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  1. Depending on pending injuries or weather, I would expect the Auburn offense to play well against Wisconsin. Gus Malzahn has coached in 10 combined Bowl games and Conference Championships at the collegiate level. During those 10 games, his offense averaged 498.6 YPG and 39.9 PPG. His teams went 7-3 during those 10 outings. This includes 6 games at Auburn, where his offense averaged 518.8 YPG and 41.5 PPG. This includes a 5-1 mark at Auburn. Auburn will check in with Nick Marshall at QB, CAP at RB, along with Sammie Coates, Duke Williams and Quan Bray at WR. All five players will likely be playing their last game as an Auburn Tiger, motivated to put on a show one last time, wearing the orange and blue. This doesn't include the services of Chad Slade, Reese Dismukes, CJ Uzomah, Brandon Fulse and Corey Grant, who will also want to go out with a bang. During the last 26 games, the Auburn offense has averaged 496-yards and 38 PPG, along with 296-yards rushing per game. This also includes 80 offensive plays of 30+ yards and 253 plays of 15+ yards.
  2. From 2000-2012, SEC teams have combined for an efficiency rating of 129.2. During Malzahn's 4 seasons as an OC in the SEC, his pass-offenses had an efficiency rating of 142.8. That's very impressive, when you consider how many quarterbacks account for that overall rating (good & bad). Imagine how efficient it would be with a returning starter in place, which he has never had at the collegiate level. For the most part, if Auburn can run the football, they will have a consistent pass-offense to compliment it. 54 games as an OC in the SEC and his offense ran for 170-yards or more 39 times with a combined pass-rating of 146.2. In the 15 remaining games under 170-yards rushing, his pass-offense had an efficiency rating of 134.2, still higher than the SEC standard of 129.2. Fans like to debate the complexity of Malzahn's pass-offense or the lack there of but I look at the "bottom line". Does it work? The above numbers is a resounding, "yes". We all know the offensive edge will be built primarily around tempo, so in theory, the schemes need to be simple for the most part to allow better efficiency. There are enough moving parts, motion and play-action to generate confusion on the part of the opposing defense as long as there is consistent "execution" to go along with the tempo. Malzahn has been very good at personnel utilization in his 7 previous seasons as a collegiate coach, when it comes to offense. Looking at this season's personnel lineup, makes the likely focus on OL, RB, TE and FB. At the end of the season, I think we will see 65-67% run in terms of offensive snaps. I don't see Auburn throwing the ball more than 25 times during a game unless it's required by situation. Of course this doesn't mean the pass-offense cannot be efficient or explosive. Personally, I want a pass-offense built around quality and not quantity.
  3. New Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn taught the Arkansas State Red Wolves a tough lesson this past week—he started their nine-game win streak, and he could end it as well. That is exactly what happened as Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers mauled his former team 38-9. The Red Wolves’ nine-game winning streak was the second-longest in the country, and eight of those wins came with Malzahn leading from the sidelines. Although the final score looks like complete domination, it was red-zone efficiency that was the difference in this game. Auburn gained 468 yards, but Arkansas State also produced 422 yards on 80 plays. Auburn scored on all five of its trips inside the Red Wolves' 20-yard line. Meanwhile, the Red Wolves were held out of the end zone despite reaching the red zone four times. So far this season, the Tigers have had a bend-but-don't-break approach on defense, and so far it has worked. The Tigers have not allowed an offensive touchdown in six-plus quarters. The running game continued to impress as the Tigers rushed for 301 yards Saturday. The three-headed monster of Corey Grant, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 241 of those 301 yards. Artis-Payne led the Tigers in rushing with 102 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Mason finished one yard short of the century mark with 99 yards rushing and also scored a touchdown. Grant, who had 144 yards in the opener, finished with 40 yards. The Tigers staff had to be impressed with the progression of JUCO transfer and starting quarterback Nick Marshall. Marshall finished the game completing 10 of 17 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, plus 53 yards rushing. Those two touchdown passes both came in the first half, and both showed the potential that the Auburn coaching staff sees in Marshall. The first was an 18-yard touchdown pass to freshman Marcus Davis, and the second was a perfect 68-yard touchdown strike to Sammie Coates. Both Marshall and the Auburn defense will need to continue their progression heading into Week 3 as they open up SEC play. The Tigers will square off with the Mississippi State Bulldogs this weekend with an opportunity to match their win total for all of 2012 in Week 3. Two games into the Malzahn-era, fans are once again chanting, “It's great to be a Auburn Tiger.”
  4. Follow @theDrSEC If you don't know Gus Malzahn, his rapid rise from high school football coach to head coach of Auburn University is stunning. However, if you met him anywhere along the way, you're not surprised at all. No matter where Malzahn was, he prepared like the head coach of a major SEC football program. Malzahn graduated from Fort Smith Christian High School (AR) in 1984. He was a good football player, but not elite. There were no coaches from big-time college football programs begging for his commitment. While he was not an elite athlete, he was good enough to walk on at the University of Arkansas. Malzahn worked hard and got the most out of his talent while practicing with the Razorbacks. Malzahn wanted more, though, so he transferred to Henderson State University, a Division II school located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Malzahn finally got the playing time he desired, but perhaps not at the position he thought. While he did catch 24 passes for 288 yards during his two years at Henderson State, it was his punting that kept him on the field. He averaged 35.3 yards per punt in his junior season and 37.7 yards in his senior season. He had a career long of 64 yards and was selected All-AIC Honorable Mention in his senior season. Just like with his playing career, there were no big-time programs lining up to hire the coach who would later be tabbed as a mad scientist. In fact, his first coaching job was not even on the offensive side of the football. Instead,Malzahn was hired as defensive coordinator of a small high school in Arkansas named Hughes High School. With fewer than 2,000 people in the city, few would have guessed it was the first step for a future SEC head coach. In fact, the high school no longer even has a football program. Malzahn did what he always does and made the most of the situation. After just one season as a defensive coordinator, he was promoted to head coach. While he had not yet developed into the offensive mastermind he is today, he found ways to put his players in the best position to succeed. With very few players and perhaps even less talent, Malzahn guided Hughes High School to unimaginable heights. In 1994, he led the team to the Class AAA state championship game, where it fell just yards short of a state championship despite barely having enough players to dress a full squad. The loss was devastating to Malzahn. However, he had shown his potential on a bigger stage and people took notice. One program that took notice was Springdale, Arkansas' Shiloh Christian. In 1994, Malzahn was hired to replace the well-respected Dennis DeBusk.His first season at Shiloh was filled with mixed reviews. He did lead the Saints to a conference championship and into the second round of the state playoffs, but they finished a mediocre 6-6. During the spring of 1997, he developed the hurry-up, no-huddle philosophy that would transform high school football in the state of Arkansas. Over the next four seasons, the Saints would compile an overall record of 57-2-1. Moreover, they would win two state championships and finish as state runner-ups twice. Malzahn loved Shiloh, but it was not the national powerhouse that it is today. As a result, Malzahn would need to make another move. In 2001, Malzahn become the head football coach at Springdale High School. Much like his experience at Shiloh, he started off with a mediocre 7-5 record. However, as has always been the case, Malzahn turned things around quickly by leading Springdale to state championship appearances in 2002 and 2004 before finally capturing the elusive title in 2005. His 2005 team was loaded with Division I talent. So when Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt offered Malzahn his vacant offensive coordinator position, people outside of the state of Arkansas were shocked. This had to be Nutt giving a job to a high school coach to secure its top players, right? Well, all doubters were quickly silenced. Despite Arkansas only winning four games in the season prior to Malzahn's arrival, the Razorbacks won 10 games and the Western Division crown. The college football world was shocked, as Arkansas won more games in 2006 than it did over the two previous seasons combined. For reasons laid out by, Malzahn left Arkansas after one season to become offensive coordinator at Tulsa. The results were fast and impressive. In his first season as offensive coordinator, the Golden Hurricanes won 10 games and a divisional crown. Tulsa ranked No. 1 in the nation in total offense with the rare combination of a 5,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher. Malzahn's second year with the program was just as impressive. Tulsa finished the season 11-3 and as a divisional champion for the second consecutive season. Tulsa once again was the No. 1 offense in the nation in total yards and the second-highest scoring offense in the history of major college football. After the successful season, Malzahn packed his bags and headed back to the SEC—this time to the Auburn Tigers, who had fallen on hard times. However, as is always the case with Malzahn, the hard times didn't last long. In Malzahn's first season as offensive coordinator at Auburn, the Tigers increased their win total by three games. Moreover, Auburn's scoring offense improved from 110th to 17th with over 33 points per game. The wide open offense did not go unnoticed by the media and young recruits.Malzahn's offense was one of the primary reasons JUCO transfer Cam Newton would choose Auburn University. The rest, as they say, is history. The combination of Newton and Malzahn was golden and led to the 2010 BCS National Championship after a perfect 14-0 season. Malzahn would last one more season in Auburn before accepting his first head coaching job at the college football level. The results? As expected, Malzahn led Arkansas State to a 9-3 record and Sun Belt Conference Championship with a blowout win over Middle Tennessee State in the championship game. Now Malzahn is back at Auburn. The doubters are back out in full force. They refuse to notice that his offenses were great far before Newton ever stepped on campus. They refuse to acknowledge that the colleges that Malzahn coached at averaged 5.67 wins the season prior to his arrival and over 10 wins per season during his tenure. They dropped back to 5.3 wins the season after his departure. Coincidence? Not at all. Malzahn is a winner and can do more with less than almost any of his peers. Auburn will be improved this season and Malzahn will be the reason.
