1. Auburn leads the SEC and is eighth nationally in third down conversion defense at 20.7 percent.
2. The Tigers are last in the country by allowing 35.8 yards per punt return but Kent State has totaled only 26 yards on six chances.
3. Auburn is 7-0 against the MAC - it beat Ball State 54-30 in its last such encounter in 2009 - but has never faced Kent State.
PREDICTION: Auburn 45, Kent State 10