It's no secret that the key to the Mountaineers' offense is quarterback Patrick White. A dynamic performer, he has the ability to break a defense down running the football and has improved his passing skills. Because of that Auburn will focus on slowing him down because if you slow down White you slow down West Virginia.
When Auburn Has The Ball:
If White is the key for West Virginia on offense the same can be said for whoever is playing quarterback for the Auburn Tigers this season. So far that has been both Chris Todd and Kodi Burns, but for this game the job is Burns' to run with as far as he can take the Tigers. The question now is how much that will relax the sophomore to allow him to find a comfort level and become the quarterback many thought he would be for the Tigers. While still young, Burns hasn't shown the ability to be a consistent threat in the passing game. That must change for the Tigers to go on the road and pull off the upset.
WVU Player To Watch:
That would be sophomore running back Noel Devine. Coming off a 188-yard rushing performance against Syracuse, Devine is the definition of big-play threat at the running back position. Not a bruiser, Devine counts on his speed and quickness to make people miss in space and get to the corner. The last small back the Tigers faced torched them for 176 yards. If that happens again it will be a long night in Morgantown for Auburn.
Auburn Player To Watch:
The tailback tandem of Brad Lester and Ben Tate. With Auburn struggling to find the rhythm throwing the football it would seem obvious a big rushing game is required by the Tigers. On the surface Auburn's rushing stats aren't good at 135.3 yards per game. Taking an even closer look the numbers are worse. In the last four games Auburn has rushed for just 333 yards. Compare that with 614 yards in the first three games alone. Auburn must find a way to run the football effectively to take the pressure off Burns and the passing game.
West Virginia By The Numbers:
West Virginia is 37-7 over the last 44 games and overall has won 49 of its last 59 regular season games. Quarterback Pat White currently has 3,934 rushing yards in his career and needs just 394 yards to become the all-time rushing leader for a quarterback in NCAA history. He has accounted for 85 touchdowns in his career at WVU. The Mountaineers are 29-6 with White as the starting quarterback. WVU has outrushed its opponent in 38 of 39 games and the Mountaineers are 33-6 during that stretch.
Auburn By The Numbers:
Auburn ranks second in the nation in opponents' third-down conversions, allowing just 25 first downs in 110 attempts (22.7 percent). The Tigers are allow just 13.1 ponts per game, are 14th in total defense (272.7 ypg) and pass defense (164.9) and 25th in rushing defense (107.9). The Tigers have outscored opponents 88-26 in the first half this season and have allowed just two touchdowns in the first half all season.
This is a game that will be won by the team that runs the ball the best and not necessarily the team with the most yards. While both are spread teams neither have been successful just lining up and throwing the ball all over the field. West Virginia comes in averaging 224.8 yards per game on the ground while Auburn is giving up less than half of that. If the Tigers can manage a rushing total of around 150 yards that should give them a solid shot to pull out the win because it will give them some chances to have success in the passing game. Struggle on the ground and it will again be a long night for the offense in 2008.