  5. Post Season Numbers & Thoughts: During the first 7 games of the season the Auburn defense allowed 5.88 yards per play during the first-half and 4.21 yards per play during the second-half. During the final 6 games of the season, the Auburn defense allowed 5.97 yards per play during the first-half and 6.76 yards per play during the second-half. During the first 7 games of the season, 49.0% of the snaps defended by the Auburn defense during the first-half, went for 2-yards or less. It increased to 55.6% during the second half of games. During the last 6 games of the season, 43.7% of the snaps defended by the Auburn defense during the first-half, went for 2-yards or less. It decreased to 42.9% during the second half. The top-5 play-makers on offense this season based on impact-plays were: Cameron Artis Payne (26), Duke Williams (22), Nick Marshall (20), Sammie Coates (14) and Quan Bray (12). Injuries to Williams and Coates took away from Auburn's explosiveness this season. During the first 6 games of the season, Nick Marshall averaged 82.0 yards rushing per game on 6.6 yards per attempt. During the final 7 games of the season, Marshall averaged only 43.7 yards per rush on 3.9 yards per carry. The read-option was nowhere close to last season. During the final 7 games of the 2013 season, Marshall & Mason averaged 257.6 YPG on 6.09 YPC. During the final 7 games of 2014, Marshall & CAP combined for 179.3 YPG on 4.92 YPC. Ricardo Louis is a player to watch for in 2015. With the departure of Sammie Coates, Auburn will need him to become a consistent playmaker. During the first 6 games of the season, Louis had 15 offensive touches for 118-yards. During the final 7 games of the season, Louis had 22 offensive touches for 353-yards. Of his 9 impact plays on the season, 7 came during the second-half of the season. Duke Williams was No. 12 nationally in generating pass-receptions of 15-yards or more and Sammie Coates was No. 21. The Auburn offense simply wasn't the same without both healthy and on the field together. During Auburn's 8 victories this season, the Tigers compiled a pass-rating of 157.1 on first-down and only 117.2 during their 5 defeats. From 1992-2014 Auburn has compiled a pass-rating of 136.0 on first-down and was only 134.9 in 2014. Of Auburn's 332 passes on the season, only 96 (28.6%) came on first down, which was dead last nationally. The national average was 37.9%, which means Nick Marshall was forced to throw more often when the opponent wanted him to, rather than when Malzahn wanted him to throw. I expect that percentage to change drastically with Jeremy Johnson at quarterback. In terms of the game day report cards, the Auburn offense had a passing grade in 11 of 13 games, the defense 6 in 13 games and special teams, 7 of 13 games. Last season the offense had a passing grade in 12 of 14 games, the defense 7 of 14 games and special teams 13 of 14 games. Overall the offense improved to 74.9% from 74.6% in 2013. The defense dropped to 47.7% from 49.3% in 2013 and special teams took the biggest dive to 53.4% from 71.7% in 2013. During the last 3 games of the season Auburn allowed 3.93 yards per rush during the first-half and 7.58 yards per attempt during the second-half. How vital are impact plays? During Auburn's 73 scoring drives this season, 63 involved at least 1 play of 15-yards or more during the possession. Last season the Auburn defense registered 32 sacks and 13 interceptions. This season despite only 20 sacks, Auburn intercepted 22 passes. One can only imagine how many picks Auburn could have totaled in 2014 with a more consistent pass-rush. During the first 5 games of the season, the Auburn defense forced a "3 & out", 45 percent of the time. During the final 8 games of the season, it dropped to only 18 percent. During the first 5 games of the season, the Auburn defense allowed 24-yards per possession and a TD every 37.2 snaps. During the final 8 games of the season, the defense allowed 36-yards per possession and a TD every 16.6 snaps defended. During the first 7 games of the season, Auburn scored 75 points from their opponent's turnovers. During the final 6 games of the season, Auburn scored only 24 points off of turnovers. Rarely does a player find immediate success after making a position change at the collegiate level. Johnathan "Rudy" Ford moved to safety this season, finishing the year as Auburn's leading tackler with 93 stops. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions and 1 forced-fumble. Look for him to continue to grow into his position under Will Muschamp. Rudy Ford was No. 14 in the SEC with 7.15 tackles per game. Cassanova McKinzy was No. 16 and Kris Frost was No. 17. McKinzy was also No. 14 in the SEC with 11 tackles for loss. Fifteen SEC defensive linemen had more tackles for loss than Auburn's leader, Montravius Adams (8). Cameron Artis-Payne had some major shoes to fill, replacing Tre Mason. The senior RB, responded with an All-SEC season, leading the conference in rushing and No. 2 in rushing TD's. CAP's 123.7 yards per game was the 5th best average in school history. Cameron Artis-Payne was No. 15 nationally in yards per game. Quarterback Nick Marshall improved his passer-rating from 143.2 in 2013 to 150.8. His 150.8 rating is the 4th highest rated performance among the 37 Auburn quarterbacks to attempt at least 150 passes during a season. His TD ratio of 1 every 14.6 attempts was 5th best in school history. Marshall was No. 33 in pass-efficiency during 2013, improving to No. 15 his senior year. The Auburn offense finished No. 13 in run-offense and No. 9 in pass-efficiency offense. The Tigers were No. 17 in total-offense and No. 26 in scoring-offense. Based on yards per game, yards per play, points per game, TD ratio and strength of schedule, the 2014 Auburn offense is No. 3 among the past 60 Auburn offensive units. The 2010 offense was No. 1 with a 213.5 rating, the 2013 offense was No. 2 with a 209.9 rating and the 2014 unit had a rating of 199.6. From 1970-2014, Auburn has compiled a record of 204-6-0, when scoring at least 30 points during regulation. Four of the 6 losses have come during the past 2 seasons. From 2009-2014 (79 games), Auburn has allowed 26 PPG, 398.3 YPG and 163.2 yards rushing per game. Of those 79 games, it includes 26 losses, where Auburn allowed 36 PPG, 446.5 YPG and 222.6 yards rushing per game. The second installment of Will Muschamp's defense cannot start soon enough. The 2014 season marks the 12th time Auburn has closed a season with only 1 win during their last 5 games of the season since 1950. The Auburn coaching staff has their work cut out for them as Auburn followed up the previous 11 seasons with a win percentage of .622 the following year. Looking at only FBS competition, Auburn's 2014 schedule ended up being the 6th most difficult in school history, minus the result of the "Auburn" game. 10 of Auburn's 13 opponents this season (76.9%) were FBS programs that finished the season with a winning record. It was the 3rd highest percentage of winning opponents faced during a season from 1950-2014. The 1983 team holds the highest percentage (83.3%). So what happened to the 2014 Auburn defense? During the first 5 games of the season, Auburn faced opponents that averaged 402.0 YPG, averaging 30.4 PPG. The Auburn defense held them to 24% below their yardage average and 53% below their scoring average. During their last 7 FBS games, Auburn faced offenses that averaged 463.3 YPG, while scoring 35.1 PPG. Auburn allowed those 7 teams to gain 5.5% more yardage than their average, while scoring 7.7% more than the opponent's average. In a nutshell, the competition was better during the second-half of the season, but Auburn's production percentages should not have collapsed as much as it did. Time to move onto 2015 and Happy New Year!
  6. From 1997-2014, the Auburn defense has held their opponent to 11.3% below the opponent's seasonal average in yardage per game. From 2009-2014, the Auburn defense has held their opponent to 2.9% below their seasonal average. During the Will Muschamp era (2006-2007), the Auburn defense held their opponent to 20.3% below the opponent's season average. During Will Muschamp's final season at Auburn, the Tiger defense had the opponent to 24.4% below the opponent's season average in yardage per game. This was the 2nd best performance by an Auburn defense from 1997-2014. From 1997-2014, Auburn held their opponent to 26.4% below the opponent's scoring average for the season. From 2009-2014, Auburn held their opponent to 13.9% below the opponent's scoring average for the season. With Will Muschamp as Auburn's defensive coordinator, the Tigers held their opponent to 43.7% below the opponent's scoring average. Will Muschamp's final Auburn defense held their opponent to 45.5% below the opponent's scoring average, the second best performance by an Auburn defense from 1997-2014. During Muschamp's tenure as Auburn's defensive coordinator, the Tigers faced 9 teams that average over 400-yards per game. Those 9 teams averaged 430-yards per game but were held to an average of 315-yards per game against Auburn. During Muschamp's tenure as Auburn's defensive coordinator, the Tigers faced 11 teams that average over 30-points per game. Those 11 teams average 34.8 points per game but were held to an average of 17.7 points per game against Auburn. From 1992-2014, the Auburn defense held their opponent to 17.9% below the opponent's rushing average. From 2009-2014, the Auburn defense held their opponent to 8.4% below the opponent's rushing average. During Muschamp's tenure as Auburn's defensive coordinator, the Auburn defense held their opponent to 19.3% below the opponent's rushing average. His 2007 defense held the opponent to 26.1% below the opponent's rushing average. From 1992-2004, the Auburn pass-defense held their opponent to a pass-efficiency average of 117.5. From 2009-2014, the Auburn pass-defense held their opponent to a pass-efficiency average of 130.3. Will Muschamp's pass-defense at Auburn held their opponent to a pass-efficiency average of 109.4. His 2007 pass-defense allowed a pass-rating of 104.3, the 4th best pass-defense from 1992-2014. War Eagle and Welcome Back Coach Muschamp!
