StatTiger: Previewing/Analyzing USC at Auburn

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers for his StatTiger column and picks a winner as South Carolina visits Auburn for an SEC East vs. SEC West football matchup.

Senior Cameron Artis-Payne (above) leads the Tigers in rushing.

South Carolina (4-3) at No. 5 Auburn (5-1)

Series Record: Auburn (9-1-1)

Last Meeting: (2011) Auburn, 16-13

About the teams:

*Steve Spurrier has 223-82-2 overall college coaching record and is 81-42-0 at South Carolina. Gus Malzahn is 26-6 all time and 17-3 at Auburn. Spurrier has lost his last six meetings against Auburn.

*Nick Marshall has a quarterback rating of 138.4 with 10 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. The Auburn quarterback’s leading receiver is Duke Williams with 31 receptions for 493 yards and five touchdowns. Jeremy Johnson has a quarterback rating of 231.2 with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

*Cameron Artis-Payne leads Auburn in rushing with 664 yards at 5.27 yards per carry. Marshall is No. 2 on the team with 492 yards rushing, averaging 6.56 yards per attempt.

*Johnathan Ford leads Auburn with tackles in 41 followed by Cassanova McKinzy with 40. Montravius Adams and Davonte Lambert lead the Tigers in tackles for loss with 5.0.

Sophomore Johnathan "Rudy" Ford has been a standout performer for the Auburn defense.

*Auburn has 39 tackles for loss on defense while allowing 29 on offense. This includes 12 sacks to six surrendered.

*The Gamecocks’ ground game currently averages 185.4 yards per game, led by Mike Davis with 662 yards at 5.47 yards per rush. Brad Wilds is their No. 2 rusher with 276 yards at 4.93 yards per carry.

*Dylan Thompson has a quarterback rating of 142.0 with 15 touchdown passes and six picks. He currently averages 262.7 yards passing per game.

*Pharoh Cooper and Nick Jones have combined for 60 receptions for 789 yards per reception and seven touchdown receptions.

*Linebacker Skai Moore leads South Carolina with 43 tackles for the season. Gerald Dixon leads the Gamecocks in tackles for loss with 5.0.

*The Gamecocks have recorded 23 tackles for loss this season while allowing 28 on offense. This includes eight sacks on defense and 13 sacks allowed on offense.

*Malzahn’s offense vs. South Carolina has averaged 483 yards and 33 points per game.

How they match up...

*Auburn’s run offense is ranked No. 13 nationally vs. USC’s run defense, which is ranked No. 90. USC is No. 49 in rushing vs. Auburn, which is No. 26 in run-defense. Major edge to Auburn.

*USC’s offense is ranked No. 42 in pass efficiency vs. Auburn, which is No. 14 in pass efficiency defense. Auburn is No. 14 in pass efficiency vs. USC, which is No. 77 in pass efficiency defense. Major edge to Auburn.

Dylan Thompson is a fifth-year senior at quarterback for the Gamecocks.

*USC is No. 77 in yards per play on first down vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 64 in yards allowed on first down. Auburn is No. 52 in yards per play on first down vs. USC, which is No. 106 in yards allowed per play on first down. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 2 nationally in third down offense vs. USC, which is No. 77 in third down defense. USC is No. 49 in third down offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 27 in third down defense. Major edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 27 in red zone touchdown percentage vs. USC, which is ranked No. 76 on defense. USC is No. 41 on offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 33 on defense. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 7 in generating running plays of 10-plus yards and pass plays of 15-plus yards vs. USC, which is ranked No. 121 on defense. USC is No. 29 in generating impact plays on offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 59 on defense. Major edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 24 in generating running plays of 20-plus yards and pass plays of 25-plus yards vs. USC, which is No. 85 defending them. USC is No. 66 in generating big plays on offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 35 defending them. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 28 in turnover margin vs. USC, which is ranked No. 88 nationally. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 47 in tackles for loss vs. USC, which is ranked No. 11 in tackles for loss allowed. USC is No. 126 in tackles for loss vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 30 in tackles for loss allowed. Slight edge to Auburn.

