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StatTiger Column: Previewing, Analyzing Auburn at Kentucky Football Game

Stuart Carter crunches the number and predicts the winner and tells why in his StatTiger column.

Mark Stoops (above) is head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Auburn (3-2) vs. Kentucky (4-1) 

Series Record: 25-6-1

Last Meeting: (2010) Auburn won 37-34

About the teams:

  • Mark Stoops of Kentucky is 11-18 all time as a head coach. Gus Malzahn is 32-12 overall and 23-9 at Auburn.
  • Auburn is coming off a 35-21 victory over San Jose State and Kentucky defeated Eastern Kentucky, 34-27 in overtime. Both teams are coming off a bye-week.
  • Auburn has won 16 of the last 17 meetings against the Wildcats with the only loss coming during the 2009 season.
  • The Wildcats under Stoops are 4-15 in conference play.
  • Auburn is 2-6 during its last 8 conference games.
  • Kentucky returned seven starters on offense and seven on defense.
  • Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles is the No. 62 rated passer nationally. He has thrown for 230.6 yards per game, including eight touchdown passes and six interceptions. Auburn's Jeremy Johnson is the No. 91 rated passer and Sean White would be the No. 75 rated passer if he had enough pass attempts to qualify.
  • Stanley “Boom” Williams leads Kentucky in rushing with 343 yards at 7.3 yards per carry. Auburn’s Peyton Barber is the fifth leading rusher in the Southeastern Conference at 111.6 yards per game.
  • Dorian Baker leads Kentucky in receptions with 24 for 276 yards with three touchdowns. Auburn’s Ricardo Louis leads the Tigers in 19 receptions for 193 yards and one touchdown.
  • Senior linebacker Josh Forrest leads Kentucky in tackles with 49, which is fifth in the conference. Auburn safety Rudy Ford is tied for fifth place in the SEC with 49 stops and Kris Frost is seventh in the conference with 43 tackles. 

How they match up...

  • Kentucky is ranked No. 95 in total offense and will face off against an Auburn team ranked No. 93 in total defense. 
  • Auburn is No. 109 in total offense and will face a team ranked No. 59 in total defense.
  • The Kentucky offense is No. 86 in scoring offense and will face an opponent ranked No. 75 in scoring defense.
  • Auburn is No. 93 in scoring offense and will face a Wildcat team ranked No. 49 in scoring defense.
  • Kentucky is No. 57 in third down offense and will face a defense ranked No. 113 in third down stops.
  • Auburn is No. 45 in third down offense facing a defense ranked No. 54 in third down stops.
  • Auburn is No. 90 in generating impact offensive plays and Kentucky is No. 54.
  • Based on scoring margins and averages from Power-5 competition only, the game projects a Kentucky victory of 19-17 and 31-15. Average the two scores and the Wildcats project to a 25-17 winner over Auburn.
  • Kentucky is No. 107 run offense vs. an Auburn run defense ranked No. 108. Auburn is No. 50 in run offense vs. Kentucky, whick is No. 77 in run defense.

Keys to Victory...

  1. Kentucky is 14-60 fro 2000 to 2015 in conference games in which the Wildcats allow more than 175 yards rushing. Establishing the run will help mask Auburn's issues in its pass offense.
  2. Auburn has allowed an average of 201 yards rushing per game during that last 35 conference games. New coordinator Will Muschamp knows the key to successful defense is defending the run.
  3. From 2000-2015, Auburn is 34-3 in conference play when it rushes for at least 150 yards, completes over 50 percent of its passes for at least 7.5 yards per pass attempt. 
  4. Kentucky is No. 75 nationally in yards rushing allowed per attempt on first down and Auburn is worse, ranked No. 109.
  5. Auburn must avoid obvious passing situations. The Tigers are ranked 120th in third down pass-efficiency. 
  6. Kentucky is No. 107 in rushing. Since Malzahn has been at Auburn the Tigers are 42-4 when they out-rush and out-carry their opponent.

What to Watch...

The Wildcats enter Thursday’s game ranked No. 82 in first down defense, allowing 6.05 yards per play on first down. If Auburn can exploit this weakness it could make for a productive offensive performance.

The 2015 Auburn pass offense is No. 3 among the last 25 Auburn offenses in pass efficiency on first-down. Will Malzahn take advantage of this recent success?

Jason Caldwell

Peyton Barber, a redshirt sophomore running back, has been Auburn's most productive offensive player this season.

Kentucky is currently No. 92 nationally in allowing 22 first downs per game, an area a struggling Auburn offense could exploit. 

Can the Auburn defense get off the field in a timely manner? Through five games 49 percent of the possessions defended have netted at least seven snaps. Last season it was only 31 percent. 

Through five games the Wildcats have thrown the football 52 percent of the time during the first quarter in an attempt to loosen opposing defense. The first quarter has been Auburns worse quarter defending the pass. 

 Final Word...

The Tigers take to the road for the second time this season. The last time away from home Auburn was dominated by LSU, falling behind 24-0 before the Tigers finally scored in the third quarter. Without doubt is the most critical game up to this point of the schedule. Of Auburn's remaining conference games, the Wildcats appear to be the least challenging opponent. With this being said Kentucky has performed better as a team than Auburn despite possessing less talent than the Tigers. Both teams had a bye-week this past Saturday, which could favor the defenses. The scoring projections and current production of both teams point towards a low-scoring affair.

This is a game Auburn can win by out-rushing its opponent and protecting the football, which likely means a conservative game plan on the part of Malzahn. Until the Auburn coaches once again find confidence in their quarterbacks there will be reluctance in opening up the offense. Under Jeremy Johnson, the offense ran the ball 53 percent of the time during the first half. With Sean White in the game Auburn ran the ball 73 percent of the time during the first half. The extra time off gave the coaches an opportunity to self-scout their team, which could allow  the Tigers to take a step forward.

The scoring projections point to a Kentucky victory, but the numbers have been based on an Auburn offense struggling to find its identity. Malzahn led offenses are 55-5 when rushing for at least 170 yards, completing at least 55 percent of their passes for at least 7.0 yards per pass attempt. Auburn’s offense under Malzahn has reached 170 yards in conference play 75 percent of the time. His pass offense has completed at least 55 percent of its passes in 70 percent of the time. The challenge will be gaining at least 7.0 yards per pass attempt, where Malzahn's offense has reached this goal only 54 percent of the time. Auburn 27, Kentucky 23

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Ole Miss over Memphis

Mississippi State over La. Tech

Alabama over Texas A&M

South Carolina over Vanderbilt

Florida over LSU

Georgia over Missouri

Season Record: 46-12


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