StatTiger: Previewing Alabama A&M at Auburn

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) writes about what he expects to happen when the Tigers and Bulldogs play on Senior Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Alabama A&M 7-3 at Auburn 2-8

Series Record: First meeting

National Statistical Rankings (2012): Alabama A&M rankings are at the FCS level

Rushing Offense: AAMU (No. 50), Auburn (No. 90)
Pass Efficiency Offense: AAMU (No. 51), Auburn (No. 96)
Total Offense: AAMU (No. 78), Auburn (No. 115)
Scoring Offense: AAMU (No. 63), Auburn (No. 116)
Rushing Defense: AAMU (No. 45), Auburn (No. 104)
Pass Efficiency Defense: AAMU (No. 9), Auburn (No. 101)
Total Defense: AAMU (No. 19), Auburn (No. 90)
Scoring Defense: AAMU (No. 15), Auburn (No. 67)
Net Punting: Auburn (No. 24), AAMU (No. 113)
Punt Return Offense: AAMU (No. 43), Auburn (No. 75)
Punt Return Defense: Auburn (No. 3), AAMU (No. 112)
Kick Return Offense: Auburn (No. 28), AAMU (No. 90)
Kick Return Defense: Auburn (No. 7), AAMU (No. 23)
Turnover Margin: AAMU (No. 10), Auburn (No. 110)

Inside the Numbers:

•Quarterback Deaunte Mason leads the Bulldogs with 1,873 yards passing and 16 touchdown passes. He has recorded five games of at least 200 yards passing and five with at least two TDs passes. He also has 318 yards rushing and is a threat to make plays with his feet.

•Montarius Smith leads AAMU with 44 receptions for 486 yards. He caught 10 passes for 100 yards this past Saturday.

Kaderius Lacey leads the Bulldogs with 891 yards rushing, which includes three games of more than 100 yards rushing. During the six games in which Lacey has had 17 or more carries this season he has averaged 119.3 yards rushing.

•Linebacker Vernon Marshall leads the team with 94 tackles this season followed by linebacker Montay Rover with 51 stops.

•Defensive end Reginald Bailey leads the Bulldogs in tackles for lost yardage with 9.5 tackles. The Bulldogs have 71 tackles for loss on the season, which is ranked 17th nationally at the FCS level.

•The Bulldogs run the football 58 percent of the time They have rushed for at least 150 yards five times this season. Lacey is a big, physical back at 6-0, 218.

•Auburn quarterback Jonathan Wallace enters the game with a pass rating of 160 as he makes his third start of the season.

Jonathan Wallace is a freshman from Central High in Phenix City.

Tre Mason leads Auburn in rushing with 739 yards on 138 carries. Onterio McCalebb adds an additional 469 yards on 76 carries.

Emory Blake enters the game with 45 receptions, 15 short of tying the school record of 60 receptions in one season. During the last six games he has been targeted close to nine times per game so the opportunity is there to reach the school record.

Demetruce McNeal (90) and Daren Bates (89) are closing in on 100 tackles for the season as Auburn's leading tacklers this season.

What to watch for...

•Alabama A&M has a large offensive line so look for the Bulldogs to lean on their big running back and physical quarterback to test the Auburn front seven. Auburn has struggled with mobile quarterbacks and Mason will challenge the defense.

•The Bulldogs' rotation on the defensive line averages 262 pounds, which means Auburn should be able to establish its power running game and expose a run defense that has allowed more than 150 yards rushing four times this season. This could be another big day for the combination of Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb.

•Though the Alabama A&M defense lacks size, it is quick and aggressive with 71 tackles for loss and 19 sacks this season. Watch for plenty of blitzes as Alabama A&M attempts to take advantage of an inexperienced Auburn offensive line.

•The Bulldogs are No. 9 at the FCS level in pass efficiency defense, which could pose a challenge to true freshman Jonathan Wallace.

•Auburn's defensive line accounted for only 19.1 percent of the team's tackles through the first eight games. During the last two games it spiked to 36.4 percent, which could translate to a productive outing for the Auburn front four.

Keys to victory...

•It will be important for Auburn to get off to a quick start and not allow an out-manned FCS school to believe it can compete in this game. The Tigers need to establish their running game early, something they failed to do against New Mexico State. They need to establish the run to open up the passing game for Wallace.

•How focused will the Tigers be this Saturday facing a FCS opponent and Auburn in the midst of one of the worst seasons in school history? You can count on Alabama A&M being pumped for the game, competing against one of the major programs in the state for the first time. The Bulldogs are 4-1 on the road and Auburn is 2-5 at home.

•Auburn needs to limit the mental errors and miscues that have plagued this team all season. Penalties, turnovers and missed tackles have been the norm for this squad, which could turn this into a competitive game if the trend continues on Saturday.

•If Wallace continues to improve and plays well, the Tigers should easily dispose of the Bulldogs, but this team's history of slow starts could prevent the Tigers from pulling away until the second half.

Final Word...

When this game was initially scheduled it was for the sole purpose of having a break before facing Alabama on the road the following week. What was intended as a bye-week scrimmage now has the appearance of an in-state battle. The Bulldogs will come into Jordan-Hare with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.

The primary concern for Auburn has to be where the players stand mentally. Are they now simply going through the motions with a desire to end the season and refocus for 2013? During Auburn's last two conference games the results have given the appearance of Auburn being the FCS program, including fans beginning to file out of the stadium by halftime.

Auburn's seniors will be playing their final game at home, which should be plenty of motivation to compete. The freshmen who have seen recent playing time will continue to compete, soaking up the moment of being able to contribute early.

An issue with freshmen is how hard do they continue to fight when the game begins to go south? As fans we tend to point out when the players supposedly quit, but isn't it human nature to lose some of your will when you reach a point of hopelessness? There are indeed players who give 100 percent from start to finish despite the environment, but I find it strange that fans who walk out of the stadium when the team plays poorly become critical of the players they believe have quit.

This has been a season anyone associated with Auburn wants to end as soon as possible. It is a feeling of wanting to "get over it" and move on to better days. Fans can turn off the television or walk away from the stadium, but the players and the coaches have to continue to work and compete.

Not anyone feels as much pain and disappointment over this season as the players themselves. One advantage they still possess is their youth and with youth comes resiliency. By nature athletes have competitiveness pulsating through their veins, some more than others. This combined with their physical advantages over Alabama A&M should insure victory this Saturday.

It might not look pretty this weekend, but the 2012 Tigers will secure what will be their third and final victory of the season. Auburn 38, Alabama A&M 17

Around the Southeastern Conference...

Mississippi State over Arkansas
Alabama over Western Carolina
Florida over Jacksonville State
South Carolina over Wofford
Georgia over Georgia Southern
LSU over Ole Miss
Texas A&M over Sam Houston State
Syracuse over Missouri
Tennessee over Vanderbilt
Kentucky over Samford

Season Record:75-17

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