StatTiger: Analyzing Auburn at Alabama

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) takes a statistical look at Auburn's chances in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.

Auburn (5-6, 2-5)
at Alabama (11-0, 7-0)

National Rankings:

Rush Offense:66th144.8 YPGRush Offense: 22nd98.5 YPG
Pass Offense:99th170.2 YPGPass Offense:100th168.5 YPG
Total Offense:99th315.0 YPGTotal Offense:52nd367.1 YPG
Score Offense:107th18.9 PPGScore Offense:28th31.7 PPG
Rush Defense:46th130.3 YPGRush Defense:3rd75.1 YPG
Pass Defense:18th178.9 YPGPass Defense:24th180.5 YPG
Total Defense:25th309.2 YPGTotal Defense:3rd255.6 YPG
Score Defense:12th16.4 PPGScore Defense:6th12.5 PPG

About Alabama...

Alabama is currently the No. 1 ranked team in the BCS poll, awaiting its showdown against the Florida Gators in the Southeastern Conference Championship. Though it has not been smooth sailing for the Crimson Tide, it has turned away all challengers this season to compile an 11-0 record going into the Iron Bowl. Coach Nick Saban has done a splendid job in his second season at Alabama and his players have clearly bought into his plan. Execution and finishing has been the theme for Alabama, which has carried over to both sides of their team. They currently are 28th in the nation in scoring and No. 3 in scoring defense.

Glen Coffee leads a strong running attack, averaging more than six yards per carry with five games of 90 yards or more this season. Mark Ingram has been a very capable reserve to Coffee with eight games of 50 yards or more and 5.5 yards per carry.

John Parker Wilson averaged 32 pass attempts per game from 2005-2006 but has been called upon only 22 times per game this season. Alabama's ability to run the ball has allowed Wilson to push the offense rather than pull it. Freshman sensation Julio Jones leads the team with 43 receptions, including three games of 90 yards or more. He's currently averaging 86.5 yards per game in the last four games.

Rolando McClain leads the Tide in tackles with 77 stops including 36 solo tackles and 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage. The Crimson Tide is currently No. 3 in total defense and No. 6 in scoring defense. Alabama will field six defenders with at least four tackles for loss and five players with at least 49 tackles on the season. Alabama has 21 sacks on the season–52nd in the nation–and 15 interceptions. They are currently 33rd in the nation in turnover margin. Javier Arenas is currently 10th in the nation in punt returns and 72nd in kick returns. Alabama has connected on 16 of 24 field goal attempts while averaging 40.9 yards per punt.

Inside the Numbers...

* Excluding possessions to expire a half, the Alabama offense has scored on 42.7 percent of its possessions this season. The Auburn offense has scored on 21.9 percent. On defense, Alabama has held its opponent to a scoring percentage of 16.4 percent, while the Auburn defense has held its opponent to 21.8 percent.
* The Alabama offense has a touchdown percentage of 29.8 percent to Auburn's 13.9 percent. Alabama has held its opponent to a touchdown percentage of 11.2 percent and the Auburn defense has held its opponent to 14.8 percent.
* Thirty-nine point five percent of Alabama's offensive possessions against SEC competition have netted at least 30 yards. Auburn's offense has netted 30 yards 30.1 percent of the time. Alabama's SEC opponents have netted 30 yards 33.3 percent of the time while the Auburn defense has held its SEC competition to 30.2 percent.
* The Alabama offense has gone three-and-out 28.6 percent of the time against the SEC and the Auburn offense has gone three-and-out 37.6 percent in conference play. The Alabama defense has forced three-and-outs 46.2 percent of the time against the SEC and the Auburn defense is close at 42.7 percent.
* In terms of big plays, the Alabama offense has 16 plays of 30 yards or more this season–eight rushing and eight passing. The Auburn offense has 17 plays, six on the ground and 11 through the air. On defense, the Crimson Tide has allowed 13 plays of more than 30 yards–three run and 10 pass–and the Auburn defense has permitted 14–five run and nine pass.
* The Alabama defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Taking the leading rusher from each Alabama opponent, the leader rushers combined for 490 yards on 124 carries (3.95 YPC) and zero touchdowns.
* For the season the Auburn offense has averaged 23.6 yards less per game than what the opponent normally allows. Since becoming the full-time starter, Kodi Burns has improved the offense to 27.8 yards more per game than what the opponent normally allows.
* Forcing Alabama into obvious pass situations will be a major key for the Auburn defense. Against SEC competition, Wilson has a QB rating of 108.1 on 3rd down. The Alabama offense has converted only 25 percent of its 3rd down conversions via the passing game. Wilson has completed only 19 of 42 passes on 3rd down for 6.5 yards per pass attempt. Burns has a rating of 109.9 on 3rd down against SEC opponents.
* Wilson has a QB rating of 146.7 on first down against SEC competition and Burns is currently hitting at 146.2. Wilson has completed only 45.2% of his passes on third down while Burns has connected on 58.6 percent in conference play.
* From 1986-2007, Auburn is 11-0 against Alabama when it wins the rushing battle and 3-8 when it doesn't.
* Since 1981, Auburn is 10-4 against Alabama when an Auburn running back rushes for 100 yards.
* Since 1951, Auburn is 16-3 against Alabama when it scores 21 points or more and 18-9 when holding Alabama to less than 20 points.
* Since 1951, Auburn is 5-18 against Alabama when the Crimson Tide has 10 wins or more and 0-12 when Alabama has 11 wins or more.
* Since 1951, Auburn is 0-19 against Alabama, when the Tigers finish the season with six wins or fewer.