  7. Game #12 Statistical Evaluation (Alabama Game) Offensive Report Card: 01) Avg 6-yards per play on 1st down: [5.64] fail 02) Convert at least 40% of 3rd downs: [47.4%] pass 03) Avg at least 4.5 yards per rush: [3.72] fail 04) Score on at least 1/3 of possessions: [61.5%] pass 05) Keep 3 and out series under 33%: [15.4%] pass 06) Average 8.0 yards per pass attempt: [10.6 yds] pass 07) Score at least 75% inside red zone: [87.5%] pass 08) TD red zone above 60%: [25.0%] fail 09) Avg at least 30-yards per possession: [45.0 yds] pass 10) 40% of offensive snaps part of scoring drives: [75.3%] pass 11) TD / Turnover ratio above 1.6: [4 TD’s / 2] pass 12) TD ratio of at least 1 every 17 snaps: [22.2] fail 13) At least 8 impact plays: [11] pass 14) At least 2 big plays: [6] pass 15) Pass rating of at least 125.0: [170.2] pass * Red Zone offense ended up being the difference in the game but 44 points and over 600-yards in offense should always result in a victory. * Nick Marshall was a baller tonight, setting a new school record in passing yardage against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. * I wish there was a way of keeping Duke Williams for his senior year. He was a warrior tonight. Score: 11 of 15 (73.3%) Pass Defensive Report Card: 01) Avg under 6-yards per play on 1st down: [11.0] fail 02) Convert below 35% of 3rd downs: [55.6%] fail 03) Avg at least 4.0 yards per rush: [6.68] fail 04) Score below 1/3 of possessions: [61.5%] fail 05) Keep 3 and out series above 33%: [23.1%] fail 06) Average below 7.5 yards per pass attempt: [11.6 yds] fail 07) Score below 75% inside red zone: [100.0%] fail 08) TD red zone below 60%: [100.0%] fail 09) Avg under 30-yards per possession: [38.5 yds] fail 10) Less than 40% of offensive snaps part of scoring drives: [77.0%] fail 11) TD / Turnover ratio below 1.6: [8 TD’s / 3 turnovers] fail 12) TD ratio of at least 1 every 30 snaps: [7.6] fail 13) Less than 8 impact plays: [14] fail 14) No more than 2 big plays allowed: [3] fail 15) Pass rating below 125.0: [197.8] fail Score: 0 of 15 (0.0%) fail * Since 1961 Auburn is 45-2 with at least 540-yards in total offense and both losses were suffered this year. Since 1961 Auburn is 134-4, when scoring 38 points during regulation. Two of those losses occurred this season. This was the first time in school history Auburn lost a game after scoring at least 40 points during regulation. Special Teams Report Card: 1) Punt Average (Above 41.3): [41.0] 0 inside 20 (fail) 2) Punt Return Defense (Below 7.8 YPR): [12.0] fail 3) Punt Return Offense (Above 9.8 YPR): [0.0] fail 4) Kick-Return Defense (Below 21.2 YPR): [15.8] pass 5) Kick-Return Offense (Above 22.3 YPR): [20.8] fail 6) PAT’s (100%): [4 of 4] pass 7) FG Pct (75% or above): [100.0%] pass Score: 3 of 7 (42.9%) fail * Keep in mind that 50% is a passing score. War Eagle!
  8. Post game Numbers & Thoughts: Prior to the 2014 Iron Bowl, Auburn had passed for a combined 446-yards during their last 4 meetings against the Tide. Nick Marshall passed for 456-yards last night. Prior to last night Alabama had allowed only 2.6 trips per game inside their red zone. Auburn had 8 trips last night but only scored 2 TD's. Alabama was No. 7 nationally in TD percentage allowed inside the RZ. Though Auburn had opportunities to score more points, their 27 points scored inside the RZ, far exceeded the 12.0 PPG Alabama had allowed inside the RZ prior to last night's game. The 630-yards gained against Alabama last night was the 4th most yards gained by an Auburn offense in conference play. It was the most ever gained against Alabama by Auburn and the most yardage gained by an Auburn offense against a team ranked No. 1. Auburn is now 32-2 since 1960, when gaining at least 500-yards against a conference opponent during regulation. Both losses came this season. Auburn has averaged 502-yards and 37 PPG in conference play during 17 games as Gus Malzahn as the head coach. Despite the record-setting offensive production, Auburn is 12-5 in those games, primarily because the defense has surrendered an average of 453-yards and 31 PPG. During the previous 17 conference games before Malzahn became head coach, Auburn averaged 287-yards and 17 PPG on offense, while the defense allowed 417-yards and 31 PPG. Cameron Artis-Payne has 1482-yards rushing on the season, fighting for every inch he could muster last night against Alabama. He finished the game with 77-yards on 25 carries. I have watched 36 Iron Bowls during my lifetime and I've never witnessed an Auburn offense attack an Alabama defense the way I saw last night. During the 7 previous Iron Bowls (2007-2013) with Nick Saban as the head coach, Auburn's offense had a combined total of 8 plays of 30-yards or more combined. The most impact plays during any of those games was 7. Last night Auburn had 11 impact plays of which 6 went for over 30-yards. During Auburn's last 6 conference games, the opponent has averaged 483-yards and 39 PPG, scoring a TD every 14 plays defended. Since 1992 Auburn is 92-2, when the offense scores on at least 42 percent of their offensive possessions. The two losses both occurred this season. Sammie Coates 206-yards in receiving was 5th best in school history and the most receiving yardage an Auburn player has ever recorded against Alabama. Since 1986 Auburn has faced 30 opponents ranked in the top-5. Nick Marshall has produced the top-4 passing performances based on efficiency-rating during those games. During the last 7 games the Auburn offense had a passing-grade 5 times, special teams 3 times and defense 1 time. With Gus Malzahn directing the Auburn offense, the Tigers have averaged 435-yards and 32 PPG during 42 conference games. The defense during that same time period has allowed 409-yards and 29 PPG. Prior to last night, the most yardage gained by an Auburn offense against a top-10 defense was 451-yards. Auburn shattered that mark with 630-yards. Auburn is now 10-3 against top-10 defenses, when gaining at least 350-yards per game since 1981 and 2 of those losses have come during the past 2 seasons. Of Duke Williams 45 receptions on the year, 37 have resulted in an Auburn first down or touchdown. Sammie Coates has 30 receptions on the year and 25 have resulted in a first down or touchdown. Alabama came into the game with the No. 5 rated defense (total-defense), allowing 283 yards per game. Auburn's 620-yards was nearly 123 percent more yardage than Alabama had allowed per game. The Crimson Tide has now dropped to No. 11 in total-defense. Prior to last night Auburn had never lost to Alabama after generating at least 350-yards in offense (10-0). Despite gaining over 600-yards, Auburn still lost by 11 points. Auburn is now 111-1 from 1951-2014, when scoring 40 points or more during regulation. I thought the entire team played with passion and desire last night. There was no indication a "team" going through the motions and no sign of quit. Some will say they saw some players quit last night but I disagree. There is a big difference between quitting and a player working through frustration. Last night I saw an offense confident in their game plan, working hard to execute it to the best of their ability. They believed in their game plan and coaches and became stronger after every successful play. I saw a defense that played hard and with passion early on but often looked lost and confused. It is difficult to play with confidence and passion, when you're lost. Speaking of a lack of confidence and being confused. During the first 30 snaps on defense, Auburn allowed 196-yards and 20 points. Had they maintained that pace for the remainder of the game, Auburn would have won. During the next 30 snaps defended, Auburn allowed 345-yards and 35 points. During the first half Auburn's defense allowed 6 impact plays for 105-yards. During the second-half, they surrendered 8 impact plays for 260-yards. It was a perfect example of a house of cards crumbling to the table, once the foundation had been breached. War Eagle!
