StatTiger: Analyzing/Previewing Samford at AU

In his StatTiger column Stuart Carter writes about Auburn's home finale football matchup as Coach Pat Sullivan's Samford Bulldogs travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

Samford (7-3) at No. 16 Auburn (7-3)

Series Record: Auburn (26-0-1)

Last Meeting: (2011) Auburn, 35-16

About the teams:

Head coach and Auburn’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Pat Sullivan, has a 71-83-1 overall record, including a 47-42 mark at Samford. His 47 victories with the Bulldogs is the most in school history. Gus Malzahn is 28-8 all time and 19-5 at Auburn.

Nick Marshall has a quarterback rating of 144.3 with 14 touchdown passes and five interceptions. His backup, Jeremy Johnson, will likely see action this week for the Tigers. Johnson has a passer rating of 215.9 and has thrown for three touchdowns on 33 pass attempts. Sammie Coates and Quan Bray have combined for 49 receptions, 725 yards and five touchdowns. Duke Williams leads Auburn with 38 receptions, but is expected to be out for the second game in a row due to a knee injury.

Cameron Artis-Payne leads Auburn and the Southeastern Conference in rushing with 1,276 yards at 5.60 yards per carry. Marshall is No. 2 on the team with 739 yards rushing, averaging 6.06 yards per attempt.

Cassanova McKinzy leads the Auburn defense in tackles with 73 as well as tackles for loss with 9 1/2. Davonte Lambert is next with seven tackles for loss.

Auburn has 63 tackles for loss on defense while allowing 48 on offense. This includes 17 sacks and nine surrendered.

Jonathan Jones is No. 7 nationally with 14 passes defended and leads the Tigers in interceptions with five.

The Samford ground game averages 188.2 yards per game led by Denzel Williams with 877 at 5.0 yards per rush. Michael Eubank is second on the team with 235 yards rushing and five touchdowns, and has a quarterback rating of 138.9 with 11 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He is a mobile QB, who has completed better than 64 percent of his passes this season.

Kerel Hamilton leads Samford in receptions with 50 for 810 yards and six scores while running back Williams has 23 catches.

Linebacker Justin Cooper leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 87. Roosevelt Donaldson leads the team in tackles for loss with 7 1/2 tackles and has four of the team’s 13 sacks.

Samford has averaged 415.4 yards per game on offense while allowing 305.4 yards.

Samford’s only game this season against a Power-5 conference opponent came against TCU in the season opener. The Bulldogs fell 48-14, allowing 555 yards while gaining only 143.

What to watch...

Look for a heavy dose of the Auburn running attack to expedite the conclusion of the game. Expect Auburn to clear the bench with their running backs, which means the return of Peyton Barber, who has not had an offensive touch since the LSU game.

Jeremy Johnson is a sophomore QB who has played well in limited duty.

The offense will likely shine under Johnson at quarterback and Roc Thomas as Marshall and Artis-Payne see limited action this Saturday night.

The toughness of Auburn's schedule is beginning to catch up with the team both physically and mentally. With the team playing at home against a lesser caliber opponent, look for the coaching staff to work on the depth chart.

With the majority of the team's goals out of reach, it will interesting to see how these Tigers respond the remainder of the season. Samford will not be a physical challenge, but this game provides Auburn with an opportunity to clean up some of its recent miscues. The turnovers, penalties and missed assignments are becoming too frequent.

Final Word...

What once appeared to be a very promising season recently spiraled out of control. The defense and special teams have struggled the past four weeks and the offense finally joined in the mix against the Georgia Bulldogs.

Last season the team improved as the season progressed, but the opposite has occurred this year. Auburn's schedule is likely part of the reason for the decline in performance, but the coaching staff has failed to obtain the most of the team’s talent this season. This was not the case last season, which makes this season’s struggles perplexing. There are some shortcomings that can be explained with talent issues, injuries and depth concerns, but the miscues, turnovers and excessive penalties are something entirely different.

Losing on the road to Mississippi State and Georgia is not shocking, but how the Tigers lost certainly is a concern. Auburn should have defeated Texas A&M, but mistakes, turnovers and penalties continued to plague this team. It all came to a head in Athens, Ga., where the Tigers fell to pieces after a strong start in the first quarter.

Heading into the final home game this week at Jordan-Hare the Stadium, there are more questions than answers about this year’s team. This is a time when senior leadership needs to step up because Auburn is not performing at the level it did earlier in the fall.

Although the 2013 Tigers had a great season, the manner in which the 2014 season has unfolded is evidence the program is still in a construction mode. Auburn should win big this weekend before returning to conference play one more time this season. How the Tigers compete in that game on the road against Alabama could be a positive step forward in the program building process or be an indicator of how much work there is to do for Malzahn and his staff. Auburn 49, Samford 10

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Florida over Eastern Kentucky
Georgia over Charleston Southern
South Carolina over South Alabama
Ole Miss over Arkansas
Alabama over Western Kentucky
Tennessee over Missouri
Mississippi State over Vanderbilt

.Season Record: 72-21


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