StatTiger: Previewing Auburn at Alabama Game

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) crunches the numbers to analyze what to expect for the 2012 Iron Bowl game.

Auburn 3-8 (0-7) at Alabama 10-1 (6-1)

Series Record: 41-34-1 (Alabama)

Last Meeting: (2011) Alabama 42-14

National Statistical Rankings (2012):

Rushing Offense: Alabama (No. 27), Auburn (No. 73)
Pass Efficiency Offense: Alabama (No. 2), Auburn (No. 91)
Total Offense: Alabama (No. 44), Auburn (No. 112)
Scoring Offense: Alabama (No. 19), Auburn (No. 107)
Rushing Defense: Alabama (No. 3), Auburn (No. 93)
Pass Efficiency Defense: Alabama (No. 7), Auburn (No. 93)
Total Defense: Alabama (No. 2), Auburn (No. 74)
Scoring Defense: Alabama (No. 1), Auburn (No. 59)
Net-Punting: Auburn (No. 24), Alabama (No. 29)
Punt Return Offense: Alabama (No. 37), Auburn (No. 58)
Punt Return Defense: Auburn (No. 2), Alabama (No. 60)
Kick Return Offense: Alabama (No. 14), Auburn (No. 33)
Kick Return Defense: Auburn (No. 4), Alabama (No. 82)
Turnover Margin: Alabama (No. 13), Auburn (No. 106)

Inside the Numbers:

•Once again Alabama has a solid combination of running backs with Eddie Lacey (870 yards) and T.J. Yeldon (809 yards). The two have combined for 152.6 yards rushing per game and 21 rushing TDs.

Eddie Lacy leads the Alabama ground game with a lot of help from a strong offensive line.

A.J. McCarron is currently the No. 3 rated passer in the nation with 2,291 yards, 21 TD passes and only two interceptions.

•Freshman Amari Cooper leads the Tide with 40 receptions for 658 yards and six touchdowns receiving. Alabama has three additional receivers averaging more than 25 yards per game.

•Linebacker C.J. Mosley leads Alabama with 89 tackles this season. Defensive end Ed Stinson leads the team in tackles for loss with 8 1/2.

•Alabama is a sound tackling team, but is only No. 43 nationally in tackles for lost yardage and seventh in the conference.

•The Alabama defense has allowed only six plays of 20 yards or more on run defense, but has allowed 20 of 25 yards or more through the air.

•Since 1981 the team with the most rushing yardage during the Iron Bowl is 25-6. Auburn is 13-2 and Alabama is 12-4 in those games.

•During the last five Iron Bowls, Alabama has nine TD passes and has thrown just one interception.

•Since 1951 Auburn is 2-18 vs. Alabama teams ranked in the top five with an average score of 29-10 in favor of Alabama.

•Under Coach Nick Saban, Alabama is 22-0 vs. teams that finish the season with losing records and 5-0 against teams with losing records this season.

What to watch for...

•Because Auburn's defense will likely sell out to stop the run on early downs, look for Alabama to throw often on first down. The Crimson Tide has a pass rating of 194.6 on first down.

•Can Auburn's offense avoid third and long against Alabama? Against conference opponents Auburn is 6-52 on conversions facing third and seven or longer this season (11.5%).

•Can Auburn avoid the early onslaught, which has plagued the Tigers in conference play this season? The Tigers have been outscored 72-7 during the first quarter against SEC teams.

•How much pressure can freshman Jonathan Wallace take on the road against one of the best defenses in college football? Scot Loeffler can help his young quarterback with quick passes on first down and max protection on his vertical passes.

•Can Auburn establish a productive running game to take the pressure off of Wallace? The Tigers are currently averaging 86.0 yards rushing per game in conference play while Alabama is allowing 81.6 yards rushing in conference play. Alabama has allowed 152.0 yards per game rushing in its last two conference contests.

•Under Gene Chizik Auburn has faced 19 opponents from a BCS conference that averaged more than 400 yards per game on offense. The Auburn defense allowed 463 yards and 34 points per game in those contests.

Keys to victory...

•Because the Tigers are clearly outmatched on both sides of the football, they will need help from turnovers and special teams. With Alabama No. 13 in turnover margin and Auburn No. 106, a mental collapse on a grand scale on the part of Alabama is not likely.

•During the last two seasons Auburn has faced six Top 10 ranked defenses and is averaging 12.3 points in those games. If Auburn is to have any chance of winning this game the defense will have to hold Alabama to under 14 points.

•Sustaining long drives against the Alabama defense will be nearly impossible when you consider Auburn has only five touchdown drives of more than 50 yards in its seven conference games. If Auburn is going to score the Tigers will need a short field or big plays.

Final Word...

Not since the seventies has Auburn been such a major underdog against Alabama, which is back in the national championship picture after two undefeated teams fell this past Saturday while Auburn recorded its third victory 11 games.

Though this Alabama team might not be as strong as the one that captured the BCS National Championship in 2011, it certainly is more than capable of taking control of the contest early on Saturday. Alabama has averaged 427 yards and 36 points per game while allowing 268 yards and 13 points in conference play this season. Auburn has averaged 245 yards and 12 points while allowing 444 yards and 32 points per contest in conference games.

Unless Alabama's quarterback plays poorly this Saturday, it should be able to counter Auburn's attempts to shut down the Tide's running game. He will make the difference between how Auburn competed against LSU and how the Tigers fared against the Georgia Bulldogs.

Zach Mettenberger of LSU struggled against Auburn, allowing the Tigers to control the LSU running game. Aaron Murray of Georgia had another big game against Auburn, opening up the running game for the Bulldogs. McCarron will likely be able to follow the same blueprint Georgia used against Auburn. Unless Auburn offensive coordinator Loeffler has a few new wrinkles in place for the Alabama defense, the Crimson Tide should have no problems defending Auburn's base offense.

Scot Loeffler will be calling plays for the Tigers.

During the last 30 Iron Bowls two-thirds of the games have been settled by nine points or less, which means this rivalry has primarily been settled on execution and the team with the fewest mistakes wins. The ability to execute consistently and limit its mistakes is why Alabama is 10-1 on the season and currently ranked No. 2 in the BCS.

Auburn's lack of consistency and propensity for mistakes is why the Tigers enter the Iron Bowl with a 3-8 record. This more than anything describes the identity of both teams and why Alabama is a heavy favorite to win this Saturday.

Because of the rivalry Auburn will likely come out with spirited play, but this team has proven to have a glass jaw after the first major punch is landed by the opposing team. Once this Auburn team loses its legs, the fight is basically over with as the opponent continues to land combination after combination. There are better days ahead for the Auburn football program, but not on this current calendar. Alabama 49, Auburn 7

Around the Southeastern Conference...

Georgia over Georgia Tech
Tennessee over Kentucky
Florida State over Florida
Vanderbilt over Wake Forest
Texas A&M over Missouri
Ole Miss over Mississippi State
Clemson over South Carolina

Season Record: 85-18

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