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JMR

Coach's Corner: Auburn vs Oklahoma....

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JMR    503

Coach's Corner: Auburn vs Oklahoma....

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In one of those anomalous events that comes along only now and then, an 8-4 Auburn team will play in the Sugar Bowl as the Southeastern Conference representative, facing Oklahoma, the champions of the Big Twelve.  This will be the 83rd Sugar Bowl, and game time is 7:30 on January 2nd. The first round of the College Football Playoffs will be in the books by then, with those games scheduled for New Year’s Eve, so college football fans across the country will be searching for quality games to watch as the 2016 season winds down. In my obviously biased opinion, this game will be one to watch.

In the minds of most fans, myself included, this one is mostly about OU’s high-powered offense vs Auburn’s strong defense. The Sooners come into the game averaging  44.7 points per game. They’ve won 9 games in a row since being beaten handily by Ohio State back in  September. Since that loss, led by junior quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Sooners lead the nation in completion percentage, passing touchdowns, and yards per pass attempt. Over the last nine games, Mayfield has competed 73.5% of his pass attempts. Through that same nine-game stretch, wide receiver DeDe Westbrook (6-0, 176) leads the country in receiving yards (1,311), yards per catch (23), and receiving touchdowns (16). Despite missing the final game of the season with an injury, Westbrook has 74 receptions this season.

With their very impressive passing game stats, it’s tempting to look at OU as a somewhat typical Big 12 air-it-out offense. That’s not really accurate, as the Sooners can run the football very well. Running backs Samaje Perine (5-10, 235, Jr.) and Joe Mixon (6-1, 230, R-Soph.) average a combined 256 rushing yards per game. Perine averages 5.7 yards per carry, Mixon 6.8. Mixon has also caught 32 passes this season. The Sooners generate explosive plays both through the air (Westbrook has 12 TD catches of 40 yards or more), and on the ground (Mixon has 10 runs of at least 30 yards this season).  Part of OU Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley's method is to spread the field as widely as possible, pulling defenders far away from the box to facilitate his running game, much like Baylor has done in recent years.

Defensively, OU is a 3-4 base, and not quite as “big” as most of the defensive units Auburn faces during the regular season. They have given up a lot of yards this season, and rank 89th out of 128 FBS teams in total defense, 119th in pass defense, giving up 4.6 yards per rush attempt, and 7.2 per pass attempt. They do rank second in the Big 12 against the run, although I’m not sure defensive stats in that league mean much. Against Texas Tech, the OU defense gave up an astonishing 854 yards of total offense, a game OU won, 66-59.

The Sooners do have an effective pass rush, led by outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (6-2, 245, Jr.). Okoronkwo has 9 sacks this season.

As for “how they’ll play it”, OU will likely set out to establish a running game with Perine and Mixon, and if they’re able to establish that, incorporate play action passes. If Auburn is able to defend the run with 6 in the box, the numbers in the AU secondary should help control the Sooner passing game. If AU has to drop another defender in the box to stop the run, OU will gain an advantage downfield, and Mayfield will open up the big play passing game.

The OU offensive line is talented, and executes pretty well in the run game; they are not particularly effective in pass protection. Although he pushes the ball downfield very well in the passing game, Mayfield will not be using 5 and 7-step drops, for protection reasons. The OU attack is more of a get-it-out-quick scheme than a deep-drop pocket-passing scheme. Mayfield is athletic enough to move around and extend plays, and he is excellent at keeping his eyes downfield while doing that.

Defensively, OU will obviously focus on stopping Auburn’s running game. Not unlike the situation for the Auburn defense, the Sooners will try to stop the run with 6 in the box. Their history through this season suggests they won’t be able to do that effectively, and will have to bring a seventh….and possibly even an eighth….defender down to stop Auburn’s power running attack. If that happens, and Sean White is healthy enough to throw effectively, Auburn will have opportunities to open up the passing game some and get the OU defense off-balance.

I expect Auburn to be able to play power football against a somewhat lighter OU defense. If the OL is executing well, OU will be forced to add numbers to the box, and if AU can execute a decent passing game, they’ll have a chance to keep up with the Sooners’ big play offense. Finding a rhythm in the passing game may prove difficult for Auburn, as OU held their last three regular-season opponents under 50% completion percentage. All of the Sooner defensive backs who play regularly are 6-0 or 6-1, so they have good size in the back end. They do start a freshman corner, and a freshman OLB.

