Stat Tiger Column: Previewing Vanderbilt at Auburn Football Game

Stuart Carter breaks down the matchup and predicts what will happen with the Auburn Tigers take on Vandy in an SEC football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Ralph Webb (above) is the SEC's No. 2 ranked rusher.

Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-3 SEC) at No. 11 Auburn (6-2, 4-1 SEC)

Series Record: Vandy leads 21-20-1

Last Meeting: (2012) Vanderbilt, 17-13

About the Teams:

•Coach Derek Mason of Vanderbilt is 11-21 during his collegiate head coaching career. Gus Malzahn is 42-18 all-time and 33-15 at Auburn

•The last time out Auburn defeated Ole Miss 40-29 on the road. Vanderbilt defeated visiting Tennessee State 35-17 before going into a bye week. 

•Auburn is 14-2 against the Commodores during the past 16 meetings.

•Kyle Shumar leads Vandy in passing with a QB rating of 102.3. He has averaged 136.1 yards passing per game with four touchdown passes and three interceptions on the season.

•Junior Ralph Webb is one of the top rushers in the conference with 855 yards on 164 carries and six rushing touchdowns.

•Kalja Lipscomb leads the Commodores in receiving yards with 253.

•Linebacker Zach Cunningham has been a tackling machine with an SEC-leading 85 stops on the season. He also leads Vanderbilt with 13.5 tackles behind the line, which is second best in the conference.

•Sean White remains the No. 1 rated passer in the conference with a 159.0 mark. He is averaging 189 yards passing per game while completing 68.5 percent of his throws. His top target has been senior Tony Stevens, who has hauled in 24 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns this season.

•Kamryn Pettway leads the league in rushing with 133.3 yards per game, which is sixth best in the nation. He has 933 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Kerryon Johnson is Auburn’s second leading rusher with 82.9 yards per game.

KAMRYN PETTWAY (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Kamryn Pettway's performance has been a highlight for the Tigers.

•Safety Tray Matthews leads Auburn in tackles with 50 and is followed by Tre Williams with 49 stops and Rudy Ford with 47. Carl Lawson leads the Tigers in tackles for loss with nine and Montravius Adams has six stops behind the line.

•Auburn is No. 4 in the SEC in scoring defense and will face a Vandy offense ranked No. 13 in scoring offense.

•Auburn is No. 2 in the conference in rushing yards against Power-5 competition and will face a defense ranked No. 6 in the SEC in defending the run against Power-5 opponents.

•Auburn is No. 2 in the conference with 481.0 yards per game on offense against SEC competition. Vanderbilt is No. 3 in total defense, allowing only 318 yards per game against conference opponents.

•Auburn's defense has allowed 378.0 yards per game against conference opponents while Vandy has averaged only 239 yards on offense.

•Since taking over the play calling duties, Rhett Lashlee’s offense has averaged 539 yards and 42 points per game. It includes 328 yards rushing per game while completing 73 percent of the passes thrown for nearly 11 yards per pass attempt. 

How They Match Up...

*This game feature two stout defenses, but the Commodores' numbers are a tad inflated from facing weaker offensive opponents compared to Auburn.

*Vanderbilt has averaged only 11 points per game during its five Power-5 contests while Auburn has held its Power-5 opponents to only 18 points per game. 

*The game matches Auburn’s 303 yards rushing per game vs. a Vanderbilt defense allowing 158 yards per game on the ground. Against Power-5 competition Auburn averages 259 rushing yards per game and Vanderbilt allows 167.

*Vanderbilt gave up 289 yards rushing to Georgia Tech and 258 yards against Kentucky. Auburn should have success running the football.

*Against Power-5 competition Auburn's average score is 30-18 and Vanderbilt's is 11-20.

Keys to Victory...

•With Vanderbilt's struggles on offense Auburn must protect the football to avoid an upset or making this game competitive going into the second half. Auburn cannot keep Vanderbilt in the game with miscues.

•Vanderbilt has surrendered 50 run plays of 10 yards or more, which ranks No. 11 in the conference. Auburn is No. 1 in the SEC with 72 running plays of 10 yards or more. A heavy dose of the running game should be enough for Auburn to record its seventh victory of the season. 

