Jason Caldwell

StatTiger Column: Previewing San Jose State at Auburn Football Game

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers and predicts what will happen when the Auburn football team takes on San Jose State for Homecoming.

Peyton Barber (above) leads the Tigers in rushing.

Auburn (2-2) vs. San Jose State (2-1) 

Series Record: 1-0-0

Last Meeting: (2014) Auburn won 59-13

About the teams:

  • Coach Ron Caragher is 55-39 all time and 11-17 at San Jose State. Coach Gus Malzahn is 31-12 all time and 22-9 at Auburn.
  • Auburn is coming off a 17-9 loss to Mississippi State and the Spartans are coming off a 49-23 victory over Fresno State.
  • Auburn defeated San Jose State last year, 59-13. 
  • The Spartans are 0-5 against teams from the Southeastern Conference.
  • San Jose State is 51-173-3 against Power-5 opponents.
  • Auburn is 4-0 vs. teams currently from the Mountain West Conference with an average score of 49-18.
  • San Jose State returns 10 starters on offense and six on defense from last year's team.
  • Senior quarterback Joe Gray is off to a solid start, completing 72 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and only two interceptions. Auburn's Sean White made his debut as the starter, completing 20 of 28 passes for 188 yards with no touchdowns and one interceptions.
  • Tyler Ervin is currently averaging 160 yards rushing per game on an impressive 6.8 yards per carry for San Jose State. Peyton Barber has 411 yards rushing through four games for Auburn.
  • Tyler Winston leads SJSU with in receptions with 21 for 204 yards. Auburn's Ricardo Louis leads the Tigers with 16 receptions on the season, followed by Duke Williams 11 receptions.
  • Linebacker Christian Tago leads the Spartans with 40 tackles on the season as well as tackles for loss with four. Auburn has three players with 32 tackles or more, led by Rudy Ford with 35 and Cassanova McKinzy with 32 stops.
  • Former Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges is the current OC for San Jose State. He will likely script his first 15-20 plays, utilizing multiple formations to see how Auburn will defend the Spartans. Expect a game plan involving a balanced attack to keep the Auburn defense guessing.  

How they match up...

The Spartans will bring an experienced and balanced attack to Jordan-Hare Stadium. They average 241 yards through the air and 201 rushing yards per game.

Jason Caldwell

Al Borges (above) will return to Auburn where he coached for four seasons as offensive coordinator, which is his position with the Spartans.

San Jose State is currently allowing 236 yards per game on the ground at 5.6 yards per attempt.

The Spartans have 24 tackles for loss on the season, allowing 25 on offense. Auburn has only 19 tackles for loss while allowing 23 on offense.

San Jose State has allowed a 10-yard run or more every 5.6 attempts and a pass play of 15-yards or more every 13.4 attempts.

Only 25 percent of the players signed by San Jose State over the past four years were rated as 3-stars or better and only 1.1 percent were 4-star players or better. Auburn should hold a major talent advantage over the Spartans.

Keys to Victory...

Auburn should be able to establish the run early and often against the Spartans. 

Auburn must take away the Spartan running game early or face a balanced attack that could make it difficult for the defense to get off the field.

Auburn has turned the ball over at least once in 18 of its last 20 games. Turnovers and miscues could make this a close game. 

Auburn cannot afford to lean on its run offense exclusively. White and the passing attack need as many reps as possible to build a level of chemistry in the passing game. 

What to watch...

  1. Look for San Jose State to take what the Auburn defense surrenders on pass defense, mixed in with a steady flow of the running game. Auburn must tackle well to limit yards after contact.
  2. Until Auburn can show the ability to be explosive on offense, it will be difficult to create separation on the scoreboard. 
  3. Look for White's role in the offense to expand as the Auburn coaching staff opens up the offense this Saturday.
  4. Will Auburn be able to be more successful on first down against an inferior opponent? 
  5. Ervin had a SJSU record-setting performance against Fresno State, rushing for 300 yards on 42 carries. Fresno State has allowed more than 200 yards rushing in their games. Ervin was limited to just 10 yards on three carries last season against Auburn.
  6. Look for the Auburn running backs to be more involved in the passing attack.
  7. Look for Al Borges to utilize his tight ends this weekend. Billy Freeman (tight end) is the second leading receiver on the Spartan roster. He caught 19 passes last season and already has 15 through four games in 2015. 

 Final Word...

 At 2-2 on the season and six conference games remaining, Auburn needs this victory to work towards becoming bowl eligible. Before the season began, this game appeared to be a tune up game for the Tigers, but this game suddenly becomes more interesting. Based on the way the Tigers have performed, they could be 0-4 on the season and cannot afford to take any opponent lightly. The last time out against an inferior opponent Auburn had a bland game plan, and the players were not focused. Hopefully, the coaches and players have learned from their earlier mistake and will be focused on the task of improving as a team. 

The Tigers catch a break in their schedule with two weeks to improve under White before going back into conference play. The change forces Auburn to start all over in terms of building consistency and efficiency with a new quarterback in place. Auburn won't likely be as conservative in White's second start, allowing him to throw more often to build his confidence and continuity with his receivers. Malzahn is still searching to find that balance in his play calling to keep the opposing defense on their heels. Fewer substitution packages might also aid in the tempo of the offense as well consistency in execution.

This season began with high expectations but has become a rebuilding process on both sides of the football. The coaches will try to keep their players focused on improving. This is a major challenge when players cannot see the forest for the trees. Some players will easily buy into the concept of winning championships, but often not the process of working towards one. If the coaches can convince the players this game is an opportunity to become better as a team, it will be a tremendous step forward. It might not be a polished outcome, but this team is in dire need of a convincing victory. Auburn 31, San Jose State 14

Around the Southeastern Conference:

South Carolina over Missouri

No. 8 Georgia over No. 13 Alabama

No. 3 Ole Miss over No. 25 Florida

No. 9 LSU over E. Michigan

Arkansas over Tennessee

Middle Tennessee over Vanderbilt

No. 14 Texas A&M over No. 21 Mississippi State

Kentucky over Eastern Kentucky

Season Record: 36-7


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