Special teams are advantage Auburn in terms of kicking, and advantage OU in returns.  The OU kicker (he’s also the punter) is 11-for-15 on field goals this season, with a long of 39 yards. He’s 0-for-3 from 40 yards or more, and averages 40.8 as a punter. Westbrook is a threat as a punt returner. He’s only returned 4 this year, but averages 19.8 per.  On kickoff returns, Westbrook has averaged 28.4. Mixon is the primary kickoff returner, and averages 23.5.

There has been lots of media commentary on the fact that the bowl games outside of the playoffs are “meaningless." In terms of international trade agreements, treaties, and alliances across the globe, that’s probably true, and likely applies to the playoff games as well. But in terms of college football, players, fans, and alumni, a classic bowl like the Sugar Bowl is never meaningless. The players will remember the experience for the rest of their lives. OU Coach Bob Stoops has been very outspoken for a few years now about “the hype surrounding the SEC”, and he’s won his last three games against SEC teams, including a huge win over Alabama in the Sugar. Gus Malzahn could really use a win in this game to establish in Auburn people’s minds that the program is truly back on track after a poor start to 2016, and the two losses at the end of the year were more about injuries than about the status of the program. As for recruiting, the momentum of a win over a so-called “blue blood” program like OU (which has had 14 10-win seasons in 18 years) might sway a recruit or two. So, I don’t see “meaningless” at all. It’s the end of the season, it’s one of the “classic” bowls, and it’s Auburn Football, so I’ll be watching anxiously and intensely. Obviously, if you’re reading this, you will be as well!

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WAR EAGLE!!!

 

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aubiefifty    509

i sure am tired of reading where auburn does not stand a chance. especially from some of those idiots at al.com. and yes i do post some of their stuff but if it is info on the tigers i will usually repost if not a terrible article.

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aubaseball    166

going to be hard for AU to keep up with the scoring that OU will put up.   This is the type of Offense that Auburn typically doesn't do well against.  A Team that runs as well as they throw it gives Auburn problems.   If Auburn can force some turnovers and if Gus will pass the ball, Auburn has a chance of pulling off the upset.  

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Win4AU    195

It's all about SW in my opinion.  If Sean can be serviceable then the offense should hum along. If Auburn can keep oklahoma's offense off the field then maybe this game will stay out of the 60's

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RunInRed    1,209
45 minutes ago, JMR said:

Gus Malzahn could really use a win in this game to establish in Auburn people’s minds that the program is truly back on track after a poor start to 2016, and the two losses at the end of the year were more about injuries than about the status of the program.

This.

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WeagleAU    378
34 minutes ago, aubiefifty said:

i sure am tired of reading where auburn does not stand a chance. especially from some of those idiots at al.com. and yes i do post some of their stuff but if it is info on the tigers i will usually repost if not a terrible article.

al.com = crap.  Unless you're  a bammer fan, there is no reason to get info from them  on any other collegiate program

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AU04ever    88
54 minutes ago, Win4AU said:

It's all about SW in my opinion.  If Sean can be serviceable then the offense should hum along. If Auburn can keep oklahoma's offense off the field then maybe this game will stay out of the 60's

I would say SW'S performance depends on 3 things. First and obvious is his health. Then it's the run game. If KP and KJ open up that can and begin to pour it on, SW should have time to throw it. Then there is the 3rd thing, will Gus allow SW to throw it.

Edited by AU04ever
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2 hours ago, aubaseball said:

going to be hard for AU to keep up with the scoring that OU will put up.   This is the type of Offense that Auburn typically doesn't do well against.  A Team that runs as well as they throw it gives Auburn problems.   If Auburn can force some turnovers and if Gus will pass the ball, Auburn has a chance of pulling off the upset.  

I hardly give their stats credit for beating up against crappy defenses. I'll with hold judgement on just how great their offense is until they play us. If they put up the videogame numbers, then ill eat crow. However something tells me theyd average 200+ yards less on O if they played in a big boy conference

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80Tiger    304
1 hour ago, auburntiger1987 said:

I hardly give their stats credit for beating up against crappy defenses. I'll with hold judgement on just how great their offense is until they play us. If they put up the videogame numbers, then ill eat crow. However something tells me theyd average 200+ yards less on O if they played in a big boy conference

Unfortunately that cuts both ways. Our offensive performance against the big boys in our conference and Clemson is pretty dismal. Against the top half of the western conference, UGA from the east and Clemson, yielded us less than 400 yds total offensive in every single one of those games.

