StatTiger: Inside the Numbers, AU vs. Tulane

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) breaks down Auburn's non-conference game against Tulane this weekend.

Inside the Numbers – Tulane Game

Record: 2-4-0

National rankings:
Total Offense: 43rd, 369 yards per game
Scoring Offense: 78th, 22 points per game
Total Defense: 110th, 411 yards per game
Scoring Defense: 115th, 36 points per game

Last Meeting:

Tulane holds the overall series advantage 17-13-6 against Auburn, but the two schools have not met since 1955. Tulane won the last meeting 27-13, and the last meeting in Auburn 28-0 in 1950.

Last time out...

At 2-4, the Tulane Green Wave is coming off a 34-20 road loss to UTEP and the 6-1 Auburn Tigers defeated the No. 2 Florida Gators at Jordan-Hare, 27-17. Tulane's victories have come against Mississippi State, 32-29, and Rice, 38-24. Auburn's victory over Florida might have put the Tigers back into the national picture and keeps them alive in the Southeastern Conference race.

Tulane Green Wave…

Quarterback Lester Ricard has been the heart and soul of the Green Wave offense, averaging just over 247 yards passing per game. He has 12 touchdown passes and only four interceptions on the season.

Running back Matt Forte' is a load at 6-1, 225 leading Tulane in rushing two years in a row. Forte' has 551 yards rushing, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, giving Tulane the balance they are looking for on offense. Forte' has also been an effective weapon in the passing game with 19 receptions and three touchdowns.

Receiver Preston Brown gives Ricard a huge target at 6-4, 232. Brown currently leads the team in receptions with 24 receptions for 226 yards. Wideouts Jeremy Williams and Damarcus Davis have 19 receptions each. Though coach Chris Scelfo is searching for more balance on offense, Tulane passes the ball 58 percent of the time, relying on the individual talent of Ricard.

The four leading tacklers for the Tulane defense are all defensive backs, which normally translates to a very weak front seven. Joe Goosby and David Skehan are the two leading tacklers and Skehan leads the team with two interceptions. Linebacker James Dillard has posted 28 tackles and played as a true freshman last season. The Green Wave defense has totaled 38 tackles for a loss, including 10 sacks, four interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.

Auburn Tigers…

Quarterback Brandon Cox enters the game as the 40th ranked quarterback in the nation with a 138.1 QB rating. Tailback Kenny Irons has 581 yards rushing but has been hampered with injuries to his ankle and toe. Backup Brad Lester did a terrific job playing the majority of the second half against Florida and averages 5.4 yards per carry on the season. Receiver Courtney Taylor leads the team with 30 receptions but has not caught a touchdown pass this season.

Linebacker Will Herring and safety Eric Brock are the two leading tacklers on the Auburn Tiger defense. Quentin Groves leads the Tigers with six quarterback sacks and two other Tigers, Marquies Gunn and Sen'Derrick Marks, have three sacks. As a team the Tiger defense has 45 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

John Vaughn is 13 of 16 in field goals and Kody Bliss has averaged nearly 46 yards per punt on the season. Matt Clark has recorded 30 touchbacks on his 37 kickoffs as the special teams have been a vital part of the team's success in 2006.

Backup quarterback Blake Field may see action this week against the Green Wave.

Keys to victory...

The last time Tulane recorded a winning season was in 2002, when the Green Wave posted an 8-5 record. In their last four meetings against LSU and Texas, the Green Wave were hammered by an average score of 52-10. This season, Tulane is allowing 411 yards and 36 points per game on defense, which makes defeating Auburn a near impossible task.

* Of the seven plays of 30 yards or more allowed by the Auburn defense, four have come through the air. Tulane must take advantage of an Auburn secondary, which has been suspect at times this season.

* Forte' could be the key to keeping the Tulane offense on the field, which would limit the opportunities for the Auburn offense to score. Tulane will likely pass more often on first down but establishing some type of running game will keep the Auburn defense honest.

Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges is in his third year at AU.

* Tulane has held four of its six opponents to 135 yards rushing or less this season. On the flipside, Tulane's opponents have averaged 30 yards more rushing than what they averaged. Selling out to stop the run will be a key to slowing down Auburn's offense. Tulane cannot afford to turn the ball over, which it has done 14 times in six games.

From 2000-2006 Auburn is 14-0 against non-conference opponents with a losing record with an average score of 45-10. Tulane will be hoping the Tigers will not be focused this Saturday while coming off an emotional victory over the Florida.

Tulane will clearly be a step down in terms of talent compared to the Gators. It's important the Tigers do not beat themselves against a weaker opponent.

* Auburn should be able to run on the Tulane defense but it's important that Brandon Cox throw the ball well, especially on first down. Against Buffalo Cox was only 4-7 passing on first and second down.

* The Auburn defense must tackle well as Tulane will pass the ball on early downs, hoping to turn a short pass into a long gain.

* Four of Auburn's seven opponents have averaged at least five yards on first down. The Tigers cannot allow Tulane to have success on the early downs as Buffalo did in the first half.

Final thoughts...

* The odds of Tulane defeating Auburn are slim to none, but the Green Wave did record a victory over Mississippi State. They scored 32 points on the Bulldog defense, which could give them 17-21 points on a good day against the Auburn defense. Of course on a good day the Auburn offense could hang 45-50 points on a suspect Tulane defense. In reality, the opponent this week is not Tulane but Auburn itself.

* The victories over LSU and Florida prove what the 2006 Auburn Tigers are capable of, but games against South Carolina and Arkansas remain on the other end of the spectrum. Execution on both sides of the ball has been inconsistent, which is why Auburn has played to the level of its opponents. This is a good team but not good enough to take a play off against a good opponent or a series off against a weaker opponent.

* Even though Auburn could not cross the Florida goal line on offense, the Tigers did compile more than 200 yards during the first half. The quick-hitting pass plays on first down opened up the running game and had the Gators on their heels. Auburn is not a high scoring offense but it has the personnel to be a very efficient if it executes. The play calling and execution on offense during the first half of the Florida game would beat every opponent remaining on Auburn's schedule.

* Going back to running the ball 70 percent of the time on first down will beat Tulane, but would be a step backwards in progressing as an offensive unit. Auburn remains hobbled by injuries on offense, but it should not prevent the coaches of obtaining the most from the players on the field. I liken this current Auburn Tigers offensive unit to the one Coach Bill Walsh had during the 1981 season with the San Francisco 49ers.

* The 1981 San Francisco team lacked the "playmakers" on offense, but it was textbook in terms of what the West Coast offense is all about. The 49ers had two good possession wide receivers in Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon and the passing game was aided by short passes to the running backs and tight ends to keep the chains moving. Joe Montana was never known for his arm strength but was pinpoint in his passing. They could not stretch the field vertically but they forced the opposing defenses to defend the width of the field.

* From 1993-2006, Auburn is 53-11-1 when the Tigers average more than six yards per play on first down. This includes a 16-1 record with Al Borges as the offensive coordinator and the only loss coming to LSU in 2005.

Brandon Cox started the Florida game with 6-6 passing on first down averaging 13 yards per pass play. The tempo of the passing game was quick and the passes were high percentage. Once Cox got into a rhythm the offense began to pile up first downs on a very good Florida defense. If it was effective against Florida just imagine what it could do against Tulane.

Auburn 38, Tulane 10

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