StatTiger Column: Auburn at West Virginia

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) analyzes the first even matchup between the Tigers and Mountaineers and uses statistics to forecast a winner.

Auburn 4-3 (2-3) vs. West Virginia 4-2 (2-0)

National Rankings:

Auburn Rush Offense: 69th, 135.3 YPG

West Virginia Rush Offense: 17th, 224.8 YPG

Auburn Pass Offense: 103rd, 157.3 YPG

West Virginia Pass Offense: 114th, 117.3 YPG

Auburn Total Offense: 108th, 292.6 YPG

West Virginia Total Offense: 77th, 342.2 YPG

Auburn Scoring Offense: 97th, 19.1 PPG

West Virginia Scoring Offense: 84th, 22.2 PPG

Auburn Rush Defense: 26th, 107.9 YPG

West Virginia Rush Defense: 42nd, 118.8 YPG

Auburn Pass Defense: 15th, 164.9 YPG

West Virginia Pass Defense: 59th, 202.0 YPG

Auburn Total Defense: 14th, 272.7 YPG

West Virginia Total Defense: 43rd, 320.8 YPG

Auburn Scoring Defense: 11th, 13.1 PPG

West Virginia Scoring Defense: 14th, 14.7 PPG

About West Virginia

The Mountaineers are currently on a three-game winning streak after losing two games earlier in the year. Sophomore running back Noel Devine leads the Mountaineers in rushing with 642 yards at 6.5 yards per carry.

Pat White, a senior quarterback, is recovering from a concussion, but has managed 85.6 yards per game on the ground, including an average of 6.1 yards per carry. White is the 23rd-rated passer in the nation, completing 73 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and only one interception. Running back Jock Sanders leads West Virginia in receiving with 28 receptions.

Quarterback Pat White missed his team's last game vs. Syracuse, but is expected to play vs. the Tigers.

Linebacker Mortty Ivy leads WVU with 46 tackles this season, including four stops behind the line of scrimmage. Ivy also leads the team with two interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown.

The Mountaineers are No. 2 in the Big East with 14 sacks. This includes an average of 5.2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage per game, seventh in the Big East conference. Punter Pat McAfee is currently averaging 45.4 yards per punt, sixth best in the nation. The Mountaineers have averaged 21.7 yards per kick return and 11.3 yards per punt return.

Inside the Numbers...

*During the first three games of the season the Auburn defense allowed 53.0 yards rushing per game along with 1.8 yards per carry. In the last four games Auburn has surrendered 149.0 yards per contest on the ground, including 4.3 yards per carry.

*During the first three games of the season, the Auburn defense allowed only a seven percent conversion rate on third down, which has increased to 34 percent in the last four games.

*During Auburn's last three games, the offense has averaged only 15.3 yards per offensive possession.

*In the last three games 83 percent of the offensive snaps taken by the Auburn offense have failed to be part of a scoring drive.

*In the last four games the Auburn running game has averaged only 83.2 yards per game and 2.2 yards per carry.

*WVU's Devine has averaged 125 yards rushing per game in his last four games.

*West Virginia's White has thrown 44 career touchdown passes to just 17 interceptions while completing 66 percent of his passes. He has averaged 93.7 yards rushing per game in 42 games.

*Devine has averaged 7.4 yards per carry during his career. The Mountaineers are 5-1 when Devine rushes for over 100 yards.

Scoring and Yardage Margins...

The scoring averages and margins indicate a low scoring and close game. For the season, West Virginia is minus five on offense and minus seven on defense with an average score of 22-15. Auburn is minus 5 on offense and minus 10 on defense with an average score of 19-13. Taking the Mountaineers average score against Auburn's scoring margins and West Virginia wins, 12-10. Taking Auburn's average score against the Mountaineers' scoring margins and Auburn wins, 12-9. Average both scores and Auburn wins, 11-10.

The Mountaineers' offense has averaged minus 31 yards per game than what their opponent normally allows and has held their opponent to minus nine yards below what they normally gain. Auburn's offense has been held to minus 53 yards below what its opponent normally allows, but the defense has held opponents to minus 66 yards below their season average.

Based on each team's yardage average and margins, West Virginia is projected to gain 242-276 yards and Auburn is projected to gain 268-284 yards.

Final Thoughts...

The Auburn offense has been horrible this season and the recent injuries on defense have to be a major concern for the coaching staff. Since the season opener, the offense has gone "three-and-out" 41 percent of the time, converting only 29 percent of its third down conversions.

Through seven games, Auburn's offense has failed to find its identity, resulting in the termination of coordinator Tony Franklin. Kodi Burns has been named the starter at quarterback and Coach Tommy Tuberville's team has run multiple formations in recent games.

Unless Burns plays significantly better this week, the change at quarterback will do little to improve the offense. Burns took the majority of snaps against Arkansas and the offense managed just one touchdown and 193 yards against one of the weaker defenses in the 12th-ranked defense in the SEC. Auburn's offensive problems run far deeper than the play of its quarterbacks. The offensive line, game plans and play calling have been questionable at best. A focus on the "power" running game would be a great start to rebuilding the Auburn offense.

Though efficient the West Virginia passing game has not been a vertical attack this season, averaging only 5.2 yards per pass attempt. The Auburn defense will be challenged to control the Mountaineer running game, which will certainly incorporate a heavy dose of misdirection, options and counter plays.

The key to stopping any spread offense is sound tackling, which Auburn did well early in the season, but hasn't been as efficient at doing in recent games with key players out and others playing at less than 100 percent. In the four games the Mountaineers have defended at least 35 running plays, West Virginia has allowed 150.5 yards rushing per game. Auburn would be wise to establish its running game to improve the offense and to keep their defense off the field.

The extra time off with no game last Saturday allowed Auburn much needed rest for the injured players and the AU coaches are hopeful the defense will be fresher and quicker on Thursday night. Auburn's continued efforts to rely on plays from the spread formation shotgun will shift Auburn's advantage on defense back into the hands of West Virginia. Auburn's current strength on offense remains the running backs when they have been healthy, but the game plans this season have mostly neutralized the running game, making it much easier to defend from the shotgun formation. Auburn 17, West Virginia 16

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