  9. Quick Start in the Iron Bowl... From 1981-2013, Auburn is 4-10 in the Iron Bowl, when trailing after the first quarter and 14-5, when they don't. Since Gus Malzahn has coached the Auburn offense, the Tigers are 9-7, when trailing at the end of the first quarter and 41-8, when not. During the first 36 quarters of this football season, Auburn was held scoreless in only 3 quarters. During the last 8 quarters, they have been held scoreless in 4. This offensive funk needs to come to a stop against Alabama. ________________________________________________________________________ During the last 40 meetings against Alabama, Auburn has eclipsed 200-yards rushing only 7 times, compiling a 5-2 record, when doing so. Only 1 of those 200-yard rushing performances have come against Nick Saban's Alabama teams. The Tigers have averaged only 135.2 yards rushing per game against Alabama (2007-2013), including an average of 73.6 yards rushing from Auburn's leading rusher at the RB position. This year looks to be another major challenge for Auburn to run the football against the Tide.One of the reasons why Auburn had success running the football last season was Alabama wasn't as dominant on first-down run-defense. _________________________________________________________________________ During the last 50 Iron Bowls, Auburn has a pass rating of just 103.6. During the games AU had a pass rating of at least 130 on at least 10 pass attempts, the Tigers are 9-1. ___________________________________________________________________ An Auburn record that will likely stand for awhile is Bo Jackson's 4 consecutive 100-yard rushing games against Alabama (1982-1985). Jackson averaged 7.0 yards per rush against the Tide. Roc Thomas might have the opportunity to start the next run this Saturday night. ___________________________________________________________________ From 2008-2014, Alabama has only been defeated 10 times and of those 10 losses, 6 were by 6-points or less. The winner averaged 222-yards passing, completing 68% of their passes for an average of 8.5 yards per attempt. They also threw for a combined total of 24 TD passes and only 4 interceptions against the Tide defense. On defense the winner held Alabama to an average of 110.7 yards rushing for 3.3 yards per rush. During this same time period (2008-2014) Auburn is 19-1, when the complete at least 60% of their passes for at least 8-yards per attempt, while holding their opponent to under 150-yards rushing. Auburn is 7-2 vs. Alabama since 1981, when they complete at least 60% of their passes. Nick Marshall needs to play well and the Auburn front-7 needs to play well against the run. ___________________________________________________________________ Josh Thompson is the last Auburn DL to lead the team in tackles during a single game with at least 10 tackles. He had 12 stops against Alabama in 2007. _________________________________________________________________________ During the last 50 Iron Bowls, Auburn is 10-0 with at least 350-yards in total offense. _________________________________________________________________________ During the last 7 Iron Bowls, Auburn averaged 5.71 yards per play on first down during their 3 victories and only 3.80 yards per play during their 4 losses. Playing well on first down will be essential. _________________________________________________________________________ Since 1981 the team with the most rushing yardage at the end of the game is 27-6 in the Iron Bowl. Auburn has averaged 284-yards rushing in conference play, while allowing 178-yards on defense. Alabama has averaged 167-yards in conference play, while allowing 115-yards on defense. _________________________________________________________________________ During the last 20 Iron Bowls, the team that won the first-down battle in yards per play is 15-5 in the series. _________________________________________________________________________ Since 1981 Auburn is 8-2, when they are able to run the ball at least 64 percent of the time on first down and 4-8, when they don't.
  10. Last night was a clear example of a team that has lost its focus primarily because of how the season has played out. It is much easier to dig down deep physically and mentally, when you have major goals to play for like 2013. This isn't the case this late into the 2014 season and it shows. This is not an excuse for the poor performance last night but this clearly isn't a motivated "team". There are some players who continue to play hard but not enough to make the difference. When Gus Malzahn arrived after the 2012 season, his biggest challenge would be teaching the players how to win again. The challenge now for the coaching staff is demanding the players to play hard all the time, no matter the opponent and record. The second challenge is more difficult than the first. Speaking of players who have not mailed in their performance. Cameron Artis-Payne is a baller and brings his lunchbox to every game. He is not a thriller or speedster but he is a player you want to go to battle with. He ran hard last night just as he has against better competition. Through 11-games, his totals are the 6th best rushing performance by an Auburn player based on yards per game, yards per rush and TD ratio. He has been Auburn's most consistent offensive player this season. What has happened to Corey Grant? His first 20 carries of the season (1st 2 games) produced 14 runs of 5-yards, 7 of 10-yards or more and 3 of 15 yards or more. He was never tackled for a loss and had only 4 carries of 2-yards or less.The remainder of the season he has only 31 carries. Of those 31 attempts, 13 went for 5+, 5 for 10+ and only 2 for 15+. Of his last 31 carries, 14 have gone for 2-yards or less and 6 went for a loss. I believe this is why we have seen less of him running the football. This is also why we have seen more of Ricardo Louis and Quan Bray on the perimeter runs. During the first 9 games of the season, 46.4% of Auburn's offensive snaps resulted in at least 5-yards. During the past 2 games, it has dipped down to 41.7%. Gus Malzahn's offense is built around success on first down. The HUNH aspect doesn't come into play until the first 1st down is made during a possession. Last season through 11 games, 29% of Auburn's first down plays netted 2-yards or less. This season it is 40% through 11 games. Who are the impact players on offense this season? CAP (22), Duke Williams (19), Nick Marshall (18), Sammie Coates (10) and Quan Bray (8). Last year through 11 games it was Marshall (21), Tre Mason (14), Sammie Coates (13), Corey Grant (13) and CAP (10). Last season through 11 games the Auburn offense scored 11 touchdowns on 17 possessions (64.7%) beginning on the opponent's side of the field. This season it is only 6 from 16 possessions (37.5%). In terms of the weekly "report card " features, this is how this year's team compares to last year's through 11 games. 2014 offense (74.5%) slightly up from 73.2% in 2013. This year's defense (52.7%) slightly down from last year's 55.5%. This year's special teams (55.4%) significantly down from last year's 71.4%. In terms of recent trends, the offense has a report card percentage of 55.6% during the last 3 games. The defense is 42.2% and special teams is 50.0%. Last season the Auburn run-offense converted 86.0% of their short-yardage situations of 2-yards or less to convert. This season it is down to 78.4%. During the first 7 games of the season Auburn averaged 10.7 PPG from their opponent's turnovers, while allowing the opponent to score 4.0 PPG from Auburn's turnovers. During the last 4 games, Auburn has scored zero points from their forced turnovers, while allowing 5.2 PPG from their miscues. That is basically an 11-point swing per game. In terms of penalty yardage per game, Auburn is currently No. 114 nationally compared to No. 30 last year. Auburn has surrendered 31 first downs on penalties alone or 2.8 per game. From 2004-2013, Auburn allowed an average of 21 per season or 1.6 per game. The 2013 and 2014 offense both produced 106 impact plays through 11 games. The difference is the 2013 offense had a combined 67 turnovers and penalties, while the 2014 offense has 93, offsetting their offensive production. During the first 5 games of the season the Auburn offense went "3 & out" only 16.1% of the time, while the defense forced a "3 & out", 45.0% of the time. During the last 6 games the offense is hitting at 23.2% and the defense has fallen to 20.0%. As any football season progress teams either improve or regress. Last season's team progressed as the season moved forward and this year's team has retreated. There are many valid reasons for the lack of production. Talent, depth, coaching, preparation, strength of schedule and senior leadership. After the Iron Bowl and headed into bowl preparation, the coaching staff needs to seriously look at themselves as well as the players coming back next season. It will be interesting to see just how much fight this team has left for the Iron Bowl and how the coaching staff schemes to give their players the best opportunity to compete. War Eagle!
  11. Last season only 19.6% of Nick Marshall's pass attempts were in the intermediate range. This year it slightly increased to 21.0%. Last season 26.8% of Jeremy Johnson's pass attempts were in the intermediate range, increasing to 27.3% this season. Even though Nick Marshall did improve his passing this season, Auburn continued to lack the intermediate routes in their pass-offense. When Jeremy Johnson slides into the starting role in 2015, look for the Auburn pass-offense to be more lethal in terms of stretching the secondary throughout the entire field and not just on deep vertical routes. Johnson possesses the height, smooth delivery and the accurate arm to make every throw needed to challenge opposing secondaries. The play... During this play Auburn faces a 3rd &15 from their own 20-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set and Georgia responds with their safeties in a cover-2. Ricardo Louis and Marcus Davis will run deep vertical routes to occupy the safeties. C.J. Uzomah will run a shallow crossing route to occupy the linebackers. Melvin Ray will run an intermediate square-in route underneath the two safeties and a LB that drops deep into coverage. Jeremy Johnson makes his pass attempt just as Melvin Ray breaks inside towards the middle of the field. The timing of the pass allows Ray to catch the pass in stride, picking up an additional 10-yards for a 25-yard gain and Auburn first down. Through 10 games Auburn has faced 11 third-down situations of 15-yards or more needed to convert. Auburn has thrown the ball only 5 times in those long situations and this play was the only conversion of the 11 attempts.
