2009 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 2nd/Rush Offense: 44th
Pass Offense: 55th/Pass Offense: 19th
Total Offense: 4th/Total Offense: 25th
Score Offense: 14th/Score Offense: 38th
Rush Defense: 66th/Rush Defense: 29th
Pass Defense: 19th/Pass Defense: 54th
Total Defense: 39th/Total Defense: 35th
Score Defense: 48th/Score Defense: 55th
About West Virginia...
The Mountaineers come to Jordan-Hare with a 2-0 record, disposing of Liberty, 33-20, and East Carolina, 35-20. Second year head coach Bill Stewart has decided to open up his offense to a more traditional pro scheme and senior quarterback Jarrett Brown is off to a fantastic start.
Brown is the 11th ranked passer in the nation with an impressive passer rating of 180.1. He has completed better than 75 percent of his passes for more than 10 yards per attempt. Jock Sanders has been Brown's primary target with 17 receptions in just two games, gaining nearly 100-yards in both outings.
Running back, Noel Devine is off to a slow start with 192-yards on 36 carries, but is still averaging a healthy 5.3 yards per carry. Jarrett Brown is the second leading rusher on the team averaging 71yards per game, He gives WVU a dangerous dual threat at quarterback.
Noel Devine burned Auburn's defense last year in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers' defense is currently ranked 35th in the nation in total defense and 29th against the run. Cornerback Brandon Hogan is the leading tackler with 17 stops this season. Linebacker J.T. Thomas is the leader in tackles for loss with 3 1/2.
Julian Miller is a major threat from his defensive end position with 10 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks Overall, the West Virginia defense has allowed only 75.5 yards per game on the ground and 268- yards per game in total defense. The West Virginia defense returns eight of its top 10 tacklers from 2008.
Inside the Numbers…
•West Virginia has been very successful on first down through two games averaging an astonishing 10.7 yards per play. The offense has been extremely balanced on first down with 28 run plays for 6.3 yards per play and 29 pass attempts for 14.9 yards per play.
•Quarterback Brown has been lethal on first down, compiling a gaudy QB rating of 235.7. He has completed 24 of 29 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns on first down alone.
•Brown's quarterback rating drops on third down to 119.8 but he has completed 66.7 percent of his third down passes. He also has an additional 63 yards rushing on five carries, which has converted four third down situations.
•Through two games the West Virginia offense has netted at least 30 yards during a possession on 14 of 25 possessions. Its opponents have netted 30 yards on 9 of 24 possessions.
•Auburn's offense has produced at least 30 yards during a possession in 16 of 24 attempts this season while the defense has allowed six such possessions in 24 attempts.
•Despite starting 23 of 24 possessions on its own side of the field, the Auburn offense has scored on 57 percent of its possessions, including a touchdown percentage of 43 percent. From 1993-2008 Auburn's scoring percentage was 28 percent with a touchdown percentage of 21 percent when starting a drive on their own side of the field.
•Despite all the success the Auburn offense had during the first two games the Tigers are only averaging 5.3 yards per play on first down. Part of the reason for that is Auburn has only completed 50 percent of its passes on first down for 3.4 yards per attempt.
•Auburn has amassed 22 plays of 15 yards or more on offense while allowing eight on defense. West Virginia has 20 impact plays on offense while allowing 12 on defense. Auburn's offense has produced five plays of 30 yards or more while allowing two and the Mountaineers have six on offense and only one on defense.
Why Auburn should win…
•This will be the most serious challenge to date for both opponents, but Auburn's victories have come against better competition. Auburn has already faced one conference opponent and another opponent that was victorious in its bowl game last season.
•Auburn's rushing offense is ranked No. 2 in the nation. West Virginia should be able to slow Auburn's running game, but it will be a major challenge for the Mountaineers.
•Auburn has already faced some adversity this season turning close games in the second quarter into blowouts. This should provide great confidence in a young Auburn offense should this game go "toe to toe" early on.
•In the past Auburn has found it more difficult in defending a strong running offense than a passing offense. This is not the typical Mountaineers' offense we have witnessed under former coach Rick Rodriguez. Because Auburn has depth issues at linebacker, the Tigers are better suited for defending the pass than a strong running offense.
•The returning Auburn players from last season will be motivated to finish what they could not do last season in Morgantown.
Why West Virginia should win…
•West Virginia possesses the best quarterback Auburn has faced so far and he is off to a great start. Brown combines excellent size with a strong arm and athletic abilities that truly make him a dual threat. Auburn has already had problems maintaining containment on mobile quarterbacks this season and Brown is an extremely accurate passer and mobile quarterback.
•Last season Noel Devine shredded the Auburn defense with 207 yards rushing. Mississippi State was able to rush for 167 yards last Saturday. Devine is also a threat to go the distance from anywhere on the field.
•West Virginia has the ability to sustain long sustained drives, which will limit Auburn's opportunities on offense. If the Tigers can limit Auburn to 10 possessions during the game it could shave off 7-10 points from Auburn's scoring opportunities. Louisiana Tech was able to accomplish this task for one half.
•Auburn's special teams have been questionable except for the kicking game. This could be magnified in a close ball game.
•West Virginia is 5-0 against SEC teams this decade.
Looking at the competition both teams have faced and the results from those games, Auburn should be favored. The current point spread has the Tigers picked to win somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 points. It's still too early to rely on scoring margins with only two games into the season, but the scoring margins and scoring averages of both squads would indicate a victory of three to 15 points by the Tigers. Both teams are searching for national recognition and a victory this week could land one of the teams in the Top 25 of the national polls.
Both offenses have big play potential, which increases the probability of a high scoring contest. Auburn's defense has fared better at preventing the impact plays, giving the Tigers an edge, especially playing in front of the home crowd. The Mountaineers' offense has mainly been centered around Brown, Devine and Sanders while Auburn has been able to spread the wealth around to Kodi Burns, Ben Tate, Onterio McCalebb, Mario Fannin, Terrell Zachery and Darvin Adams. Once again, this provides an edge to the Auburn offense as well as their defense.
Though the strength of the Mountaineers' offense appears to be their passing game, taking away the running game will be essential to making WVU a one-dimensional offense. Auburn can ill afford to allow West Virginia to dominate on first down or it will result in long sustained drives, which will exhaust the Auburn defense and take away opportunities from the Tiger offense. This is a statement game for both defenses with all the attention centered on the offenses. If you enjoy offensive football, this could be a very entertaining match up. Auburn 31 West Virginia 24
Around the SEC…
Alabama over North Texas
Florida over Tennessee
LSU over Louisiana Lafayette
South Carolina over Florida Atlantic
Arkansas over Georgia
Ole Miss over SE Louisiana
Kentucky over Louisville
Vanderbilt over Mississippi State