StatTiger Column: Reasons to Change

Crunching the numbers, it's obvious to StatTiger why Tommy Tuberville wanted to shake things up on offense this season.

When Coach Tommy Tuberville hired Tony Franklin as Auburn's most recent offensive coordinator it was for the purpose of meeting two major needs. As expected, the first reason was to revamp an offense that had produced average numbers while becoming very predictable over the past two seasons.

The second need was to improve recruiting on the offensive side of the ball by hiring an offensive coach who could energize the passing game without much of a falloff from the running game.

The drop in offensive production is well known to Auburn fans and is supported by the following numbers. Over the past two seasons, Auburn's running game had dropped off by 36 yards per game, including a 3.9 average per carry compared to 4.6 yards.

The passing game had compiled a TD/INT ratio of 26 to 25 over the past two seasons compared to the 44 to 17 in 2004 and 2005. Auburn's offense was now averaging 24.5 points per game compared to the 32.1 during the first two seasons under Al Borges.

Team Game

As good as the Auburn defense has been over this current decade, improvements on offense were needed to make the Tigers a complete team. The defense could only be expected to carry the team so far, especially when the offense had slipped into a very conservative mode.

From 2000-2007, only two other schools in the country had a better touchdown ratio on defense than Auburn. Ohio State has allowed 1.83 TDs per game this decade followed by Miami with 1.97 per game. Auburn and Virginia Tech were tied at third in the nation with 2.01 per game.

Despite having one of the best defenses in the nation, Auburn has only able to compile the 14th best win percentage in the nation during the Tommy Tuberville era. Though the defense wasn't always perfect, it has been responsible for the majority of Auburn's biggest victories. It was unusual to see the Tigers engaged in an offensive shootout while en route to a victory. Under Tuberville, Auburn has defeated 16 teams with a 9-4 record or better by an average score of 22-14.

Franklin understands the concept of the offense carrying its own weight. He stated there would be games the defense will struggle and it will be the responsibility of the offense to carry the team in such contests. Franklin's offensive philosophy is to pass to set up the run, but his primary goal is to score points by any means possible. How much of difference will this new approach on offense make for Auburn?

1999-2007

Under Tuberville, the Auburn defense has held 58 percent of its opponents under 20 points, compiling a 60-5 record in those games. Auburn is 39-0 when allowing 13 points or less and 21-5 when allowing 14-19 points per game. Holding the opposition under 20 points makes life for the offense a tad easier, but what happens in the other 42 percent of the games?

Auburn is 15-13 when allowing 20-27 points per game and 5-15 when allowing 28 or more points per contest. This is a combined record of 20-28 when allowing 20 or more points, which needs to improve in order for the Tigers to win championships. As good as the 1992 Alabama defense was, its offense had to overcome the opposition scoring at least 21 points on two occasions. Last season, LSU had seven opponents that scored 24 or more points during its championship season.

No Miracles Needed
For those expecting a sudden impact of 450 yards and 40 points per game in 2008 they might be setting themselves up for a major letdown. Realistically speaking, Auburn simply needs to improve on offense when it matters the most.

Looking back at the games in which Auburn allowed 14 or more points, there were 13 decided by seven points or less. No one should expect perfection, but what if Auburn had been more consistent on offense in those 13 games?

I refer to those close losses as "swing" games. If Auburn had won those games, the Tigers would have been 25-1 while allowing 14-19 points. They would have been 21-7 in games allowing 20-27 points and they would have been 8-12 in games allowing 28 or more points. Rather than a record of 20-28 when allowing 20 or more points, Auburn would have been 29-19. Once again, this is far from perfection (19 losses), but what a difference a better executing offense could have made over the past nine seasons.

Tommy Tuberville is beginning his 10th season at Auburn.

Auburn has compiled a record of 80-33-0 under Tuberville, the 14th best winning percentage in the nation over the last nine seasons. Not a bad record for a team with a great defense and a conservative approach on offense. Had the Tigers won those "swing" games, they would have a 93-20-0 record, which would be the second best winning percentage in the nation from 1999-2007. It would have also meant additional appearances in the SEC Championship game in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

History shows Auburn will win the majority of its games when the opponent is held under 20 points and there is no reason to expect any differently in 2008. It will be up to Franklin to make Auburn a better offensive team when it is needed the most. Auburn will definitely have a different look when it has the football in 2008, but how the Tigers perform during "swing" games will be interesting to watch. Auburn was 11-2 in "swing" games from 2003-2006, but dropped to 4-3 in 2007.


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