  12. Auburn is currently No. 2 nationally converting third-downs this season. One of the reasons for their offensive success on third-down is the improved play of the pass-offense this season compared to last year. Auburn was 6 of 7 passing on third-down against Georgia but penalties on successful third-down plays snuffed out several offensive possessions. The play... During this play Auburn faces a 3rd & 9 from their own 44-yard line. The Tigers come out in a 4-WR look with 2 receivers stacked on the wide side of the field. C.J. Uzomah is the front man on the stack and he will run a square-in route. The receiver at the top of the stack (Quan Bray) will run an out-route, pulling the safety outside. At the snap Nick Marshall will look off his intended target ( Uzomah) as Uzomah breaks inside on his route underneath the corner and behind the LB. Marshall resets his feet and delivers a high pass, which Uzomah snags, taking advantage of his height advantage. The play results in a 12-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Last season the Auburn pass-offense possessed a solid pass rating on third-down but the rating was misleading. Auburn converted only 33.7% of their 3rd downs, throwing the football. This season they have converted 51.4%, which is currently 4th nationally.
  13. Something to consider... Gus Malzahn is now 20-5 as a HFC at Auburn, the same record held by Steve Spurrier during his first 25 games at UF. Both were considered offensive guru's. Malzahn now has three 14-pt losses or worse (LSU, MSU and UGA). Spurrier had five 15-pt losses or worse during his first 25 games, playing with better overall talent against a lesser strength of schedule. Eventually, Spurrier realized a better defense was needed to win a MNC and his offense wasn't going to be enough. I'm quite sure Malzahn realizes this at this point and will make the needed changes. We should give CGM the time to make the adjustments to his staff.
  14. Game #10 Statistical Evaluation (Georgia Game) Offensive Report Card: 01) Avg 6-yards per play on 1st down: [4.71] fail 02) Convert at least 40% of 3rd downs: [57.1%] pass 03) Avg at least 4.5 yards per rush: [4.29] fail 04) Score on at least 1/3 of possessions: [11.1%] fail 05) Keep 3 and out series under 33%: [11.1%] pass 06) Average 8.0 yards per pass attempt: [5.07 yds] fail 07) Score at least 75% inside red zone: [0.0%] fail 08) TD red zone above 60%: [0.0%] fail 09) Avg at least 30-yards per possession: [32.4 yds] pass 10) 40% of offensive snaps part of scoring drives: [15.9%] fail 11) TD / Turnover ratio above 1.6: [1 TD’s / 2] fail 12) TD ratio of at least 1 every 17 snaps: [63.0] fail 13) At least 8 impact plays: [6] fail 14) At least 2 big plays: [0] fail 15) Pass rating of at least 125.0: [89.0] fail Score: 3 of 15 (20.0%) Fail Defensive Report Card: 01) Avg under 6-yards per play on 1st down: [5.75] pass 02) Convert below 35% of 3rd downs: [38.5%] fail 03) Avg at least 4.0 yards per rush: [5.56] fail 04) Score below 1/3 of possessions: [50.0%] fail 05) Keep 3 and out series above 33%: [10.0%] fail 06) Average below 7.5 yards per pass attempt: [6.47 yds] pass 07) Score below 75% inside red zone: [100.0 %] fail 08) TD red zone below 60%: [66.6%] fail 09) Avg under 30-yards per possession: [41.2 yds] fail 10) Less than 40% of offensive snaps part of scoring drives: [76.0%] fail 11) TD / Turnover ratio below 1.6: [4 TD’s / 0 turnovers] fail 12) TD ratio of at least 1 every 30 snaps: [17.8] fail 13) Less than 8 impact plays: [6] pass 14) No more than 2 big plays allowed: [1] pass 15) Pass rating below 125.0: [124.4] pass Score: 5 of 15 (33.3%) Fail Special Teams Report Card: 1) Punt Average (Above 41.3): [39.0] 2 of 4 inside 20 pass 2) Punt Return Defense (Below 7.8 YPR): [0.0] pass 3) Punt Return Offense (Above 9.8 YPR): [-4.0] fail 4) Kick-Return Defense (Below 21.2 YPR): [32.0] fail 5) Kick-Return Offense (Above 22.3 YPR): [20.6] fail 6) PAT’s (100%): [1 of 1] pass 7) FG Pct (75% or above): [0-0] N/A -1 point for fumbled PR. Score: 2 of 6 (33.3%) Fail Complete team breakdown this week. This has to go down as the first "egg" performance under Gus Malzahn. War Eagle!
  15. After the 2012 season, I noted Auburn's 11-14 record was the worst 2-year run following a MNC season since 1970. Auburn was the only team among the MNC winners from 1970-2012, to finish with a below .500 record the two seasons after winning the championship. The average win percentage the 2-years following a MNC season was .801. I thought coming into this season Auburn was likely looking at a 9-3 or 10-2 regular season record, primarily because of their brutal schedule. We all want Auburn to win big but reality can often be a major slap in the face. Winning back-to-back SEC titles was going to be a major task considering it was last accomplished in 1997 and 1998 by Tennessee. Because I made it a point to show Auburn's downfall after winning the MNC in 2010, I thought I would show what they have accomplished since the 2012 season. I took all the previous MNC winners from 1970-2013 and singled out the seasons they won only 4 games. Here are the 2-year win percentages following those 4-win seasons. Nebraska did not have any seasons worse than 4-wins, so I included their 5-win seasons for this comparison. I also included Miami's 5-win season because most of their bad seasons came before their program became an established football program. FSU did not have any 5-win seasons after Bobby Bowden established them as a power. Auburn currently sits at the top of the list, making this one of the greatest 2-year turnarounds following a bad season, if not the best. Even if Auburn finishes this season with a 9-4 record, it would be the 5th best turnaround. I can understand why we are disappointed Auburn is likely out of a championship hunt this season but the above data places things into perspective.
  16. Reflecting back to the Tuberville era, I was always concerned with teams that were physical. Basically it was teams that could run the football and play well on run-defense. The following numbers support this theory... From 2000-2008, Auburn compiled a record of 13-10 vs. FBS teams with a combination of a top-40 run-offense and top-40 run-defense. When Auburn faced teams that were not top-40 run-offense and top-40 run-defense, the Tigers went 42-5. Looking at the years Gus Malzahn has coached the Auburn offense, the concern becomes teams that can pass the ball and play solid run-defense. Look at the data from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014... When Auburn has faced teams with a top-40 pass-efficiency offense and top-40 run-defense combined, the Tigers are 6-6. When they have faced FBS opponents that were ranked below top-40 pass-offense and top-40 run-defense, Auburn is 22-4. During this same time frame, Auburn is 10-7 vs. top-25 pass-efficiency offenses, allowing an average of 37 PPG. The Tigers are 32-5 vs. FBS opponents with a run-defense ranked below top-40, averaging 46 PPG. Alabama is the only remaining opponent on this year's schedule that falls under top-40 pass-efficiency offense and top-40 run-defense. Alabama is currently No. 3 in PE-Offense and No. 2 vs. the run. Georgia is close to it, ranked No. 28 in PE-Offense and No. 49 vs. the run. Thoughts?
  17. During the past 2 games the Auburn offense has scored 8 TD's with 9 trips to the red zone. From 1993-2014 Auburn is 80-4 in games the Tigers make at least 4 trips to the RZ, scoring TD's at least 60% of the time. This is a revealing stat, which shows just how important RZ performance is to the success of the team. Last season Nick Marshall completed 56.5% of his passes in the RZ, compiling a QB rating of 163.7. This season Marshall has completed 68.4% of his passes for a QB rating of 243.8. Marshall is No. 8 nationally in pass-efficiency inside the RZ, among QB's with at least 10 pass attempts. The play... During this play Auburn faces a 2nd & 9 from the Rebel 17-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set with Melvin Ray and Marcus Davis on the boundary side (Davis in the slot). At the snap Nick Marshall play-actions and will immediately read how the boundary safety is playing the two WR's. Melvin Ray will run a deep square-in to clear the boundary sideline as Marcus Davis will run an out and up. The boundary safety plays the square-in route, leaving the OLB 1 on 1 with Marcus Davis. The OLB jumps the initial out-route with Davis but he looks back into the backfield to see where Marshall is focused. As the OLB looks back into the backfield, Davis breaks up the sideline towards the end zone. Marshall floats his pass towards the end zone, allowing Davis to run under the pass for the score. The play design is going to create a 1 on 1 match up and the double-move is almost a lock to create a breakdown in the secondary. This has always been one of my favorite RZ pass-plays under Malzahn. Emory Blake scored a TD in the 2010 SECCG on this same play.
