The 26th best performance of any team this season to date. That's how good Auburn's win over Texas A&M was, according to Brian Fremau's GFEI. Without getting too far into it, FEI is just a drive-based efficiency stat (opponent-adjusted) that can be used to rate a team's performance through a season, and GFEI is a similar stat for a single game. You can see how all of Auburn's performances rank here, but, warning, no others are even in the top 200.
But that Texas A&M game. Auburn finally played a complete game. The offense moved the ball consistently, hit a few big plays, and didn't turn the ball over. The defense didn't give up many big plays and got some big interceptions. And even though his kickoffs didn't go for touchbacks, Daniel Carlson earned over two points more than an average kicker would have that night, and that doesn't take the wind into consideration.
So how did the offense do it? Well, part of it is that A&M's rush defense is terrible, but it also helped that Auburn started mixing up the "window dressing" in the run game.
Running Away from Motion
Against Louisville, Auburn ran a lot up the middle with jet sweep motion through the backfield. Sometimes the run would go toward the motion, sometimes it went away, but either way, it was very effective, especially as the Tigers were trying to milk clock in the fourth quarter.
I haven't been able to take as many notes on the last few games, but I'm pretty sure this style of run had mostly disappeared before the A&M game. I say "mostly" because it's still used in the Wildcat, or whenever Kerryon Johnson was at quarterback. And against Kentucky, Auburn used a 6-man offensive line and ran toward motion.
But against the Aggies, the run away from motion made its return. The motion does two things. First, it freezes the linebackers, who have to either stay in the box against runs up the middle or chase runners outside. Second, it can cause the defensive line to shift toward motion, making kickouts easier one way and log blocks easier the other.
In this play vs Kentucky, motion widened the defense and made Braden Smith's kickout block too easy.
Against Texas A&M, Auburn ran Counter away from the motion. The backside defensive end, Myles Garrett, slid inside at the snap. This allowed Smith to block him even further inside, and even get in the way of two linebackers.
Normally with Counter, the pulling guard does the kicking out and the H-back does the lead blocking up to the linebackers, but with the way the defense played it, Smith and Chandler Cox effectively swapped roles. On the fly, Cox noticed what was going on and found an outside linebacker to kick out, giving Jovon Robinson just enough room to break off a long run.
Robinson's 45 yard run was on the same play and he got another big one when Auburn ran the Buck Sweep away from motion. This left him one-on-one with a safety downfield, which was great since he'd been looking to run people over.
During the first drive, Auburn let Jeremy Johnson get settled in by getting him to throw some bubble screens other short throws. These were great because even though plenty of them were thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the receivers not targeted blocked well enough for the plays to gain 5-10 yards.
But the way the receivers line up interested me the most. Auburn stacked their receivers quite a bit in this game, especially early. This helps the receivers get separation from the defensive backs covering them, particularly when the defense doesn't commit an extra defensive back to that side and instead relies on the deep safety to help. It can also confuse defenders because they don't know which one is going inside or outside, shallow or vertical.
Early in the game, Melvin Ray lined up in front of another receiver and fought off initial contact to get inside leverage. The corner let him go to take the other receiver while the deep safety kept an eye on them. No one stayed with Ray as he got open inside and converted a third down.
The last play of that same drive also used a formation with stacked receivers. Texas A&M was seemingly determined to not let Auburn run if they could help it, so they left a corner and safety alone to cover the two stacked receivers. At the snap, Johnson immediately threw to the back-most receiver, Marcus Davis, on a spot screen. In front, Jonathan Wallace (yes, that Jonathan Wallace) did a great job keeping his man from making a play. That left Davis with 10 yards of space between him and the safety trying to tackle him. The result was a touchdown.
Johnson also made some nice throws down the field, even one where his primary read fell down. And, no I didn't forget about the defense. Three interceptions and two stops on fourth down were very impressive. I've just been a little under the weather this week, and I wasn't able to put together as much as I wanted after such a big win. Apologies. So, to make up for it, I'm going to Vine some plays I didn't get to during lunch today. Follow me on Twitter or Vine to follow along.