In Part II of Moving Forward, here is how the defense breaks down compared to 2013. Once again this is a 2014 mid-season comparison to the 2013 completed season, so the rankings are skewed to a degree. However, it does give us a general idea of how much the defense has appeared to have improved.
The national rankings...
Overall we see an average ranking of No. 33 nationally from the 15 statistical categories, compared to the No. 62 average ranking in 2013. Auburn is currently in the top-25 of 7 of the 15 categories, with a 34-point + swing in 8 categories. The most notable turnarounds comes in the forced-turnovers, limiting of big plays allowed, total defense and pass-efficiency defense.
There are no glaring drops in defense, with RZ TD percentage being the worst drop in production. There was a drop in pass-efficiency defense and third-down percentage but both categories at least remain in the nation's top-25. The yards allowed per play on first-down can be contributed to the No. 87 ranking in pass-efficiency defense on first-down.
There should be no doubt the defense has continued to improve this season but the DL remains a concern in terms of establishing a pass-rush. With Auburn having to face 5 remaining opponents currently averaging over 430-yards per game on offense, the defense is about to be truly challenged to close out the regular season. Though Ellis Johnson has looked at some possible personnel changes (during bye-week) to give the Tigers some additional speed on the edge, I believe Auburn is limited to what they can improve upon in regards to the pass-rush from the front-4.
The key for the remainder of the season will be the continued trend of forcing turnovers, limiting big plays and playing well on pass-defense. Climbing back into the top-20 of RZ TD Pct would be a major plus for the Auburn defense moving forward.