  18. With Gus Malzahn leading the Auburn offense, the Tigers have competed in 39 conference games. The offense has averaged 430-yards and 32 PPG in conference play. Auburn during this time frame has scored 30 or more points, 21 times with a 21-0 record, when they do so. Despite scoring 30 or more points in conference play 21 times, 9 of those game have been settled by 8 points or less (42.8%). Auburn is 4-5 in conference play, when Malzahn's offense scores 20-29 points during a game. From 2003-2008, Auburn went 12-5 in conference play, scoring 20-28 points. It would be nice for the team to be able to lean on the defense occasionally during low-scoring games like this. From 2003-2008 (49 SEC games), Auburn allowed the opponent to score into the 30's, 6 times or 12.2%. From 2009-2014 (47 SEC games), the opponent has scored at least 30 points, 22 times or 46.8%. One could argue the SEC has become more of an offensive league during the past 5-6 years (which is true) but not to the extent of failing to hold SEC teams under 30 points at least 25% of the time. It should be noted the SEC offenses faced from 2003-2008, averaged 359-yards per game. The SEC offenses faced from 2009-2014 have averaged 413-yards per game. Of the SEC offenses faced from 2003-2008, only 18.6% of the 49 teams averaged over 400-yards per game for the season. The conference opponents faced from 2009-2014, averaged over 400-yards, 57.4% of the time. This leaves no doubt Auburn has faced better offensive teams as of late. We have seen a championship level offense in 2010, 2013 and 2014. The same cannot be said about the defense from 2009-2014. Yes, the defense has been strong in certain phases of the game but overall the final product has been lacking. Strength of schedule should be considered too. From 2003-2008, Auburn faced ranked SEC teams 42.8% of the time with an overall win pct of .583. From 2009-2014 Auburn has faced ranked SEC opponents 57.4% of the time, with an overall win pct of .660. It will be interesting to see what direction Gus Malzahn takes Auburn regarding defense. As an offensive coach, he certainly places a high premium on offense but as the head coach, he is responsible for all phases of the game. This is not a complaint about his vision or direction for the team (too early in career to say) but I am curious to what his defensive philosophy might be as a head coach. Thoughts?
  19. During Ole Miss Clipbit #1, we witnessed Malzahn adding options to plays previously called. Sticking with this theme, we will see a play Nick Marshall has gashed opponents with by running the football. This time around he utilizes a third option and makes a pass from the same play, rather than running the football. Of the adjustments made during the bye-week after the MSU loss, Nick Marshall appears to have benefited the most, closely followed by Cameron Artis-Payne. Prior to the final bye-week, Marshall had completed 55% of his passes for 7.4 yards per attempt. He has a QB rating of 138.4 during the first 6 games. During the last 2 games, Marshall has completed 75% of his passes for 10.9 yards per attempt. This has resulted in a QB rating of 188.6, making him one of the most efficient passers in the country. The play... During this play the Auburn offense has the ball at the Ole Miss 46-yard line (1st & 10). Once again Malzahn utilizes cross-buck action with Ricardo Louis coming in motion into the backfield for the speed-sweep look. Marshall will fake the sweep to the wide side and turn to Roc Thomas on the give to the boundary side. Marshall fakes the inside give to Thomas and darts to the perimeter. Previously the slot-WR would move laterally to pull the defender outside, creating a wide running lane for Marshall on the edge. Ole Miss has seen this on tape and elects to defend the edge and Nick Marshall. This opens up the third-option on this play, which is the pass to Quan Bray. Once 4 defenders commit to Marshall, the quarterback makes the pass to Quan Bray. Quan Bray hauls in the pass and heads down field for a gain of 20-yards and an Auburn first down. This play is beginning to become Auburn's base play on offense because it has so many options. There are 3 run-options off this play and multiple pass-options. Before the Bye-week, Nick Marshall was directly involved in an impact play, every 5.39 touches, better than Cam Newton's ratio during 2010 of 1 every 5.69. Since the recent bye-week, Marshall is hitting at 1 every 3.61 plays.
  20. Auburn's 508-yards in total offense was the most yardage gained by an Auburn offense against a top-10 defense from 1981-2014. Despite a turnover, dropped TD pass and 13 penalties, Auburn was able to overcome adversity, to record a 35-31 victory over the 4th ranked Ole Miss Rebels. One of the keys to success on offense were the numerous plays Auburn called, which were secondary-options from previously called plays against South Carolina. Gus Malzahn counted on the Rebel defense to be familiar with the offensive game plan Auburn executed against the Gamecocks. Auburn showed similar formations and personnel groupings but elected to go with a different play to catch the Rebels off guard. The following play is one of those plays Auburn changed up the actual delivery. The play... On this play the Auburn offense faces a 2nd & 8 from their own 43-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 3-WR set with the H-Back in the backfield with Cameron Artis-Payne. Before the snap Ricardo Louis motions into the backfield on a speed-sweep look from right to left. Last week against the Gamecocks, Auburn executed the actual speed-sweep with Ricardo Louis. The play was successful as Louis recorded 102-yards rushing on 3 rush attempts. The play is designed to utilize Cameron Artis-Payne as a lead blocker for Louis. At the snap Nick Marshall play-actions with Ricardo Louis and rolls to his right. CAP slides out of the backfield to sell the speed-sweep look. As Marshall rolls to his right, Duke Williams runs a shallow crossing-route from his slot-WR position. Marshall looks off his intended target (Duke Williams), which pulls the defenders over top towards the WR running a route closer to the sideline. When the defenders over top clear the middle, Nick Marshall delivers his pass to Duke Williams, who hauls in the pass for a 12-yard gain and an Auburn first down. Auburn scored a touchdown, five players later, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. The majority of plays Malzahn designs possesses a secondary option to be run at a later time. This allows Auburn to exploit opposing defenses from selling out to defend a previous play from the same formation.
  21. One of the first things taught to young football players is never give up on the play. Not the kind of effort that allows you to stomp on an opposing player down the field but the kind of effort that allows you to make a fumble (Kris Frost) and the recovery (Cassanova McKinzy). Twenty-two games into the Gus Malzahn era, we have seen a team that never stops fighting, which is reflection of the coaching staff. There were plenty of mistakes made by the Auburn players but their effort kept them in the game and allowed them to come out victorious at the final whistle. It is this kind of effort that keeps the Tigers in the championship race, which will be needed with 2 major road games remaining. Nick Marshall's best attribute as a player resurfaced once again as he is never too high or too low, when it comes to his composure on the field. After throwing a horrible pick, Marshall was 11 of 16 for 199-yards and 2 TD passes. Of Auburn's 9 impact plays, Nick Marshall was directly involved in 7 as he continues to be the heart of the offense and why the coaching staff believes he is the best option. Cameron Artis-Payne registered another great game and is 26-yards away from rushing for 1000-yards, which he should easily accomplish in game #9 against the Aggies. The defense was actually in position to make plays but failed to do so with poor tackling and poor pursuit angles. The defensive line clearly played much better this week, when it came to rushing the passer. Texas A&M struggled against Louisiana-Monroe and their starting quarterback is suspended for this Saturday's game. Though the Aggie defense is not playing well, it will be vital for the coaching staff to keep the players focused this week. The Ole Miss win was a terrific road victory but Auburn can not afford to overlook the Aggies, who will likely be a major underdog against the Tigers. The defense has struggled for three consecutive games and tackling must be cleaned up or witness the opponent look better than they should. Inside the Numbers... Ole Miss became the 126th time Auburn has faced a top-10 opponent since 1961. Nick Marshall's quarterback rating of 186.1 was the 3rd best performance during that time span. Auburn extended their 200-yard rushing games streak against SEC teams to 13, a school record. Gus Malzahn is now 14-0 as a head coach, when his team scores first at Auburn. Auburn finished the game with a 200-yard passer, 100-yard rusher (RB) and a 100-yard receiver against the Rebels. It is the 6th time Auburn has accomplished this feat in their last 19 games. Prior to the last 19 games, Auburn did it 6 times in a span of 122 games. Kris Frost had another solid game, recording 9 tackles, 1 forced-fumble and was involved in a sack. Cameron Artis-Payne has totaled 974-yards through 8 games, compared to Tre Mason's 753-yards through 8 games into 2013. CAP is currently averaging 5.5 yards per rush to Mason's 5.8. After going 1 of 6 on third-downs during the first-half, Auburn was 5 of 7 during the second-half. The 4th quarter continues to be the Auburn's best quarter on defense. Opponents continue to struggle converting third-downs during the final quarter, converting 25.8 percent on the season. Last week against the Gamecocks, the Auburn defense allowed 3 of 6 third-down conversions with at least 10-yards needed to convert. The Rebels were 0 for 4. With 631-yards rushing, Nick Marshall is still on pace for a 1000-yard season in 13 games. Last season through 8 games, Nick Marshall had completed 59% of his passes for 7 TD's and 4 interceptions. This season he has completed 60% of his passes for 13 TD's and 4 interceptions. He also has nearly 100 more rushing yards than last season. In 13 games against FBS opponents with a winning record, Nick Marshall has averaged 284.3 yards per game, scoring a combined 34 touchdowns. The Auburn offense has generated 20 plays of 30-yards or more down from the 29 recorded during