Scoring Margins...

Against SEC competition Alabama is plus-eight on offense and minus-seven on defense in scoring margins with an average score of 31-16. Auburn is minus-10 on offense and minus-seven on defense with an average score of 13-16. Taking Alabama's average score against Auburn's scoring margins and Alabama wins 24-6. Take Auburn's average score against Alabama's scoring margins and Alabama wins again, 24-6. When healthy, Auburn's defense is just as good as Alabama if not better, but the biggest difference between the two squads is offense.

Mario Fannin will need to make a few big plays against Alabama like he did against Georgia.

Keys to the game...

This history of this rivalry has been defined by power football and hard-hitting defense. This year's Iron Bowl should be no different, but Alabama has been far more efficient at accomplishing both in 2008. Alabama has worked its way to the No. 1 ranking in the BCS with a strong running game and a very sound defense. Sometimes being conservative can be a good thing when you are efficient at running the ball and productive on first down.

Make no mistake about it, this game will be decided up front based on the performances of each team's offensive and defensive lines. The Alabama offensive line has been the heart and soul of the Crimson Tide offense while Auburn's offensive line has struggled the majority of the season.

Alabama has been more conservative than Auburn offense, running the ball 72 percent of the time on first down against SEC competition. The Tide have been able to do so behind a good offensive line resulting in an outstanding average of 6.5 yards per play on first down.

* Both teams will want to establish their running game, especially on the early downs. Alabama has averaged 5.2 yards per rush on first down to Auburn's 3.2 yards against SEC competition. The Alabama defense has allowed 3.3 yards rushing on first down, which means Auburn must be effective passing the ball on first down.
* Burns has been at his best on first down, compiling a QB rating of 146.2, but he will face the toughest defense he has competed against on first down. Alabama's defense has allowed only 47 percent of the passes thrown on first down to be completed, including a rating of 108.3 on first down. In its last five conference games Alabama has held its opponent to a completion percentage of 38 percent on first down.
* Auburn has averaged only 4.4 yards per play on first down against SEC opponents while the Alabama defense has permitted only 4.5 yards on first down. It will be essential for Auburn to be competitive with Alabama on first down. Alabama averaged only 4.2 yards per play on first down against Kentucky, which also happened to be its lowest output in scoring this season with 17 points.
* Alabama has averaged an amazing 5.2 yards per rush on first down, which Auburn will need to control to limit the Crimson Tide's scoring. Wilson has a pass rating of only 108.1 on third down, which is why Alabama has run the ball 72 percent of the time on first down.
* This game will be decided early on in terms of early downs and the first half of the game. Alabama has averaged 20.3 points during the first half to Auburn's 11.9. Alabama has scored an average of 10.8 points during the second half to Auburn's 7.0. If Auburn can weather the early storm, it will increase its opportunity of pushing this game into the fourth quarter.

Auburn must take Alabama out of its comfort zone, not allowing the Tide to execute its blueprint it has all season long. If Auburn can take away the strength of the Alabama running game, it will certainly limit Alabama's ability to sustain drives. For the season the Alabama defense has allowed only 16.4 percent of its opponents' possessions to score. This means that Auburn will be limited in its scoring opportunities, which makes red zone offense a key for the Auburn offense. Auburn is only scoring on 57 percent of its red zone opportunities, dead last in the nation. The Alabama defense has permitted its opponent to score on 81 percent of its red zone opportunities so Auburn has to expose one of the few weaknesses on the Alabama defense.

Alabama has not been a big-play offense, but it does have playmakers. The Auburn defense must keep the Crimson Tide in their traditional role as a blue-collar offense, making them work for everything they get. On the other hand, the Alabama defense has allowed an average of four possessions per game that netted 30 yards or more against SEC competition. The Auburn offense will need to dial up two to three big plays on offense to increase its chances of scoring. Alabama has allowed 13 plays of 30 yards or more this season with 10 coming through the air. Burns will have to take a few shots down field, something that did not happen against Georgia.

Auburn's offense has been average at best all season with a few bright moments peppered amongst poor line play, turnovers and poor execution. The offense has not consistently driven the ball and has struggled hitting the big play. There is simply too much to correct to have a game plan designed to consistently move the football against a good Alabama defense. This leaves only the big play, which will require Steve Ensminger to utilize his best players in the best possible situations. Putting the ball in the hands of Mario Fannin 15 to 20 times should be a major goal. Putting Burns on the edge with the option to run or pass should be another goal. Tristan Davis should remain at fullback, but he must have some actual touches of the football. Mississippi State's fullback was not accounted for several times against Alabama, but the Bulldogs were unable to take advantage of the blown coverage.

It would be tempting to pick Auburn in an emotional upset, but both teams are where they are because of consistency and execution on the part of Alabama and the lack thereof on Auburn. A healthier Auburn defense could make this a close game, but eventually the Auburn offense will have to make critical plays. Will this finally happen 12 games into the season?

Alabama 27, Auburn 13

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