Stat Tiger: Lots of Road Tests for Auburn

Stuart Carter writes about the challenge the Auburn football schedule offers as the Tigers look to repeat as SEC champions.

The road to a college football championship is often a bumpy track, especially when it comes to playing away from the confines of home.

From 1992-2013 Auburn has won 77 percent of its games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but only 55 percent of its games away from its home field. The last four times Auburn made it to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game the regular season schedule featured five games away from home, including the league title game.

This year Coach Gus Malzahn’s team must play six times away from Jordan-Hare Stadium to win back-to-back championships. Malzahn will be counting on the experience gained last year to help the Tigers handle the 2014 lineup of games.

“I think if you look at our entire schedule, I would like to think we are battle-tested," Malzahn pointed out. “We have been in some true dog-fight games. We have been in some games where the pressure was on the road, at home, and our guys have responded.”

Auburn’s experience this season could be a key to success. The Tigers’ roster features second highest number of seniors in the conference. They also have the most players (15) with at least 30 games of experience.

During the unbeaten 2004 season Auburn had 29 players with at least 20 games of experience, including 10 with 30 games of experience.

The 2010 unbeaten national championship team had 23 players with at least 20 games of experience, including 12 with 30 games.

The 2013 SEC Championship squad featured 28 players with 20 games of experience, including 10 with 30-games.

Auburn’s 2014 roster will have 22 players with at least 20 games of experience, including the 15 with 30 games under their belts. That is significant to the head coach. “In big games I know they are not going to panic,” Malzahn said. “I have got to believe that will help us moving forward.”

From 2007-2013 offenses at the FBS level averaged 372.5 yards per game on the road. Malzahn’s offenses have averaged 471.9 yards per game on the road during the same time period. His 2010 Auburn offense averaged 461 yards and 34 points per contest on the road.

During the past seven seasons only Houston, Texas Tech and Oregon averaged more yards per contest in road games than Malzahn’s offenses. Look for the Tigers to rely heavily on their offense again this year when they hit the road.

Last year’s group averaged a school-record 504 yards per game plus 41 points per contest and returns many of its key players, including the starting quarterback, Nick Marshall. The senior said the Tigers are looking forward to the opportunity to do big things. “We just embrace the moment of being in the spotlight and playing big teams,” Marshall said. “We just need to keep doing what we are doing and we will be alright.”

During his collegiate coaching career, Malzahn’s offense has averaged 459 yards and 33 points per game on the road. This includes a winning percentage of 65 percent while scoring at least three offensive touchdowns in 75 percent of those road games. If Auburn can avoid serious injuries, the offense has the potential to be one of the top groups in the country again this year.

The Tigers hope to build on what they accomplished on the road last season in an attempt to avoid the pitfalls associated with such a grueling road schedule. From 1992-2013 the Southeastern Conference champion compiled a record of 134-18 on the road. Only eight of the last 22 SEC champions finished the season undefeated on the road, which included the 2004 and 2010 Auburn teams. Only three of the last 22 SEC championship teams had more than one loss away from home, including the 2013 Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn coached offenses compiled a 29-6 road record when scoring more than 24 points during a game and Auburn is 40-4 on the road from 1992-2013 under the same circumstances. Auburn should again be a very strong running team with a tendency to be more vertical in the passing game this season.

Malzahn's 2013 squad was No. 1 in the nation in rushing yards per game on the road. His 2010 Auburn offense was No. 7 nationally during away games and his 2008 Tulsa running attack was No. 8.

Auburn has the talent and depth at the skill positions to field a high-octane offense in 2014. The 2014 team should be motivated by the fact it came up short in last year’s BCS National Championship Game.


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