StatTiger Column: Previewing FAU at Auburn

StatTiger (Stuart Carter) crunches the numbers and writes about what to expect as the Tigers play Florida Atlantic on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Florida Atlantic 2-5 (1-4, Conference USA) at No. 11 Auburn 6-1 (3-1, SEC)

Series Record: 1-0 (Auburn)

Last Meeting: 2011 (Auburn, 30-14)

About the teams:

Auburn is coming off a 45-41 victory over Texas A&M and the Owls are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Marshall, 24-23.

FAU coach Carl Pelini is currently 5-14 midway through his second season at Florida Atlantic. Gus Malzahn is 15-4 overall and 6-1 at Auburn.

Auburn is currently No. 19 nationally in total offense and No. 88 total defense. FAU is No. 85 in total offense and No. 30 in total defense.

Auburn is No. 7 nationally in run offense and will face a FAU defense ranked No. 84 against the run.

Florida Atlantic is No. 100 in scoring offense vs. and Auburn team ranked No. 32 in scoring defense. Auburn is No. 30 in scoring offense vs. FAU ranked No. 55 in scoring defense.

The Owl offense will be led by quarterback Jaquez Johnson, who has averaged 175 yards passing and 58 yards rushing per game. He has a passer rating of 120.1. Nick Marshall leads Auburn in passing with 190 yards per game tp go with 65 rushing yards per game. Marshall possesses a QB rating of 132.4.

FAU running back Jonathan Wallace leads the Owls in rushing with 72.6 yards per game at 4.9 yards per rush. Tre Mason leads Auburn in rushing with 99 yards per game at 5.8 yards per carry.

Daniel McKinney leads FAU with 32 receptions for 328 yards. Sammie Coates leads Auburn with 18 receptions for 423 yards.

Linebacker Adarius Glanton leads the Owls in tackles with 48 and Brandin Bryant leads FAU tackles for lost yardage with six. "Star" Robenson Therezie leads the Tigers in tackles with 33 while Dee Ford along with Gabe Wright have 6.5 tackles for loss to lead the Tigers in that category.

Inside the Numbers...

*The Owls are 0-8 all time vs. SEC teams with an average loss by a score of 44-13.

*Auburn is currently scoring 13.2 percent more points against FBS competition than its opponent normally allows while holding the same opponents to 27.4 percent below their scoring average.

*FAU is currently scoring 13.8 percent less than what its FBS opponents normally allow and its defense is holding opponents to 14.1 percent below their scoring averages.

*Auburn is currently No. 7 nationally in tackles for loss and will face a FAU offense currently No. 74 in allowing tackles for loss. The Owls are No. 75 in forcing tackles for loss and will face an Auburn offense ranked No. 11 in tackles for loss allowed.

*The Owls are currently No. 18 nationally in pass efficiency defense, which could challenge an Auburn pass-offense ranked No. 46 in pass efficiency offense.

What to watch...

*FAU will lean on its running game early in an attempt to maintain offensive balance in its spread offense. Florida Atlantic held a fourth quarter lead in two of its losses and was tied in the fourth quarter in another loss. The 2-5 record is not indicative of how competitive the Owls have been at times this season.

Auburn redshirt sophomore tackle Greg Robinson is one of the reasons the Tigers are leading in the SEC in rushing at 300.1 yards per game.

*The Owls surrendered 300 yards rushing to their most competitive opponent this season (Miami). Middle Tennessee rolled up 296 yards rushing against FAU. Auburn should be able to establish its running game this Saturday night.

*Auburn obviously needs to continue to improve on its passing. The Tigers could find it difficult to throw on FAU if the Owls are able to control the Auburn rushing attack.

*Expect Malzahn to open up the offense early in an attempt to dispose of the Owls as quickly as possible. It will be vital that Marshall performs efficiently early in the game. Jeremy Johnson is also expected to see action at quarterback and will likely play during a series early on.

*Looking at the scoring averages and scoring margins for both teams against FBS competition projects a much closer game than expected. It projects an Auburn victory of 29-16 and 28-22. Average the two projected scores and Auburn wins 28-19. Strength of schedule likely taints the projected scoring margin.

*FAU is currently allowing its opponents to rush for 9.2 percent more than their FBS opponents normally averages. Auburn is rushing for 49.1 percent more yardage than its FBS opponents have allowed. Based on these current trends, Auburn is projected to rush for 248 to 290 yards this Saturday.

Keys to victory...

*Avoid the mental lapse from beating a Top 10 SEC opponent to competing against a Conference-USA opponent with a losing record.

*Auburn has a superior group on both sides of the line of scrimmage, which means the Tigers should be able to dictate the flow of the game. Auburn has won the tackle for loss battle in six of seven games and needs to make it seven of eight to establish dominance early.

*This game could be closer than most expect and Auburn cannot afford to breath life into FAU by turning the ball over.

*If Auburn can rush for 250 or more yards, this game should not be close, but if Tigers don't reach that mark it could become interesting.

*Focus, execution and determination on the part of the Tigers should prevent this game from being too close for comfort.

Final Word...

Auburn's big road win against Texas A&M has now raised the Tigers from hunter status to hunted. The first BCS Poll was released this past Sunday with the Tigers appearing at No. 11. They are now the third highest ranked team in the Southeastern Conference with four conference games remaining on the schedule.

Quarterback Nick Marshall passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more last Saturday vs. Texas A&M.

The Auburn coaching staff has done a superb job leading the team to its current ranking, but it has also created a new challenge for the entire team. Future opponents will now view Auburn as a prized target, which means the Tigers will likely receive the opponent's most concerted effort. The goal for Auburn now turns to preventing complacency and to continue their focus on team goals.

With only five games remaining in the regular season, the road to Atlanta suddenly becomes a steeper climb. Each play, each series and each quarter is magnified with fewer opportunities for mistakes. After this Saturday Auburn hits the road for two consecutive weeks in conference play before returning home to close out the season with its two biggest conference rivals.

Though Auburn will be favored in its next two conference games, winning on the road is always a major task. With the recent injuries on the defensive side of the football, Auburn's offense and special teams need to take the lead in providing a buffer for the team.

Florida Atlantic will be more of a mental challenge for Auburn this Saturday than a physical test. There is plenty of room for improvement and despite holding their destiny in their hands, the Tigers are not good enough at this point to run the table. Auburn has made enough plays to post a 6-1 record, but has made enough mistakes to lose three or four of the games remaining on its schedule.

It's this fine line of making enough plays to be successful and shooting themselves in the foot that has prevented Auburn from being undefeated and winning by a larger margin in other games. The miscues and breakdowns must be minimal as the second half of the season continues for the Tigers to continue their winning ways. Auburn 41, Florida Atlantic 14

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Mississippi State over Kentucky
Texas A&M over Vanderbilt
Alabama over Tennessee
Missouri over South Carolina
LSU over Furman
Ole Miss over Idaho

Season Record: 52-9


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