*USC is No. 55 in net punting vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 72. Edge to USC.

Auburn is No. 2 in punt return offense vs. USC, which is No. 58 in punt return defense. USC is No. 96 in punt return offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 99 in punt return defense. Edge to Auburn.

*USC is No. 69 in kickoff return offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 111 in kickoff return defense. Auburn is No. 58 in kick return offense vs. USC, which is No. 127 in kick return defense. Slight edge to Auburn.

Keys to victory...

•Auburn should be able to run against this Gamecock defense, but execution will dictate whether or not the Tigers take advantage of this edge.

•Auburn needs to take care of the football. The Tigers enter the game with a huge advantage in turnover-margin over the Gamecocks, but turnovers can swing any game.

•Auburn has an opportunity to win both sides of the line of scrimmage and needs to do that.

•Last game Marshall was only 10-17 passing on first down. This must improve for Auburn's offense to move forward.

•More of a focus on the short to intermediate routes by the Auburn pass offense would be a great step forward. The long ball opportunities will always be there.

•Auburn’s defense needs to play well on first down to take away the Gamecocks’ ability to remain balanced offensively.

What to watch...

*The Gamecock defense is allowing FBS opponents to rush for 6.3 percent more than the opponent’s season average. This projects Auburn to 278 rushing yards this Saturday night for the Tigers

*Did Auburn make the most of its bye week to make the adjustments needed to continue team improvement? Last season the Tigers benefited tremendously from their bye week following their loss to LSU.

*How well will the Gamecocks defend Auburn's blitz packages? If Thompson has time to pass, he could have a good night passing.

*Will running back Roc Thomas have an expanded role in the Auburn offense? This could be a big night for the true freshman to shine should he have 10-plus offensive touches against the Gamecocks.

Roc Thomas has carried the football 19 times for 108 yards with one touchdown.

*South Carolina is No. 109 nationally with more than 35 percent of its passes defended resulting in a first down or touchdown. This could translate to a big night for Marshall as the Tigers are No. 14 nationally in producing first downs within their pass offense.

Final Word...

Looking at the scoring averages and margins of both teams vs. FBS competition from a major conference favors the Tigers. Auburn has scored 53.6 percent more than its opponent has allowed while its defense has held the opponent to 49.0 percent below its scoring average. South Carolina is 47.0 percent on offense and plus 10.0 percent on defense. Taking the scoring margins vs. scoring averages, it translates to a 56-18 Auburn victory and a closer Auburn victory of 35-29. Average the two scores and Auburn wins 45-23. If you look at conference games only, it favors the Tigers, projecting an Auburn victory of 52-26.

Last season after a 35-21 loss to LSU on the road, Auburn had a bye week. The coaching staff did an excellent job of self-scouting and evaluation to make the necessary adjustments to improve moving forward. Based on the comments from the coaches and players there is no doubt the Tigers are hoping to accomplish the same goals from their second bye week this season.

Nick Marshall has a 138.44 passing efficiency rating.

The Gamecocks are struggling to stop offenses, coming into Jordan-Hare ranked No. 80 in total defense and No. 91 in scoring defense. Everything points to a productive night on offense for the Tigers. Unless Auburn's offense self-destructs that should happen.

The primary concern for the Tigers is on defense, where Auburn will be forced to face a balanced offensive attack for the second game in a row. Spurrier has certainly studied Auburn’s blitz packages over the past couple of weeks and will do everything in his power to keep the pressure off of his quarterback. If the Gamecocks can keep the Auburn front honest with their run offense, it should open up their play-action throws.

In the end Auburn’s offense will simply be too much for South Carolina to respond to point for point. Since arriving at Auburn, Malzahn's offense has averaged 467 yards and 40 points per game playing at home, including a 32-3 record. Auburn, 45, South Carolina 24

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Arkansas over UAB
Mississippi State over Kentucky
Missouri over Vanderbilt
Alabama over Tennessee
LSU over Ole Miss

Season Record: 56-12


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