•From 2000-2016 Vanderbilt is 3-45 in conference play when its opponent rushes for at least 200 yards. If Auburn rushes for at least 200 yards the Tigers are almost guaranteed victory.

•Malzahn’s offense is 63-5 in games with at least 200 yards rushing and a passer rating of at least 130. During the 68 games he has coached at Auburn his offense has  averaged 45 points per game.

•During the last 20 years of Auburn football the Tigers are 62-3 in games they don’t lose the tackle for loss, turnover and first down battles. 

•Rather than forcing their will upon the Vanderbilt defense by running the football, it might be wise to open up the passing game early to expose a defense likely to be selling out to defend the run.

What to Watch...

•Scoring margins and averages against Power-5 competition project two possible outcomes. The first projection is Auburn to win 24-9 and the second is Auburn 25-6. Average the two scores and Auburn wins 25-7.

•Look for Vanderbilt to run-blitz often from its 3-4 scheme in an attempt to disrupt the flow of Auburn's offense. Vandy’s linebackers are quick and physical.

•If Vanderbilt is efficient early on in run defense, look for Auburn to expose the Commodores’ pass defense, which is No. 10 in the conference in efficiency and No. 12 in yards allowed passing.

•Watch how Vanderbilt plays their safeties. If the Commodores come up in run support Auburn will throw over them. If they play back to defend the deep ball, Auburn will pound with the running game.

Stan Jones-VandyMania.com

Derek Mason coordinates Vandy's defense in addition to being head coach.

•Look for Vanderbilt to attempt to isolate its running backs and tight ends on Auburn's linebackers. They have accounted for 41 percent of Vanderbilt's receptions.

•Based on the 167 yards rushing per game Vanderbilt has allowed to Power-5 competition, Auburn is projected to rush for 253 yards. This is based on Auburn's +51.4 percent yardage gained against its Power-5 opponents.

Final Word...

Auburn's road victory over Ole Miss pushed the Tigers up to No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 9 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings with Auburn at 6-2 on the season. The Tigers come home to play host to  a team they are heavily favored to defeat at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Commodores are a few plays away from being 7-1 on the season rather than 4-4 and could prove to be more of a challenge than most expect. They are a very disciplined team on the defensive side of the football, forcing opponents into low-scoring affairs. Auburn must avoid allowing the Commodores to make it a slow-paced game where miscues or mistakes can tilt the flow.

As long as the Auburn coaches keep the players focused on improving each week, the game will take care of itself. Despite a significant youth movement this team has remained diligent and focused on every opponent through eight games into the season.

Auburn’s talent and depth should be enough to win its seventh game, but poor execution and turnovers can keep an underdog in the hunt. The Tigers have bought into the coaching theme of becoming better each game and the Commodores will force Auburn to achieve this goal. Auburn’s offense performed well against the Rebels last Saturday, but there were some minor issues that need to be addressed against Vanderbilt. The defense gave up way too many impact plays and will need to tackle well against a Commodore offense hoping to make yards after contact.

The kicking game has been very consistent in 2016, but Auburn's return game has been non-existent this season. If Auburn intends to finish the season strong, it will begin with Vanderbilt as the Tigers start the final four-game run of the regular season.

The Commodores are coming off a bye, giving them an extra week to evaluate the Tigers. If Vanderbilt has any chance of making this a close game or pulling off a major upset it will have to hold the Tigers under 20 points. Though Auburn has been playing well on offense the past four games, they were held under 20 three times this season.

Even if Vanderbilt rises to the occasion on defense, its offense has scored only three touchdowns during four conference games. Its quest would be scoring three touchdowns against one of the better scoring defenses in the country. Bottom line, Vanderbilt would have to play a near-perfect game in all three phases and would need Auburn to struggle in at least two. Auburn is +13 in explosive plays and Vanderbilt is -8 on the season. Look for the Tigers to take a business approach to this game and for a comfortable victory. Auburn 38, Vanderbilt 7

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Texas A&M over Mississippi State

Ole Miss over Georgia Southern

Florida over Arkansas

South Carolina over Missouri

Tennessee over Tennessee Tech

Kentucky over Georgia

Alabama over LSU

Season Record: 58-18 (.763)


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