I love wandering around cfbstats.com. There’s a wealth of detailed information breaking down what teams do that’s great to pour over. I’ve taken the time to look at some of the situational stats that the Dawgs and Tigers have generated so far to see if there’s much to be gleaned for tomorrow’s game.
Here are a few (you guessed it) bullet points for your consideration:
- Rushing offense. Two things jump out with regards to Auburn’s running game – the average yards per rush on first and second downs and the third quarter numbers. Basically, if they don’t turn the ball over or get penalized, the Tigers gain enough yardage on average to generate first downs on back-to-back running plays on first and second downs. And those third quarter numbers are a beast: seven yards a pop in the quarter when they run the ball the most. Clearly, Malzahn is a coach who knows what he wants to do when he comes back out of the locker room after the half. Georgia’s rushing numbers aren’t as pretty. Interestingly, Bobo likes to run the ball more in the second half, even though his offense has less to show for it in terms of yards per carry.
- Rushing defense. Contrary to his offensive counterpart, Ted Roof doesn’t come out in the second half very well. If you look at Auburn’s defensive numbers against the run, the Tigers give up a whopping 5.89 ypc in the third quarter. (Auburn’s third quarters this year must look like track meets.) The Georgia defense’s worst showing against the run is also in the third quarter, but it’s still almost two yards per carry less than Auburn’s. In any event, the numbers show that the Georgia D is much stouter against the run than is Auburn’s D.
- Passing offense. Auburn’s passing numbers aren’t that surprising for a team with a winning record. The Tigers like to pass on early downs and they pass more in the first half than in the second. The one odd tidbit is that their lowest passer rating occurs in the first quarter. That’s the opposite for Joe Cox, who’s by far at his best in the first quarter, both in terms of rating and completion percentage. One other item about Georgia’s passing game: four interceptions in the first half, ten in the second half. (With that in mind, though, note that Georgia hasn’t thrown an interception all year in the opponents’ red zone.)
- Passing defense. Roof’s defense does a good job shutting down the pass in the second and third quarters. And given what I just noted about Georgia’s propensity for second half picks, those fourth quarter interception numbers make for a bad combination if the Dawgs are in comeback mode at that point in the game. One thing, though – check out those red zone numbers. Inside the Tigers’ 20, I expect Joe to have a field day. On the other hand, the Dawg numbers on passing defense are about as grim as you might expect, with the very notable exception of fourth quarter performance. Maybe Martinez needs to trick his charges into thinking that the game is almost over for the entire evening.
So what does all that mean? I still think that the game is going to boil down to turnover margin. If Georgia goes minus-three, it’s going to be a long night. However, if that winds up being a non-factor, the numbers suggest that the big key to the game is which side wins the battle between Auburn’s rushing attack and Georgia’s rushing defense. A game that comes down to the fourth quarter might also favor the Dawgs. And while you’re at it, guys, it might be nice for the offense to get a few opportunities to set up in the red zone and let Joe Cox kick a little ass. We’ll see.
UPDATE: I see that Jerry Hinnen loves him some cfbstats.com, too. I think he undersells Georgia’s run defense a little and oversells Auburn’s run defense (Jerry, Washaun Ealey is outweighed anywhere from 15-35 pounds by the guys you compare him to – whatever he may be, he’s not a bruiser) more, but other than that, it’s the usual, solid job you expect from him. Hell, how can you not look at this game without concluding that it’ll come down to turnover margin in the end? Which, of course, means that the game will come down to something no one is expecting…