StatTiger: Analyzing Auburn Vs. Wisconsin

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers to predict what will happen when Auburn takes on Wisconsin at the Outback Bowl in Tampa.

No. 19 Auburn (8-4) vs. No. 17 Wisconsin (10-3) at Outback Bowl

Series Record: Tied (1-1-1)

Last Meeting: (Jan. 1, 2006 Capital One Bowl) Wisconsin, 24-10

About the teams...

Barry Alvarez is the interim head coach for Wisconsin, taking over for Gary Andersen, who posted a 19-7 record with the Badgers before leaving after the Big Ten Championship Game to take a job as head coach at Oregon State. Alvarez has a record of 118-74-4 and is 1-1 vs. Auburn. Gus Malzahn is 29-9 all time and 20-6 at Auburn.

Barry Alvarez is back on the field as a coach after a two-year break when he served as interim head coach as the Badgers lost to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Auburn’s Nick Marshall has a quarterback rating of 148.6 this season with 18 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Duke Williams, whose status for the bowl game is questionable. leads Auburn with in receptions with 45 for 730 yards. Sammie Coates has 30 receptions for 717 yards.

Cameron Artis-Payne leads the Tigers and the Southeastern Conference in rushing with 1,482 yards at 5.35 yards per attempt. Marshall enters the game with 780 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.

Johnathan Ford leads Auburn in tackles with 84, followed by Cassanova McKinzy with 82 stops. Linebackers McKinzy and Kris Frost have combined for 19 tackles for losses this season.

Jones is No. 7 nationally in passes defended with 17 and leads the Tigers with six interceptions.

Melvin Gordon is an All-American running back for the Badgers

Wisconsin is No. 4 nationally in rushing with 314.0 yards per game. Melvin Gordon, the Heisman Trophy runnerup, leads the Badgers in rushing with 179.7 yards per game and 26 rushing touchdowns. Corey Clement has 844 yards rushing at 6.4 yards per attempt.

The Badger pass offense has been less impressive this season with an efficiency rating of 117.9, which is No. 97 nationally. Quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy have combined for only 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Wide receiver Alex Erickson has accounted for nearly one-third of Wisconsin's receptions with 51 for 734 yards.

Junior-safety Michael Caputo leads the Badgers with 99 tackles this season. Linebackers Vince Biegel and Derek Landisch have combined for 30.5 tackles for loss, including 15 1/2 sacks.

Wisconsin averages 465 yards and 35 points per game while allowing only 283 yards and 20 points per game on defense.

In seven bowl appearances Malzahn’s offense has averaged 487 yards, including 265 rushing and 36 points per game.

Auburn is 22-14-2 in bowl games.

How they match up...

*Auburn’s is ranked No. 12 nationally in rushing vs. a Wisconsin run defense ranked No. 17. Wisconsin is No. 4 in rushing vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 46 in run-defense. Edge to Wisconsin.

*Wisconsin’s offense is ranked No. 97 in pass efficiency vs. Auburn, which is No. 65 in pass efficiency defense. Auburn is No. 13 in pass efficiency vs. Wisconsin, which is ranked No. 23 in pass efficiency defense. Edge to Auburn.

*Wisconsin is No. 13 in yards per play on first down vs. Auburn, which is No. 96 in yards allowed on first down. Auburn is No. 36 in yards per play on first-down vs. Wisconsin, which is No. 68 in yards allowed per play on first down. Edge to Wisconsin.

*Auburn is No. 2 nationally in third down offense vs. Wisconsin, which is ranked No. 2 in third down defense. Wisconsin is No. 75 in third down offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 39 in third down defense. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 57 in red zone touchdown percentage vs. Wisconsin, which is No. 37 in red zone defense. Wisconsin is No. 45 in red zone offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 39 in red zone defense. Edge to Wisconsin.

*Auburn is No. 8 in generating run plays of 10-plus yards and pass plays of 15-plus yards vs. Wisconsin, which is ranked No. 22 on defense. Wisconsin is No. 29 in generating impact plays on offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 99 on defense. Edge to Wisconsin.

*Auburn is No. 13 in generating run plays of 20-plus yards and pass plays of 25-plus yards vs. Wisconsin, which is No. 65 on defense. Wisconsin is No. 6 in generating big plays vs. Auburn, which is No. 67 preventing them. Slight edge to Wisconsin.

*Auburn is No. 39 in turnover margin vs. Wisconsin, which is No. 106 nationally. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 51 in tackles for loss vs. Wisconsin, which is No. 53 in tackles for loss allowed. Wisconsin is No. 37 in tackles for loss vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 54 in tackles for loss allowed. Edge to Wisconsin.

*Wisconsin is No. 109 in net punting vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 75. Edge to Auburn.

