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Deep Inside the Numbers: Auburn-Georgia Southern

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Numbers can’t lie. That would be mean. (math joke)

NCAA Football: Alabama A&M at Auburn Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are, Auburn Fans. Week one. Everybody is undefeated and expectations are through the roof and a million other clichés. Last season, we looked back into the past to see what it could teach us about each week’s game. We got it wrong a few times, but some weeks we were right, so should we just abandon that experiment completely?


We aren’t looking for something that works sometimes. Working only every so often may be OK for things like every printer I’ve ever owned, or the staff at the Popeye’s in the Atlanta airport, or the Department of Justice, but this is more serious than that. This is college football season and we need to be precise. We need to be excellent. We need to be able to win money betting on games by knowing the outcome before they happen. I’m here for you Auburn fan/degenerate gambler.

This season, I have scrapped the notion of historical events having some bearing on Auburn games, and instead will be helping you go deep inside the numbers. Like, so deep.

Let’s get in our numbers submarine together and plumb the depths of mathematical murkiness to muster a moment of merriment before Malzahn marches his men on the field.

On the surface, we see the numbers everyone sees. Auburn has higher rated players at basically every position, and Georgia Southern hasn’t won a road game against an SEC school but like once ever and that was against a Muschamp Florida team so it almost doesn’t count. Let’s go deeper.

Georgia Southern ended the season losing four of its last five games, including losses to Ole Miss and rival Georgia State. The Eagles were 5-7 on the year and finished in sixth place in the Sun Belt. Auburn finished the season losing three of its last five, with the only wins coming against Vanderbilt and Alabama A&M. The Tigers were 8-5 on the year and finished second in the SEC West. These numbers tell us nothing. Let’s go deeper.

Since Pat Dye became head coach at Auburn—what I will call the modern era of Auburn Football—Auburn has played a school with the word ‘Southern’ in its name 15 times. This includes such teams as Georgia Southern, Southern Miss, Southern California and Southern Methodist. In that time, Auburn has gone 11-4 against those teams, winning an impressive 74% of the time. If you throw out the misery of the 2003 USC(w) game since Reggie Bush was technically ineligible that number improves to 79%. I like these numbers, but let’s go deeper.

In the modern era of Auburn Football, Auburn has played an opener against a team that wears blue 12 times. Georgia Southern’s school colors include blue a fact it can not run from, no matter how hard it tries. In those 12 openers against blue teams, Auburn has won an astonishing 83% of the time. 10-2 since 1981. It’s interesting to note how few blue teams Auburn plays. For a primary color, it is a rare occurrence on the Auburn schedule. Red, on the other hand, seems to be a constant on the opposite sideline from our Tigers. Maybe Auburn just likes beating red teams more, or maybe blue teams are just too easy. Either way, there’s something to these numbers. Let’s go deeper.

Pat Dye isn’t Auburn’s coach anymore. You know that. I know that. Maybe he knows that? Anyway, Auburn’s current coach, Arthur Gustavo Malzahn, III, has now been the head coach for four full seasons. In those seasons there have been few constants, none as guaranteed as Auburn’s ability to beat a team that wears blue. Malzahn has faced 11 teams with Blue in their school colors and beaten them all but once. He is 10-1, with the one being an ugly 2015 loss against an Ole Miss squad who will probably have to forfeit that win one day anyway. Auburn has scored more than 30 in all of its wins against blue schools, and averages a 36-19 win in those games. Auburn has outscored blue teams under Malzahn 400-214. Gus owns blue schools. Let’s go even deeper

Auburn plays Georgia Southern at 6:30pm Central on the SEC Network. Is that meaningless? Hardly. Since the SEC Network launched in 2014, Auburn has played live on its airways 12 times. Its record? 11-1 with the only loss coming at Arkansas at 11am in 2015 in quadruple overtime. When Auburn plays after 6pm Central on the SEC Network, the Tigers are 5-0. That is a winning percentage of 100%. No matter what color the other team is wearing, Auburn puts the smack down on SEC Network primetime.

Auburn, coached by Gus Malzahn, is opening its season by playing a team that will wear blue on the SEC Network after 6pm. That sentence should terrify Georgia Southern fans. Based on the numbers our Orange and Blue submarine discovered, I predict Auburn wins this game easily.

Auburn 42

GSU 16

We have gone deep inside the numbers. See you next week.