the first 8 games of the 2013 season. In terms of consistency, 48.5% of Auburn's offensive snaps netted at least 5-yards and Ole Miss hit at 47.2%. Ole Miss averaged 6.06 yards per play during the first-half and 7.49 yards during the second-half. Take away both team's impact plays on offense and Auburn averaged 4.37 yards on 59 snaps and Ole Miss averaged 2.34 yards per play on 59 snaps. During the first 5 games of the season, 48.5% of Auburn's first-down plays netted 3-yards or less and 44.2% went for at least 5-yards. During the last 3 games, 45.5% have gone for 3-yards or less, while 48.5% has gone for 5-yards or more. 43.1% of the Rebels offensive snaps went for 2-yards or less. This was a season low for the Auburn defense. The previous low was 46.8% against Mississippi State. Last season Nick Marshall was directly involved in 48.5% of Auburn's impact plays (15+). This season it has increased to 60.7%. Auburn has totaled 36 run plays of 15-yards or more and 48 through the air. Last season through 8 games, the Auburn offense scored on 38.5% of their possessions starting on their side of the field. This season it is up to 42.4%. Coming into the game Auburn had forced 17 fumbles but recovered only 3. Against the Rebels, Auburn was 2 of 2 and they were critical. Auburn's average penalty distance this season is 10.3 yards, while the opponent is 7.8 yards. Final Word: With 2/3 of the regular season in the books, it appears the offense will have to carry the defense for the second consecutive season. Much like last season, the defense has risen in critical moments of the game but the big plays allowed remains a concern. Run-defense and interceptions have improved this season but Auburn continues to give up too many yards and points. Fortunately for the Tigers, the offense is playing well enough to win a championship but the odds are slim with special teams not carrying their weight. Punt-return offense has improved this season but punting and kick-return offense has taken a step backwards. Auburn will likely be favored in 3 of their 4 remaining games and a 4-0 regular season finish will certainly lock the Tigers into the first 4-team playoffs. It appears the offense has made a similar improvement as the 2013 offense did, during their final bye-week. Since the bye-week the Auburn offense has averaged 529-yards and 39 PPG but the defense has surrendered an average of 513-yards and 33 PPG. Ellis Johnson will likely address some breakdowns in coverage as well as poor tackling and pursuit angles against the Rebels. During the Gus Malzahn era (22 games), Auburn is 19-3 despite facing 11 ranked opponents. His offense has averaged 500-yards and 39 PPG but the defense has allowed 405-yards and 24 PPG. The Auburn run-offense has averaged 310-yards per game, the driving force of the most prolific era of offensive football at Auburn. Just how dominating would Auburn appear with a consistent defense during the past 22 games? The defense has improved in many areas this season but the big plays and first-down defense continues to be an issue. Hopefully the defense will continue to improve to increase Auburn's chances of making it to the final-4. War Eagle!
  22. Three keys for the Auburn offense vs. Ole Miss will be the ability to run inside the tackles, score touchdowns inside the red zone and to take care of the football. The Rebel defense is built on speed, which should make it challenging to run outside on Ole Miss. LSU found their primary run-success, running between their tackles. Auburn's offensive line will need to play one of their more physical games of the season to establish their running game. When the Tigers transition into the red zone, they must score touchdowns rather than settling for field goals like they did against Mississippi State. The Tigers will need Cameron Artis-Payne and Nick Marshall to be able to consistently run well inside the tackles. This will only happen if the Auburn OL is very physical against the Rebels. The play... On this play Auburn has the ball at the Gamecock 4-yard line, facing a 2nd & goal. The Tigers come out in their inverted-veer look, with the intent of running their inside read-option. It is also known as the dash-read because it involves both the QB and RB running the read-option in the same direction. At the snap Chad Slade (RG) will pull to his left and Brandon Fulse will become the lead blocker inside. Nick Marshall extends the mesh-point with Corey Grant to the left, which freezes the defense. Shon Coleman and Brandon Fulse will advance to the second-level to take out the LB's as Chad Slade kicks out the unblocked DE. In frame #4, Reese Dismukes and Avery Young wall off the DL, driving the DT and DE outside as Devonte Danzey drives the other DT down to the ground. Nick Marshall has a gaping hole to score an easy 4-yard touchdown. The Auburn OL did an exceptional job on this play and this is the type of execution that will be required to have success running the football against Ole Miss.
  23. I expected the game might be close at halftime with Auburn pulling away during the second-half, via their run-offense. With basically 3 weeks to prepare for the Auburn defense, I thought we would see some new wrinkles by the Gamecock offense but I did not expect Steve Spurrier to give his team every possible chance to make it a ball game. He took some major risks, when it came to the six fourth-down calls and onside-kick but it almost paid off for what he himself, stated would have been his biggest victory of coaching career. When South Carolina gambled on their first fourth-down play at their own 33-yard line, he made it clear his offense was going to let it all hang out. Auburn was expected to be able to run on the Gamecock defense, which is why they were nearly a 3-touchdown favorite to win the game. Spurrier minus a defense, basically gave his team every chance to win tonight, which is all can you ask of any great football coach. If not for their struggles inside the red zone and three turnovers, the Gamecocks would have been victorious in carrying out Spurrier's plan of attack against Auburn. Steve Spurrier deserves every word of praise he has received during his coaching career but has been far more likeable during his tenure at South Carolina than Florida. His teams have always been competitive but he was won more with coaching at South Carolina than he did at Florida. The Auburn offense carried the team tonight, which had the same kind of feel we witnessed during the 2013 season. The run-offense looked unstoppable against the Gamecocks and the defense made critical plays in situational play. This was the formula for success last season, especially during the big games. Not sure what Ellis Johnson can do at this point to establish a better pass-rush but rushing only three certainly is not the answering. There were times Johnson dialed up a late defender (4th rusher) just before the snap but their were 5-6 times during the game, Auburn only came with 3 pass-rushers period. This cannot be the case moving forward, especially against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Alabama. Inside the Numbers: Cameron Artis-Payne had perhaps his best game of the season. He was quick to the hole and extremely physical, when it was needed the most. He now increases his rushing totals to 831-yards on the season, which could translate to a 1500-yard season in 13-games. Nick Marshall did a great job checking down to his shorter routes this week, taking what the defense was willing to give. He finished the night, 12 of 14 for 139-yards to go along with his 89-yards rushing and 4 touchdowns combined. Ricardo Louis is a big and fast, north and south offensive player. He has been inconsistent as a pass-catcher but I thought Malzahn did a great job of making his presence known this week. If not for the speed-sweeps this week, Louis would have been an afterthought on offense with 1 reception for 7-yards. By utilizing him in the perimeter run-offense, Louis finished with 102-yards rushing 3 carries, making a major impact in the outcome of the game. Opposing teams have taken away the Grant speed-sweeps so Malzahn brought it back with a change in personnel groupings. Kris Frost had a huge game against South Carolina. He finished the game with 14 stops of which 11 were solo tackles. The last time an Auburn LB had at least 11 solo tackles in a game was Travis Williams (2004) vs. Ole Miss. Eight different Auburn Tigers were involved in an impact play against the Gamecocks. This is amazing considering Auburn had only 8 offensive possessions during the game. The 8 offensive possessions was the fewest number of possessions by an Auburn offense during their last 278 games (1992-2014). Auburn has now extended their streak of 200-yard rushing games in conference play to 12 consecutive games (school record, previously 8-games). During Auburn's current school record of 12 consecutive 200-yard rushing games in the SEC, the Tigers have averaged 328.5 yards per game. What has possessing a mobile QB meant to the Auburn run-offense under Gus Malzahn? The 2010, 2013 and 2014 Auburn run offense has now averaged 317.7 yards rushing in 21 SEC games. Coming into tonight's game, South Carolina had allow their FBS opponents to rush for 6.3% more yardage than their opponent's season average. The Auburn run-offense rushed for 133.5% more than what the Gamecocks had allowed on an average this season. South Carolina averaged 7.63 yards per play during the first-half and 5.25 yards during the second-half. It was the sixth time out of 7 games the Auburn defense allowed fewer yards per play during the second-half, compared to the first-half. Of the 35 snaps defended by the Auburn defense during the first-half, 48.6% went for 2-yards or less. During the second-half, it was 54.9% of the 51 snaps defended. It was the 6th time out of 7 games, the Auburn defense held their opponent to higher percentage of 2-yard plays or less during the second-half. Auburn had 10 QB hurries, while allowing 3 and 7 tackles for loss to the 4 allowed. Last season Auburn had 13 interceptions from 493 passes defended (37.9). This season they have equaled their interception total in just 7 games, with 13 picks from 250 passes defended (1 every 19.2 attempts). I can only image what it might be with a better pass-rush. Last season through 7 games the Auburn offense generated 66 impact plays. This season they have 75. Brandon Fulse came into the Gamecock game with 4 career receptions for 25-yards and 0 TD's. Fulse recorded his first TD of his career and his fist impact-play