Photo by Jason Caldwell

StatTiger Column: Previewing Idaho at Auburn Football Game

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers and predicts a winner and score for the Idaho at Auburn football game scheduled for Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Peyton Barber (above) has rushed for 900 yards as a redshirt sophmore for the Tigers.

Idaho (3-7) at Auburn (5-5)

Series Record: Auburn leads 1-0

Last Meeting: (1999) Auburn 30-23

About the teams:

  • Paul Petrino is in his third year as head coach at Idaho where he has a 5-28 record. Coach Gus Malzahn is 34-15 all time and 25-12 at Auburn.
  • Auburn is coming off a 20-13 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs and Idaho was defeated at home by Appalachian State, 47-20. 
  • Auburn is 22-0-0 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt Conference with an average score of 41-12.
  • The Vandals are 3-12 in conference play with Petrino as head coach.
  • Idaho is 0-7 vs. Southeastern Conference teams with an average score of 12-40.
  • Sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan leads Idaho in passing, averaging 274.6 yards per game. He has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns, but has thrown10 interceptions.
  • Sean White leads Auburn in passing with 1,064 yards and Jeremy Johnson leads the Tigers in completion percentage (62.3).
  • Elijhaa Penny leads Idaho in rushing with 1,006 yards on 4.6 yards per carry. He has rushed for more than 100 yards during three of his last four games.
  • Auburrn's Peyton Barber is closing in on a 1,000-yard season with 900 at 4.4 yards per rush. Jovon Robinson has 363 yards rushing at 5.98 yards per carry. Robinson has averaged 114.3 yards rushing during Auburn's last three games.
  • Wide receiver Callen Hightower leads the Vandals in catches with 40 for 460 yards. Trent Cowan and Deon Watson give Idaho a major punch at the tight end position, combining for 68 receptions for 864 yards and nine touchdowns.
  • Ricardo Louis leads the Tigers in receptions with 40 for 585 yards and two touchdowns. Marcus Davis is No. 2 in catches with 24 for only 148 yards.
  • Three of Idaho’s top four tacklers are from the linebacker positions. Broc Westlake has 71 on the season and end Quinton Bradley leads Idaho in tackles for loss with 13.
  • Auburn has five players with more than 50 tackles this season. Rudy Ford leads the Tigers with 97 followed by Kris Frost with 83. Cassanova McKinzy leads Auburn in tackles for loss (10) and sacks (5). 
  • Idaho has registered only 12 sacks on the season while allowing 25 through 10 games.

How they match up...

Idaho has the second-worst run defense at the FBS level, allowing 279 yards rushing per game. The Vandals have surrendered 280 yards or more seven times this season and will face an Auburn offense that has rushed for 191.0 yards per game.

Malzahn’s offense at Auburn has averaged 273 yards rushing per game at 6.3 per carry against teams from non-major conferences.

Idaho features a pass-oriented offense, averaging 39 throws per game this season. The Vandals are No. 83 in pass efficiency offense and will face an Auburn team ranked No. 47 in pass efficiency defense.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Cassanova McKinzy has been Auburn's most effective pass rusher this year.

Idaho will be the worst defense Auburn has faced all season. The Vandals are No. 117 in total defense, allowing 489 yards per game, and they are ranked No. 122 in scoring defense, allowing 42 points per game.

The Idaho defense is dead last at the FBS level in allowing  impact plays on defense and No. 114 in allowing explosive plays. 

Keys to Victory...

  • Look for Auburn to lean on its run offense to make this a very short game. 
  • The Tigers must tackle well because Idaho has the style offense that will attempt to nickel and dime opposing defenses.
  • The Vandals are No. 127 in allowing runs of 10 or more yards as well as 20-plus yards. 
  • Auburn’s coaches face the task of keeping their team focused this week, coming off a tough loss to Georgia with Idaho sandwiched in between the Alabama game on next week’s schedule.
  • Execution will be essential to avoid any drop-off in production stemming from the caliber of opponent.  

What to watch...

  1. Look for Auburn's running backs to have a big day against one of the worst run defenses in the country. Barber and Robinson could end up with more 100 yards on the day. Roc Thomas and Kerryon Johnson will likely see heavy action during the second half.
  2. Malzhan's offense at Auburn has averaged 483 yards and 44 points per game against FBS teams from outside the Power-5 conferences. This includes 267 yards rushing per game.
  3. Look for Auburn to clear the benches as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary injuries and to reward some younger players with playing time.
  4. Expect a very vanilla game plan on both sides of the football by the Auburn coaching staff.
  5. This week will be about execution more so than scheming.
  6. Look for Auburn to generate a season high in explosive plays against this Idaho defense. 
  7. From 2000-2015, Auburn's leading rushers at the running back position against non-major opponents have averaged 111 yards per game at 7.0 yards per attempt.
  8. With Barber close to 1,000 yards on the season, it would be great to see him extend Malzahn's streak of 1,000-yard rushers at the running back position to 10 consecutive seasons.

Final Word...

 This will be a low-risk game with the reward of officially becoming bowl eligible this season. The Vandals are not likely to be a challenge for the Tigers unless there is some level of implosion on the part of the home team. This is a great opportunity for the coaches to rest a few key players to make sure they're closer to being fully healthy for the Alabama game.

There isn't a valid reason to play an injured Sean White, especially in a game the run offense will likely dominate. It would be a great opportunity to reward senior Jonathan Wallace with some playing time at the quarterback position. Giving him reps in a real game environment could pay off for the offense during its last two games of the season.

If there is any concern about this game it will be the mindset of the players. Losing to Georgia and facing Alabama the following week could hinder the focus of the team. With that being said, becoming bowl eligible should be enough motivation for the players to avoid a closer than expected outcome. This is the perfect chance for Auburn to lean on its running game and for Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp to expand on his rotation of personnel. As well as the Auburn defense has performed lately combined with how poorly Idaho has played against the run, there is almost no chance of an upset this Saturday on the Plains.

During the Vandals’ last 10 games against Power-5 opponents Idaho has been out-gained 547 to 256 yards per game while being outscored 52-10. Anyone projecting or fearing a close game need not worry. Auburn's offense under Malzahn has faced 15 opponents that allowed at least 180 yards per game on the ground. During those games Auburn averaged 322.3 yards rushing at 6.5 yards per rush. Idaho simply won't be able to match up where it counts the most, in the trenches. Malzahn offenses are 43-2 with at least 45 rush attempts with an average of at least five yards per carry. Look for Auburn to improve that record to 44-2 in a very physical manner. Auburn 42, Idaho 10

Around the Southeastern Conference:

No. 11 Florida over FAU

South Carolina over Citadel

Ole Miss over No. 9 LSU

Alabama over Charleston Southern

Arkansas over No. 17 Mississippi State

Georgia over Georgia Southern

Tennessee over Missouri

Texas A&M over Vanderbilt

Kentucky over Charlotte

Season Record: 69-22


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