StatTiger: Game 2 Preview, ASU at Auburn

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) crunches the numbers to predict a winner for the Arkansas State at Auburn football game on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn 1-0 (0-0) vs. Arkansas State 1-0 (0-0)

Series Record: 2-0 (Auburn)

Last Meeting: (2010) Auburn 52, ASU 26

About each team...

Last week Auburn defeated Washington State 31-24 and Arkansas State crushed Arkansas-Pine Bluff by a 62-11 score.

Coach Brian Harsin enters his first season at Arkansas State after serving as the offensive coordinator at Boise State and Texas. Gus Malzahn enters the contest with a coaching record of 10-3.

The Red Wolves return six starters on offense and six on defense. Auburn returns six starters on offense and eight on defense.

Auburn currently has 40 players rated as 4-stars or better by and Arkansas State has one.

Auburn has 31 players with at least 20 games of experience and Arkansas State has 16.

During the past five seasons Auburn has compiled an 18-0 record at home against non-conference opponents and Arkansas State is 1-12 on the road out of conference during the same time period.

During the past five seasons the Red Wolves are 1-11 against teams from a BCS conference with an average score of 18-36.

Red Wolves are currently on a nine-game winning streak.

Inside the Numbers:

*Led by senior David Oku, the Red Wolves rushed for 509 yards during their opener with four players eclipsing the century mark. Auburn rushed for 297 yards against Washington State.

*Arkansas State ripped off 13 explosive plays against an out-manned Arkansas-Pine Bluff squad, including five of 45 yards or more. *

During the two previous meetings against the Red Wolves, Auburn won by an average score of 39-13, out gaining ASU by an average of 503 to 271 yards.

*During their last nine games against BSC competition the Red Wolves are 0-9, but four of those games were decided by 10 points or less.

*ASU is 2-53-3 against teams currently in the Southeastern Conference. Its last victory against an SEC team came against Ole Miss during the 1915 season.

*In 96 collegiate games Malzahn's offense has rushed for at least 200 yards 57 times, compiling a 48-9 record in those contests.

*In their last 26 games the Tigers have allowed an average of 191.0 yards rushing per contest.

*Auburn's starting quarterbacks dating back to the 2011 season are currently on a 25-game streak of being held under 200 yards passing.

*Last week against Washington State, Corey Grant produced the 47th 100-yard rushing game in Malzahn's tenure at Auburn as a coordinator or head coach.

*Auburn remains the only team in the Southeastern Conference to be undefeated since 2000 when scoring at least 30 points.

*Since 1992 when the SEC expanded and began divisional play, Auburn is 72-8-1 with at least 45 rush attempts during a game.

Robenson Therezie intercepted two passes for the Tigers on opening night and Josh Holsey added a third.

*Since 1992 Auburn is 68-19 in games the defense forces at least three turnovers.

What to watch for on Saturday night…

Auburn goes from defending a pass-heavy offense in Washington State to a run-heavy offense in Arkansas State. The Tigers' front seven should be better suited to defend the Red Wolves than Washington State.

Can Nick Marshall pick up from where he left off during the second half of the season opener? Marshall settled down after halftime, completing 8-11 passes after hitting 2-8 prior to intermission.

Auburn's triple-headed monster at running back could be in for another banner outing and will be called upon again to deliver a victory. Arkansas State has allowed an average of 204.1 yards rushing and 35.6 points per game in its last 20 appearances against teams from a BCS conference. This includes seven games allowing more than 250 yards rushing.

With Harsin's offensive history expect the Red Wolves' offense to be multiple in scheme, including elements of Malzahn's system and the West Coast offense. "Balance" will be the key for the Red Wolves to have success against the Tiger defense.

Arkansas State returns four starters on its offensive line, which could be an advantage when the Tigers play their less experienced ends and tackles.

Expect Malzahn to lean heavily on the running backs Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant to allow Marshall to grow into the quarterback position. This is likely to be a close game through three quarters, which means Auburn's special teams could play a major role just as they did against Washington State.

Keys to victory…

*Until Marshall becomes a more effective passer, Auburn will be reliant on its running game for success. If the Red Wolves can slow Auburn's ground game, this could easily be a fourth quarter game.

Nick Marshall made his Auburn debut last Saturday night vs. Washington State.

*Auburn's linebackers were not playing in a comfortable zone against Washington State with the Tigers defending a spread passing attack. Arkansas State should provide an opportunity for the linebackers to make a bigger impact on the outcome of the game.

*Auburn clearly has the advantage in talent and depth, but it will take better execution to obtain the most of this advantage. If the Tigers struggle early on offense, it will keep the Red Wolves emotionally in the game.

*Auburn left four or five big plays on the field during the season opener with poor execution being the culprit. These opportunities usually only arise a few times during a game and Auburn needs to execute better when plays are open for potential big gainers.

*Arkansas State will come to Jordan-Hare Stadium with a lot of confidence and excitement with the opportunity to face their former coaches as well as the opportunity to pull an upset of a Southeastern Conference foe. Auburn can only squash this emotion with superior play on the field and a good start out of the gates.

The Tigers need their passing attack to deliver explosive plays for this offense to reach its full potential.

Final Word... The key word for this week should be "focus." The Tigers need to eliminate their miscues from the opener and come closer to playing to their potential. They also need to be focused to avoid being overconfident playing against an opponent from a non-BCS conference. It's impossible for any team to be motivated to play at its emotional peak in every game, especially at the collegiate level, which makes this a dangerous game for the Tigers.

With Mississippi State coming to town next week Auburn cannot afford to peek ahead. Even if the Tigers cannot summon a lot of emotion to play Arkansas State they need to approach this game in a serious manner as an opportunity to improve in addition to winning.

Dating back to the 2011 season Arkansas State is 20-6 with a 15-1 record in the Sun Belt Conference. Though the Red Wolves won't be loaded with heavily recruited players like an SEC opponent, they are expected to be a well-coached team playing with loads of confidence. This can be a dangerous setting for the Tigers if they are expecting anything less than the Red Wolves' best shot.

Coming into the 2013 season it appeared Auburn's offensive line, running backs, secondary and special teams would be the primary strengths of the team. This proved to be the case during the victory against Washington State. If Auburn expects to improve the Tigers will need to remain healthy and have players throughout the roster step up their performance levels.

An improved quarterback performance from Marshall this week will be needed along with a solid performance while defending the run. Both teams will strive to establish their ground attacks and the team with the most success will likely secure the victory. I expect Auburn to hold the edge at the line of scrimmage on Saturday night and to come out of the game 2-0 on the season. Auburn 34, Arkansas State 23

Around the Southeastern Conference…

Florida over Miami
Kentucky over Miami-Ohio
Tennessee over Western Kentucky
Mississippi State over Alcorn State
Missouri over Toledo
Georgia over South Carolina
LSU over UAB
Texas A&M over Sam Houston
Arkansas over Samford
Ole Miss over SE Missouri State
Vanderbilt over Austin Peay

(11-2 on the season)

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