Series record: 7-0-0 in favor of Auburn
2010 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 7th/Rush Offense: 91st
Pass Offense: 82nd/Pass Offense: 77th
Total Offense: 17th/Total Offense: 95th
Score Offense: 41st/Score Offense: 112th
Rush Defense: 27th/Rush Defense: 50th
Pass Defense: 93rd/Pass Defense: 114th
Total Defense: 61st/Total Defense: 95th
Score Defense: 61st/Score Defense: 87th
Louisiana-Monroe recorded its first victory of the season last Saturday with a 21-20 home win over Southeastern-Louisiana. Since moving up to major college football, ULM has yet to register a winning season, including a 3-31-0 record against Southeastern Conference schools.
Auburn currently holds a 7-0 record against the Warhawks, but ULM came very close to upsetting the Tigers in 1996 with Auburn winning a 28-24 ball game that included overcoming a 17-point deficit.
This is Todd Berry's first season as the head coach at ULM, but he was their former offensive coordinator in 2004 and 2005. The Warhawks were tied for first place in the Sun Belt Conference during the 2005 season, finishing the season with a 5-6 record.
Redshirt freshman Kolton Browning is the Warhawks starting quarterback as well as their leading rusher on the season. In the last two games Browning has averaged a combined 337 yards per game passing and rushing. The 6-1, 196 athletic quarterback is the heart and soul of the ULM offense with 590 yards passing and 183 yards rushing.
Kolton Browning is hit as he tries to thrown in his team's game vs. Arkansas last month.
Luther Ambrose, Anthony McCall and Brent Leonard are all three tied with 10 receptions on the season with Ambrose being the Warhawks' big-play receiver. Frank Goodin has 2,606 career rushing yards along with 22 rushing touchdowns. Goodin had 1,126 yards rushing last season, but is off to a slow start in 2010.
Linebacker Jason Edwards leads ULM with 29 stops this season, which is tied for first in the Sunbelt Conference, and defensive end Ken Dorsey leads the team with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Louisiana-Monroe is currently ranked 95th in total defense and 100th in tackles for loss. ULM depended on a senior laden 3-3-5 defense in 2009, which had to be rebuilt in 2010. The average weight of the Warhawks' starting defensive line is only 265 pounds, which drops down to 242 pounds when they go to their second line. The Warhawks field a youthful team with 29 freshmen and sophomores seeing action during the first three games compared to the 23 juniors and seniors.
Inside the Numbers...
•Auburn is 7-0 all time against Louisiana-Monroe by an average score of 43-10.
•During the seven meetings with ULM, Auburn's offense averaged 457 yards per game while the Tiger defense allowed an average of 258-yards.
•The last time the two teams met was in 2008 when Auburn rushed for 321 yards against the Warhawks.
•Auburn opened up its season with a 52-26 victory over Arkansas State, which defeated ULM, 34-20 two weeks ago. The Warhawks surrendered 474 yards to Arkansas State, struggling against a very balanced offense.
•Over the past 20 years, Auburn has compiled a 51-2-0 record against opponents from a non-BCS conference. During those games, Auburn averaged 443 yards and 38 points per game while allowing 275 yards and 13 points per game.
•Auburn's last loss to a non-BCS opponent came in 1991 when the Southern Miss Golden Eagles defeated Auburn 10-9.
•Jason Campbell had the best QB rating (300.6) against ULM when he passed for 184 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 pass attempts in 2002.
•In the seven meetings against ULM, Auburn's leading rusher averaged 7.6 yards per carry against the Warhawks. Ben Tate's 115 yards on 13 carries during the 2008 season was the best rushing performance by an Auburn Tiger against the Warhawks.
•Jeris McIntyre had the best receiving performance against ULM when he made four receptions for 100-yards in 2003.
Why Auburn will win...
•Though the Warhawks came close to pulling off the upset in 1996, ULM is in the midst of rebuilding their program, which should allow Auburn to name the score this Saturday.
•With Arkansas State having more than 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing against ULM, the Auburn Tigers could be looking at a possible 600 yards outing.
•Including his games at Tulsa and Auburn, Gus Malzahn has competed against 25 FBS schools from a non-major conference. In those games his offense averaged 567 yards and 46 points per game. Four of those games have been at Auburn where the Tigers have averaged 595 yards and 52 points per game.
•There simply is too much of a talent and depth advantage for the Auburn Tigers, who should have no issues hanging 40-60 points on the Warhawks.
Why Louisiana Monroe could win
•Despite being 4-0 and No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, Auburn has been self destructive through four games. Turnovers, penalties and poor execution at times have prevented the Tigers from fielding a more polished product. It would take a major case of implosion on the part of the Tigers for ULM to pull the upset, which is not likely to happen.
After three consecutive games of being physically challenged, this Saturday's game should provide an opportunity for Auburn to clear the benches and to limit the playing time of the starters. The challenge this week won't come from the opponent, but from the Auburn coaching staff. If it's true an average team gets up for only four or five games a season, Louisiana-Monroe won't be anywhere near the top of the list in games that excite the players.
This is a prime opportunity for the Tigers to iron out some of their execution issues and to refine the latest installments for the offense as well as the defense. Though Auburn needs its big-play ability, the "look" Auburn unveiled against South Carolina will make the Tiger offense difficult to defend. This might be a good time to work on the short passing attack, but I see a heavy dose of the running game because Coach Gene Chizik will want to get through this game very quickly.
Cameron Newton is off to the best start by any Auburn quarterback. He is currently leading the conference in pass efficiency as well as rushing. Newton has directed two come-from-behind victories while compiling impressive numbers as the 4th highest rated passer in the nation.
Quarterback Cameron Newton is off to a strong start in his first season at Auburn.
Newton is the only Auburn quarterback to start a season with four consecutive games of two touchdown passes or more and only Dameyune Craig ever threw for at least two touchdown passes in four consecutive games period. With his major contributions through four games there is no doubt the 2010 Auburn offense is now taking the personality of their quarterback. Chris Todd managed to accomplish this feat somewhat in 2009, but Newton has taken it to a whole new level.
This game will also provide the Auburn coaching staff the opportunity to find more playing time for the reserves, especially the freshmen who will likely play a more pivotal role later in the season. The more snaps they can take in a game like this the more efficient they will become called upon in later conference games. It's also a reward for the backups who work hard but don't see the field as often as the starters and other players in a player rotation.
The goal this week is simply getting out of week No. 5 without any major injuries and an opportunity to rest the starters for their next road trip to Lexington to play the Kentucky Wildcats. The game will likely be over early after having three straight down-to-the-wire wins, but I do expect the starters to play through the first half. If Auburn can come away with a 28-point victory, no turnovers and limited penalties it will be great outing for the Auburn Tigers. Auburn 56, Louisiana-Monroe 13
Around the SEC:
Kentucky over Ole Miss by 6
Mississippi State over Alcorn by 21