*Auburn is No. 23 in punt return offense vs. Wisconsin, which is No. 70 in punt return defense. Wisconsin is No. 73 in punt return offense vs. Auburn, which is No. 76 in punt return defense. Edge to Auburn.

*Wisconsin is No. 49 in kickoff returns vs. Auburn, which is No. 87 in kickoff return defense. Auburn is No. 78 in kickoff return offense vs. Wisconsin, which is No. 42 in kickoff return defense. Edge to Wisconsin.

*Wisconsin is No. 7 in time of possession vs. Auburn, which No. 56. Edge to Wisconsin.

Keys to Victory...

*With Auburn surrendering nearly 198 yards rushing per game during its last six FBS games it will be essential for the Tigers to limit the Badgers’ powerful running attack, which has averaged 314 yards per game.

*Malzahn will likely need to be aggressive in his offensive game plan, just as he was against Alabama. The Badgers will key on the Auburn running game, creating opportunities for the Tigers’ wide receivers.

*Wisconsin leads all Power-5 teams in yards per rush on first down plays at 7.2. The Auburn defense must limit the Badger running game in an attempt to place Wisconsin in obvious passing situations.

*Auburn must overcome the Badgers’ strength advantage with its team speed. Under Malzahn’s direction Auburn is 37-6 when his offense generates at least eight impact plays during a game, averaging 41.7 points per game

*Turnovers have severely hurt this year’s Auburn team. However, Auburn holds a major edge over Wisconsin in turnover-margin, something the Tigers must make work in their favor. Auburn is 64-8 from 2000-2014 when winning the turnover battle.

What to watch...

Wisconsin has a ball-control offense currently ranked No. 7 in time of possession. Its goal will be to make it a short game with the intent of limiting the Tigers to 8-10 possessions rather than 12 to 14.

Williams might not be available for the Outback Bowl, which means an opportunity for someone else to step up within the receiving corps. Melvin Ray could be that receiver to watch against the Badgers. Ray has been targeted only 10 times this season, but has made the most of his opportunities. On his seven receptions this season, each has resulted in either a first down or touchdown and all seven catches have been impact plays (15-plus yards).

The Badger run defense has faced four opponents that averaged better than 200 yards rushing for the season, holding them to 24 percent below their rushing average. If Wisconsin can maintain this average, it projects Auburn to rush for 196 yards.

*The Wisconsin pass defense is No. 108 nationally allowing big pass plays (25-plus yards) every 12.4 pass attempts. The Auburn pass offense is No. 7 nationally in generating big pass plays every 9.7 pass attempts.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Sammie Coates, who will enter the 2015 NFL Draft, will be playing his final college game vs. Wisconsin.

*Establishing Artis-Payne to set up the play-action pass will be essential for the Tigers. Auburn is 9-4-0 in bowl games with a 100-yard rusher.

Final Word...

Looking at both teams’ scoring averages and margins against Power-5 competition projects two possible outcomes. One projection has Auburn winning, 36-29, and the other has the Badgers winning, 38-26. Average the two scores and Wisconsin wins, 33-31.

Though Wisconsin is currently No. 4 in total defense, it is important to keep in mind that eight of its opponents were No. 80 in total offense or worse and six were No. 105 nationally or worse. To their credit the Badgers have held Power-5 opponents to 23 percent below their yardage average, which projects for Auburn to gain 378 yards. This is an obtainable goal for the Wisconsin defense, especially if Auburn is limited to just 8-10 possessions during the game.

With Coach Ellis Johnson gone Charlie Harbison is be stepping in as Auburn’s interim defensive coordinator for the Outback Bowl. Will Muschamp has been present during practice, but primarily for player evaluation, but his input is expected to be taken seriously and could have an impact on how the Tigers perform.

Charlie Harbison has coached Auburn's safeties the past two seasons.

Regardless of Muschamp's influence for the New Year’s Day bowl game, Auburn's remaining coaching staff knows the Tigers are in for a physical matchup with the Badgers. If Auburn struggles against the Wisconsin running game, it will be a long afternoon for the Tigers.

With an offense loaded with departing personnel, look for Malzahn to go full throttle in his offensive game plan. There are 10 primary contributors on offense playing in their final game as an Auburn Tiger, players who will want to go out with a splash. You can expect Malzahn to give them every opportunity to do just that. There are fewer key seniors on defense, but they will also want to leave Auburn on a positive note.

The younger defenders have the motivation of playing well for their new defensive coordinator and a head coach demanding for the team to finish strong. The extensive layoff for bowl teams tends to favor the defenses, which could make this a lower scoring game than expected. Look for Auburn's overall team speed to be a key advantage against the Badgers. Auburn 34, Wisconsin 24

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories