Stats Advantage Goes To Alabama

Famed Kentucky Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp was speaking at Alabama's basketball banquet in the early 1970s. He spoke of Grantland Rice, the famous sportswriter, as being "a smart guy, a Vanderbilt graduate." But he disagreed with Rice to some extent on why the games are played.

After quoting Rice's noble thought on "how he played the game" being more important than whether the game was "won or lost," Rupp said, "Then why to they have all those scoreboards?" Certainly we all wish for the game to be played with sportsmanship, and Alabama Coach Nick Saban is more concerned with the process than the result. Sport in general, though, and certainly football, is a game of numbers.

It should come as no surprise that the numbers put up by Alabama this year are more impressive than Auburn's statistics. After all, Alabama is 11-0 and ranked first in the nation. Auburn, expected to challenge for the national championship this year, is a disappointing 5-6. In Southeastern Conference play, the Crimson Tide is 7-0, clinched the Western Division title a few weeks ago and will play Florida for the title on Dec. 6 at the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta. Auburn was expected to win the West, but the Tigers are 2-5 in SEC games.

Alabama's motivation is the Tide must win to keep its national championship hopes alive. Auburn's motivations are to get bowl eligible and to continue its winning streak against Alabama, which is now at six.

The outcome of a game is points scored against points allowed. In 11 games thus far, Alabama ranks second in the SEC in scoring at 31.7 points per game while Auburn is 10th in scoring, 18.9 points per game. The Tide is second in scoring defense, allowing 12.5 points, and Auburn is right behind, third in scoring defense, allowing 16.4 points per game.

Coaches like Alabama's Nick Saban and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville historically consider the running game to be important: run the ball and stop the run. Bama does it best on both sides. Alabama is second in the league in rushing offense, 198.5 yards per game, and first in rushing defense, allowing just 75.1 yards per game. Auburn is sixth in rushing, 144.8 yards per game, and eighth in rushing defense, 130.3 per game.

Auburn has a slight advantage in the passing game when it comes to yardage. The Tigers are ninth in the SEC with 170.2 yards per game, Bama 10th at 168.5. Defensively, Auburn is sixth, allowing 178.9 yards per game passing, while the Tide is seventh, giving up 180.5 yards per game. When it comes to efficiency, Alabama has the better numbers. In passing offense efficiency, the Tide is fourth in the SEC, Auburn ninth. In passing defense efficiency, Alabama is second, Auburn seventh.

Alabama is sixth in total offense, 367.1 yards per game, Auburn eighth, 315 yards per game. Bama is first in total defense, allowing 255.6 yards per game, the Tigers sixth, giving up 309.2 yards per game.

Two areas watched by coaches are third down efficiency and turnover margin.

Alabama ranks second in the SEC in third down conversions, having been successful on 61 of 143 opportunities, 42.7 per cent. Auburn is eighth, having made 61 of 169 chances, 36.1 per cent. The Crimson Tide is best in third down defense, allowing opponents just 24.7 per cent success, 39-158. Auburn is second in the league in third down defense, allowing 43 of 156 chances, 31.8 per cent.

In turnover margin, Alabama is third in the SEC at plus six (the Tide has six fumble recoveries and 15 interceptions for 21 takeaways and has lost nine fumbles and had six passes intercepted for 15 turnovers). Auburn is ninth at minus five (the Tigers have seven fumble recoveries and 11 pass interceptions for 18 takeaways and have suffered 10 lost fumbles and 13 pass interceptions for 23 turnovers).

Alabama is the SEC's least penalized team, 47 penalties for 38 yards per game. Auburn is ninth, 70 penalties for 47.5 yards per game.

Both teams have had time of possessions success. Alabama is first in the SEC at 32:15 per game, Auburn third at 30:43.

In the Red Zone, Alabama is sixth in success, scoring 38 times (26 touchdowns, 12 of 16 field goals) in 46 trips for 82.6 per cent. Auburn is last in the league in the Red Zone, scoring only 20 times (13 touchdowns, 7-12 field goals) on 35 opportunities, 57.1 per cent. Auburn is better in Red Zone defense, ranking second by holding opponents to 69 per cent success (20-29 on 14 touchdowns and 6-10 field goals). Alabama ranks only eighth, but the Tide hasn't allowed opponents into the Red Zone much, only 16 times. Florida is second best at keeping opponents out of the Red Zone, 27 times. Tide opponents have scored 13 of 16 times when they get inside Bama's 20, scoring seven touchdowns and 6-8 field goals.

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