of his career. Against Mississippi State, Auburn was 11 of 20 passing within 10-yards of the line of scrimmage for 102-yards. Against the Gamecocks, Auburn went 10 of 10 for 105-yards. Since 1992 Auburn is now 139-10-1, when scoring on at least 33% of their offensive possessions. This includes a record of 41-3 under Gus Malzahn. Auburn has now scored 75-points from their forced-turnovers, while allowing 28 from their own miscues. During the first 2 conference games of the season, Auburn was 4 of 8 in situations of 2-yards or less needed to convert. During the last 2 conference games, Auburn is 10 of 13. Final Thoughts... It would be easy to be concerned about Auburn's remaining games based on the Tigers defensive performance against the Gamecocks. Before going into a full blown panic attack, consider the outcome of games through 8 weeks into the season. We saw South Carolina demolished by Texas A&M, yet the Gamecocks gave Georgia their only loss thus far. Alabama came close to losing to Arkansas but defeated Texas A&M by 59-points the following week. Auburn crushed LSU, 41-7 yet the Bengal-Tigers defeated Ole Miss, Auburn's next opponent. Auburn defeated Arkansas by 24, who lost in overtime to A&M. Though the Aggies blew out the Gamecocks, Auburn held on for dear-life to get past South Carolina. There is no way to accurately predict the outcome of any conference game based on the outcome of previous games. Despite their poor defensive performance against the Gamecocks, Auburn remains in position to reach all their preseason team-goals. The defense will certainly need to play much better next Saturday against Ole Miss but every team in the Southeastern Conference has shown some form of weakness this season, including undefeated Mississippi State. I do believe Ellis Johnson has explored every possible option to improve the DL, which means Auburn will need to make plays inside the red zone, while continuing their trend to forcing turnovers. The run-defense and secondary appear to be the strength of the defense but the lack of pass-rush is likely to catch up with the Tigers again. Hopefully the Auburn defense can continue to perform better as the game progresses. Regardless of Auburn's deficiencies this season, Auburn can still run their remaining schedule by making plays at critical moments of the game. What Auburn can not afford is the self-inflicted wounds we have seen, regarding turnovers. The match ups between Auburn and Ole Miss projects a close game, likely to be low-scoring. Turnovers and miscues can turn any close game into a blowout. Auburn's offense appears to have taken a step-forward from the bye-week but the same cannot be said about the defense. Though I suspect Auburn's defense is better than how they performed against the Gamecocks, they simply cannot afford to allow Bo Wallace to throw the football without any pressure. Auburn faced a South Carolina team, willing to let it all hang out because the Gamecocks had their backs to the wall. Ole Miss losing to LSU has forced the Rebels into a must-win situation and they are a much more physical and talented team on defense. Auburn and Ole Miss can not afford another conference loss or face possible elimination in the conference race to Atlanta. The time has come for the Auburn coaches and players to take a page out of the Steve Spurrier book and play like there is no tomorrow, with minimum wiggle room to win a championship. War Eagle!
  24. Some fans keep commenting on Auburn needing to find an offensive identity, which is puzzling to comprehend. Auburn through 6 games is No. 21 nationally averaging 487-yards per game and No. 15, in scoring-offense, averaging 39 PPG. A team that is struggling to find it's offensive identity looks like Florida or Vanderbilt. They certainly don't look like a team that averages over 480-yards per game and nearly 40 PPG. To put things in perspective, consider the following. From 1990-2013, only 13 of 288 SEC teams (4.5%) finished the season averaging over 480-yards per game. The Auburn run-offense, though not at the level of 2013 is still very good. AU has surpassed 200+ yards rushing in 5 of 6 games. Auburn can still run the football and people must realize 2013 was an exception to the rule. Since 1960, only 38 of 598 SEC teams averaged more than 260-yards rushing per game (6.3%). From 1990-2013, only 3 of 288 SEC teams (1%) averaged more than 260-yards rushing per game and only 1 averaged more than 300 (Auburn 2013). Auburn is currently averaging 277.3 yards rushing in conference play, No. 1 in the SEC. Of the 302 SEC teams from 1990-2014, Auburn's current average of 262-yards rushing per game is the 6th best average during that time frame. Yes, Auburn isn't running the football like 2013 but it is far from being broke. Only 5 other teams have done it better than the 2014 Auburn Tigers among 302 SEC teams. The media talks about the powerful Arkansas running game currently averaging 256.9 yards per game but fail to mention only 163.2 yards per game in conference play. Is everything perfect through 6 games? Nope but the coaches and players know this. Hopefully they were able to take advantage of this recent bye-week to make some fine adjustments on offense. There has been plenty of self-scouting and evaluation to become more consistent moving forward. I associate the words, "lack of identity" with being lost. Auburn isn't lost offensively. Are they having consistency issues stemming from poor execution? You bet. The coaching staff came into this season wanting to generate more explosive plays in the pass-offense. They knew duplicating last year's rushing numbers was virtually impossible with the departures AU suffered in personnel loss. I believe the coaching staff wants to address a few issues of consistency, when it comes to execution but that is a far cry from lacking an offensive identity. Nothing has changed from a schematic point of view, when it comes to offensive goals. Malzahn wants to run the football (be physical) and have a vertical passing offense to compliment the running game. Most of the breakdowns suffered on offense through 6 games has more to do with execution than player personnel. The Tigers are striving to be more physical up front and are having to deal with losing a starting guard (Alex Kozan) before the season began along with the early departure of Greg Robinson. The recent in jury to Patrick Miller resulted in another OL shuffle. This is why Braden Smith is now getting a look at the guard position. The coaches want more explosiveness at the RB position, so Roc Thomas will likely have an expanded role. This doesn't mean that Cameron Artis-Payne has been a failure. He is far from it, currently ranked No. 20 nationally in rushing. He is also on pace for a 1400+ yard season within a 13-game season. I cannot wait to see what Roc Thomas physically looks like next year with an off-season conditioning program under his belt. He certainly has the burst Tre Mason possessed. Ricardo Louis was not performing consistently so Quan Bray is getting more reps. I've heard comments that Gus Malzahn is too loyal or stubborn to make personnel changes. The examples I just listed is proof otherwise and there have been other changes during the first-half of the season. We have seen various rotations of the bigger WR's (Ray and Denson) and TE's to improve setting the edge and perimeter blocking. As for the quarterback position, I have no doubt the coaches will give Jeremy Johnson a shot if THEY feel Nick Marshall is not delivering at the level they want. Until that moment happens, I'm going to believe the coaches still have full confidence in their starting quarterback. Through 6 games into 2014, Nick Marshall has a better TD-INT ratio than 2013. It was 6-4 last year and 10-3 this year. His ratio of impact plays in the passing-game is better in 2014 than 2013. Last season only 31% of his third-down passes resulted in a first down and this year it is 44%. With the same number of rush attempts through 6 games, Marshall is also gaining more yards per rush than 2013. Auburn's pass-offense through 6 games is currently No. 14 nationally in generating 1st downs or touchdowns and No. 24 in pass-efficiency. The only significant drop in his passing numbers has come on first-down. Marshall is completing 62% this season compared to 67% through 6 games into 2013. I'm looking forward to see how Auburn responds this Saturday night against the Gamecocks. Last season the offense continued to improve after their bye-week, following the LSU defeat. Hopefully, we will see similar results this season.
  25. The name of the game in pass-offense is placing the defense in situations, which result in mismatches on the field. One of the reasons why Duke Williams has been so successful this season is the ability of Auburn to set him up for success. Though the running game is not playing at the level of last season (very few have), it still remains the primary component opposing teams must control to have defensive success against the Tigers. By lining Williams up in the slot, it is an almost given he will be covered by a LB or safety, especially on first-down. In obvious passing situations, opposing teams can bring an extra CB on the field but on first-down, opposing teams must respect the threat of the run within their base defense. The play... On this play Auburn is 1st & 10 from the MSU 36-yard line. Auburn comes out in a 4-WR set with trips to the wide-side of the field. Before the snap, Nick Marshall can see the safeties will be locked onto the boundary WR and the inside slot-receiver (Marcus Davis). This will leave Duke Williams 1 on 1 with the OLB, the match up favoring the Tigers. At the snap Nick Marshall play-actions with CAP. As Marshall drops his initial read on the safeties is correct and he knows he will have Williams 1 on 1 with the OLB. When Williams comes off the line, he will cut inside the OLB, running a seam route down the middle of the field. Marshall delivers his pass to the inside shoulder of Williams, away from the OLB. Duke Williams leaps to haul in the pass at the highest point, away from the defender. The play nets 29-yards and a first down for the Tigers inside the MSU 8-yard line. Through 6 games Duke Williams has recorded 17 impact plays in the passing game. WR Impact-plays of note: 1993: Frank Sanders (21) 1994: Frank Sanders (23) 1996: Tyrone Goodson (22) 1997: Tyrone Goodson (29) 1999: Ronney Daniels (21) 2004: Courtney Taylor (26) 2006: Courtney Taylor (21) 2009: Darvin Adams (29) 2010: Darvin Adams (23) 2012: Emory Blake (27)