Auburn: Midway Musings

Last week we took a look at the Gus Bus at the halfway point of the season. The emphasis was what lay ahead for Coach Malzahn and his Tigers. This week will feature a potpourri of stats, past years at this stage of the season and a prediction for the upcoming South Carolina game.

A comparison of a few stats from this year vs. the 2013 season:

2014 Offense
Yards rushing 1572
Yards passing 1355
Total offense 2927
Average per game 487.8
Points per game 38.8

2014 Defense
Rushing yards allowed 724
Passing yards allowed 1278
Total yards allowed 2002
Average per game 333.7
Points allowed per game 18.3

2013 Offense
Yards rushing 1724
Yards passing 1123
Total offense 2847
Average per game 474.5
Points per game 34.3

2013 Defense
Rushing yards allowed 878
Passing yards allowed 1517
Total yards allowed 2395
Average per game 399.2
Points per game 18.8

So… This year the Auburn offense has more passing yards, total offensive yards, yards per game and points per game than in 2013.

The defense has allowed less rushing yards, passing yards, total yards, yards per game and points per game. Rushing yards is the only area where the 2013 team exceeded the 2014 team output, and that is only by 152 yards.

From looking at these statistics and watching this year’s team perform, I think Auburn is improved over last year. The Tigers also have more experience, talent and depth. The coaches and players are also more comfortable with each other and the system.

Those numbers being what they are, and with the 2014 team passing the eye test, we must ask ourselves some pointed questions.

How is team chemistry compared to 2013? Is the hunger and desire at the same intensity? What about all the intangibles that really cannot be measured like numbers can be measured? And last but not least… What about good old fashioned luck?

As far as the record goes, this year’s team and last year’s team both found themselves at five wins and one loss after six games. Now let’s take a look back at what past Auburn squads were 5-1 and what transpired afterward. We will begin with Shug Jordan’s first season on The Plains, 1951. You will find below the final record for each season, followed by the SEC record including bowl games:

1951 (5-5, 3-4) 1959 (7-3, 4-3) 1960 (8-2, 5-2) 1962 (6-3-1, 4-3) 1970 (9-2, 5-2) 1972 (10-1, 6-1) 1979 (8-3, 4-2) 1982 (9-3, 4-2) 1983 (11-1, 6-0) 1985 (8-4, 3-3) 1988 (10-2, 6-1) 1996 (8-4, 4-4) 2000 (9-4, 6-2) 2001 (7-5, 5-3) 2005 (9-3, 7-1) 2006 (11-2, 6-2) 2009 (8-5, 3-5)

It is somewhat intriguing that Auburn found itself with the exact same record, and a darn good record after six games, nineteen times since Ralph “Shug” Jordan prowled the sidelines.

If I could compare AU’s 2013 contingent with any team on that list it would be the 1972 group, The Amazins. And it is no small wonder that these are my two favorite Auburn teams EVER.

How about the 2014 Auburn Tigers? What team, from years past, do they most resemble? Well, regular season, record wise, we will know by the evening of November 29th when the Iron Bowl has been completed. But what do we see when we gaze into the crystal ball?

When one considers ALL factors it appears, from this angle, that the 2014 Auburn Tigers might align themselves somewhere just north of the 2005 and 2006 teams and just south of the 1983 and 1988 squads. Let’s hope they are very close to those great ’80s teams at season’s end. BOTH of those units were SEC Champions. Both played in the Sugar Bowl. In 1983 Auburn was proclaimed national champions by the New York Times. In 1988 they missed playing for the national title due to a crushing 7-6 loss to LSU down in the Red Stick. The ‘Earthquake Game’… SIGH.

If I have any pulse on this year’s Tigers it is this… I believe they have taken the off week to iron out the kinks from the first half of the 2014 campaign. I believe they have recommitted themselves to finding that elusive 13 seconds. I believe they have refocused on their master plan. I believe they have found their best 11 players on each side of the ball. I believe they have focused, not on the BRUTAL schedule that lies ahead, but on improving and beating the South Carolina Gamecocks.

That brings us to the task at hand. Auburn vs. South Carolina. The old ball coach finds himself matched up with someone who admires him greatly, thus Malzahn’s visor, and can stay with him calling plays. Yes, Steve Spurrier, as good as he is, finds himself in the unenviable position of having to face a very, very good football team coming off a painful loss and looking to redeem themselves. They will do just that.

Auburn 45, South Carolina 13

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