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aubaseball    166

That's just typical SEC homer talk.    Their defense is horrible in pass coverage.  Their offense can play in any conference.     Besides Alabama, who do you believe is better than them?  No one else this year.   

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AU-24    214
3 hours ago, 80Tiger said:

Unfortunately that cuts both ways. Our offensive performance against the big boys in our conference and Clemson is pretty dismal. Against the top half of the western conference, UGA from the east and Clemson, yielded us less than 400 yds total offensive in every single one of those games.

Injuries

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1 hour ago, aubaseball said:

That's just typical SEC homer talk.    Their defense is horrible in pass coverage.  Their offense can play in any conference.     Besides Alabama, who do you believe is better than them?  No one else this year.   

Washington, ohio state, mich, penn state and i can go on. its not sec homerism, its the truth. fact is,  put anyone in the sec against their schedule and you get a 14+ point and 200 yard a game boost .  im not taking anything away from their team but facts are facts.  it will still take a great game on both sides to win the game but i think au will play great and will win a close game

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80Tiger    304
1 hour ago, AU-24 said:

Injuries

Of course there are injuries. Every team has them including OK I imagine. The point is the poster indicated that OK stats were padded against lesser talent. As with most teams, so were ours. Of the 5 teams I listed, we lost 4 and close to losing the 5th. Injuries were only involved in 2 of those games and our O gained less than 200 in those games. The UGA game was the only game that injuries made a difference. 

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bigbird    5,919
9 hours ago, aubaseball said:

Who is the other team besides bama that would beat OU?  In the SEC.   That's the only big boy conference we are comparing.    

Besides us, LSU could as well.

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tgr4lfe    148
On 12/27/2016 at 2:54 PM, 80Tiger said:

Unfortunately that cuts both ways. Our offensive performance against the big boys in our conference and Clemson is pretty dismal. Against the top half of the western conference, UGA from the east and Clemson, yielded us less than 400 yds total offensive in every single one of those games.

BUT, when the AU O was healthy and against not so good D (OU's D is not that good people), then AU put up HUGE numbers and controlled games b/c of the stout D.  Granted OU has a legit offense that will challenge the AU D, so it could still be a shoot out type game, but I think a dominant run game by AU will ice it down the stretch.  

AU had 399 yards (236 rushing, 163 passing) against TAMU, 388 against LSU (154 rushing, 234 passing); 432 against MSU (228 rushing, 204 passing); 632 against Arky (543 rushing, 89 passing); 554 against Ole Miss (307 rushing, 247 passing); 386 against VU (271 rushing, 115 passing); 164 against UGA (127 rushing, 37 passing); and 182 against bama (66 rushing, 116 passing)

I'd say injuries cost the UGA and bama games, as with Pettway and White, AU wins both of those.  The first 3 games AU was trying to find the identity on O, we know about Clemson QB carousel, and just starting to figure it out in the TAMU and LSU games, although it didn't matter against TAMU, Knight and company were on fire.  upper 300s total O isn't awful, but not exactly stellar either.  I put OU's D on par with MSU, Arky, Ole Miss and think AU should be able to effectively move the ball and score, provided that SW and CP are fully healthy. 

Edited by tgr4lfe
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80Tiger    304
42 minutes ago, tgr4lfe said:

BUT, when the AU O was healthy and against not so good D (OU's D is not that good people), then AU put up HUGE numbers and controlled games b/c of the stout D.  Granted OU has a legit offense that will challenge the AU D, so it could still be a shoot out type game, but I think a dominant run game by AU will ice it down the stretch.  

AU had 399 yards (236 rushing, 163 passing) against TAMU, 388 against LSU (154 rushing, 234 passing); 432 against MSU (228 rushing, 204 passing); 632 against Arky (543 rushing, 89 passing); 554 against Ole Miss (307 rushing, 247 passing); 386 against VU (271 rushing, 115 passing); 164 against UGA (127 rushing, 37 passing); and 182 against bama (66 rushing, 116 passing)

I'd say injuries cost the UGA and bama games, as with Pettway and White, AU wins both of those.  The first 3 games AU was trying to find the identity on O, we know about Clemson QB carousel, and just starting to figure it out in the TAMU and LSU games, although it didn't matter against TAMU, Knight and company were on fire.  upper 300s total O isn't awful, but not exactly stellar either.  I put OU's D on par with MSU, Arky, Ole Miss and think AU should be able to effectively move the ball and score, provided that SW and CP are fully healthy. 

