StatTiger Column: Buffalo at Auburn Preview

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) takes a look inside the numbers at Auburn's upcoming game against the Buffalo Bulls.

Buffalo
2005 record: 1-10:

2005 Season Averages:
Offensive Numbers: 108 rushing / 178 passing / 278 total / 10 points per game
Defensive Numbers: 190 rushing / 173 passing / 363 total / 30 points per game

2006 Statistical Rankings:

Record: 1-2

83rd total offense / 316.0 YPG
78th scoring offense / 20.7 PPG
106th total defense / 417.7 YPG
92nd scoring defense / 27.3 PPG

Against Auburn since 1999:

Record: first meeting
Offensive Numbers: N/A
Defensive Numbers: N/A

Comments:

After an emotional and physical battle against the LSU Tigers, the Auburn Tigers go back into non-conference play against a building Buffalo program. This will mark the first meeting between the two schools and Auburn will be heavily favored to win. With another SEC road trip looming around the corner, playing Buffalo just might be what the doctor ordered. Since his inaugural season in 1999, coach Tommy Tuberville's Auburn Tigers have compiled a 39-13 record within the Southeastern Conference. This is the highest win percentage of all SEC schools with Georgia (38-14), Florida (36-14) and LSU (37-15) following close behind. Auburn is currently 22-8 in non-conference games under coach Tuberville.

Last time out…

After defeating Temple in overtime to start the 2006 season, the Buffalo Bulls have lost their last two games to Bowling Green (48-40 in triple overtime) and Northern Illinois (31-13).

During its most recent loss to Northern Illinois, Buffalo allowed more than 340 yards rushing. Since moving up to Division I football in 1999, the University of Buffalo has recorded a dismal 11-71 record.

Former Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill was hired this season to build a struggling football program, which will be severely out-manned when the Bulls take on the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn is coming off an enormous 7-3 victory over the sixth-ranked LSU Tigers and is currently ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Poll. From 2001-2006 Auburn is 13-5 against top ten opponents, including 7-1 in its last eight.

The Auburn coaching staff is hoping to rest some key starters against Buffalo and to evaluate some of the younger players expected to see extensive action against the Bulls. Brandon Cox is expected to start but will see limited action, giving Blake Field valuable playing time. If tailback Kenny Irons does play against the Bulls, it likely won't be more than a couple of series.

About Buffalo…

Since joining the ranks of the Division I programs, Buffalo is 0-4 against opponents from BCS conferences. In those games the Bulls have been defeated by an average score of 45-11. This season the Bulls have attempted to remain balanced on offense, averaging 124 yards rushing and 192 yards passing per game. Drew Willy leads the Bulls in passing, completing 61.8 percent and has not thrown an interception in 97 attempts. James Starks (161 yards) and Steven King (92 yards) lead the team in rushing with 31 carries each. Wide receiver Terrance Breaux leads the team with 12 catches for 182 yards.

The Bulls' defense has allowed 260 yards rushing and 158 yards passing per game. Two veteran linebackers, Ramon Guzman and Ollice Ervin, lead the Buffalo defense in tackles. Guzman is an All-MAC selection who currently leads the team with 37 tackles after three games, including five tackles for a loss. The Bulls' defense has forced six fumbles on the season and has recorded three interceptions to go along with four quarterback sacks.

Receiver Naaman Roosevelt has been explosive as a return man for the Bulls. He averages 18.2 yards on punt returns and also returned a kickoff back for a 94-yard touchdown. Taylor Packwood has connected on five of seven field goal attempts but has missed two extra point attempts. Ben Woods is averaging 40.2 yards per punt, dropping five inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

About Auburn…

On paper, things could not be better for the Auburn Tigers coming off a victory against LSU. Auburn is clearly in the driver's seat in the SEC West and is currently ranked No. 3 in the coaches poll and No. 2 in the Associated Press Poll.

Success on the field hasn't come without a price as Cox is nursing a knee and ankle sprain, which may limit his playing time against Buffalo. Irons is still hobbled by a groin injury and might sit out this week's game in order to be healthy for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Tight end Cole Bennett is out six to eight weeks after requiring surgery on his ankle from a broken bone suffered against LSU.

After being held to just 182 yards against LSU, Auburn's national rankings on offense took a major hit. The Auburn Tigers are currently ranked 60th in total offense and 54th in scoring offense. The defense is currently ranked at 21st in total defense and fourth in scoring. At this stage of the game, the Auburn defense is way ahead of the offense, which could become a major issue down the road if the offense doesn't improve against quality defensive opponents.

Irons leads the Tigers in rushing with 322 yards, but Brad Lester could possibly make the start this week against Buffalo. Cox holds a 144.8 quarterback ranking but was held to just 110 yards passing against LSU. Field will see extensive playing time and is four of four passing in mop-up duty this season. He has one prior start in 2005 against Western Kentucky when he threw for three touchdown passes. Courtney Taylor enters the game with 15 receptions, averaging only 11.7 yards per catch.


Saturday's matchup could result in a career day for Lester.

Auburn's starting linebackers (Karibi Dede, Merrill Johnson and Will Herring) are the three leading tacklers this season. The Auburn defense has made 22 tackles behind the line, including 10 quarterback sacks. The Tigers have forced four fumbles while intercepting two passes. Kody Bliss is averaging more than 48 yards per punt and Matt Clark has had 18 kickoffs with 15 resulting in touchbacks. Auburn's special teams have been a strength thus far but improvement is needed on punt returns.

Final thoughts…

No matter how badly Auburn plays this Saturday, the Tigers should come away with a victory over Buffalo. Plain and simple, Buffalo just doesn't stack up with Auburn's talent and depth on the football field. Emotionally speaking, a letdown should be expected coming off the victory over LSU. For the most part Auburn will be battling itself this Saturday, attempting to focus on an opponent it should easily handle. It's also essential Auburn makes it through this contest without any further injuries.

Looking at the scoring margins of both teams, this game should be over with by the end of the first period. After three games, Buffalo is actually scoring 15 points less than what its opponents normally allow, while Auburn's offense has scored nine more points than what its opponents have surrendered. Defensively, Buffalo is allowing nine more points per game than what its opponents normally average and Auburn is holding its opponents to 18 points less than what they normally score. Unless Buffalo starts a possession inside or near the red zone, it might not score in this game.

Because Auburn plays 12 consecutive games this season this game is as close to a bye-week as it will have during the regular season. Since the odds of an upset are very minimal the Auburn coaching staff will want this game completed as soon as possible.

Buffalo has found it difficult to stop the run so expect a very heavy dose of the Auburn running game, especially in the second half. It would benefit the team for Field to have 20-25 pass attempts, should he play the majority of the game. As in the past, look for Tuberville to play everyone he can as a reward to the younger players and an opportunity for the starters to rest.

Under Tuberville, Auburn has competed in 17 games against opponents from non-BCS conferences. Auburn is obviously 17-0 in those ball games with an average score of 42-12. The Tigers have averaged 210 yards rushing and 247 yards passing. The defense has allowed an average of 78 yards rushing and 196 yards passing.

Though anything is possible, the odds of an upset are slim to none. Even if the Tigers come out emotionally flat, the disparity in talent and depth will ensure the fourth victory of the season. Should Buffalo have more than 30 pass attempts, Auburn should have 10-12 offensive possessions. This would probably translate to eight scoring drives for the Tigers and a 24 to 56 point scoring range. Look for a six to two touchdown-FG ratio and a couple of long runs by the Auburn offense...Auburn 48, Buffalo 0


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