You kinda justified what I was saying. The bottom tier of the SEC west is where we ran up big yardage; Miss Stat, Ole Miss and Arky.  The top tier of the west we don't crack the 400 mark. I didn't watch OU enough to know how to compare them to SEC teams, but I would think that they have more talent on both sides of the ball than MSU , Arky, and Ole Miss.

And cannot agree at all that injuries cost us the Alabama game. it just wasn't that close. They gained 500 yds and 30 pts. Even when healthy we would not have scored 30 on them.

 

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On ‎12‎/‎28‎/‎2016 at 7:39 AM, bigbird said:

Besides us, LSU could as well.

Possibly even UT. If they played a full SEC schedule... who knows who else could jump up and make a game out of it. The difference in some conferences is the grind it takes to make it through, not just the few top teams in the country.

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Tiger    1,649

I could see us totally stifling their offense but I could also see them putting up 50 on us.

I reallllly like what Kevin Steele did this year as he did a million times better than I anticipated but I'm going to have to see another year of it before I stop holding my breath about our defense. I didn't feel that way from say, game 5 onwards this year but the bowl game has me worried a little bit. Especially since he actually gave up a basketball score once in a a bowl game. Yikes. Imagine if our O looks like it did vs Vandy, UGA, and Bama. OU could get up by a crazy margin super early on us if we are punting every 4 plays

 

Basically SW being healthy is our best bet. Our offense is putrid when he's not out there. He makes the drive extending plays when we need them.

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AU-24    214
On 12/27/2016 at 7:32 PM, 80Tiger said:

Of course there are injuries. Every team has them including OK I imagine. The point is the poster indicated that OK stats were padded against lesser talent. As with most teams, so were ours. Of the 5 teams I listed, we lost 4 and close to losing the 5th. Injuries were only involved in 2 of those games and our O gained less than 200 in those games. The UGA game was the only game that injuries made a difference. 

Nope

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AuburnNTexas    817
On 12/28/2016 at 4:28 PM, 80Tiger said:

You kinda justified what I was saying. The bottom tier of the SEC west is where we ran up big yardage; Miss Stat, Ole Miss and Arky.  The top tier of the west we don't crack the 400 mark. I didn't watch OU enough to know how to compare them to SEC teams, but I would think that they have more talent on both sides of the ball than MSU , Arky, and Ole Miss.

And cannot agree at all that injuries cost us the Alabama game. it just wasn't that close. They gained 500 yds and 30 pts. Even when healthy we would not have scored 30 on them.

 

If healthy we would have kept the ball longer and that means bama would not have had as many yards or as many points.  Take away one TD from bama because we had the ball and add one TD to us and it is a 23-19 game. Not saying we win that game but the reality is once we had an identity we were getting to be pretty good on O we moved the ball on LSU but had to settle for FG's we got better than we had key injuries. in the GA and bama game Sean was out, Pettyway was out and KJ's ankle was still tender. Injuries happen you are right but who gets injured can have a small impact or a major impact when you loose your top two O players and your next best O player is not 100% it is hard to recover.

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80Tiger    304
1 hour ago, AuburnNTexas said:

If healthy we would have kept the ball longer and that means bama would not have had as many yards or as many points.  Take away one TD from bama because we had the ball and add one TD to us and it is a 23-19 game. Not saying we win that game but the reality is once we had an identity we were getting to be pretty good on O we moved the ball on LSU but had to settle for FG's we got better than we had key injuries. in the GA and bama game Sean was out, Pettyway was out and KJ's ankle was still tender. Injuries happen you are right but who gets injured can have a small impact or a major impact when you loose your top two O players and your next best O player is not 100% it is hard to recover.

You just can't make up hypotheticals and say we score one more and they score one less. There is no guarantee on that. It could have been the exact same result also. Want to talk about "identities"? What about LSU's later in the year? Do we beat them in a later game in the year? I don't know but we did beat them when we played? The only game that injuries probably would have changed the outcome was GA. 

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80Tiger    304
On December 29, 2016 at 10:18 AM, AU-24 said:

Nope

Nice thought out and detailed response. You really did your homework on this one. Almost makes me change my position.

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