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Deep Inside the Numbers: Auburn-Mercer

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Staying positive like numbers > 0

NCAA Football: Auburn at Clemson
Thinking about how good a positive yard would be
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We need good news. Last week was gross and miserable and the Auburn offense looked completely lost. Like Lost, the Clemson game was long, confusing, and the second half was pointless. Auburn allowed one sack for each person on the starting offense. Usain Bolt could run for as many yards as Auburn did in less than 3 seconds. Auburn moved less distance in 60 minutes than one of those mysterious rocks out in the desert . Gus’ offense lost the plot more times than a M. Night Shyamalan movie. Jarrett Stidham was flung to the ground more than a European Soccer star auditioning for the role of Scarecrow in a production of the Wizard of Oz that takes place during an earthquake. The offensive line could have been replaced by those inflatable flailing-arm-guys outside of used car dealerships and would have been equally as effective.

But let’s be positive. We should win on Saturday. We should win by a lot.

Auburn plays host to the Mercer Bears this week. The Tigers are 11-0 versus Mercer and last won 50-7 back in 1922. It’s been a while since these two have faced off, so let’s go Deep Inside the Numbers™ to see how confident Auburn can be in the win this week.

Let’s swim straight down, searching the seas of statistics to suss out whether the Southern Conference’s fifth-best squad stands a chance of scoring against our Tigers.

Auburn is celebrating Homecoming this Saturday, and has won its last 25 Homecoming games. That’s a pretty long streak. Considering some of those games back in the day were against conference opponents, it’s even more impressive. We haven’t played Mercer since the Harding Administration, so we are going to need more numbers to feel good about this one. Keep swimming!

Auburn has kept its opponents from gaining a single yard on 39% of plays this season. That is a staggering statistic. Auburn’s defense does a Gandalf impression and tells the ball it can not pass on 4 out of every 10 snaps. How is this team not 2-0? Nevermind. Let’s stay positive. Mercer is in for a nightmare when it faces Auburn. The Tigers are facing a team that turned the ball over five times against Wofford, including three interceptions. Auburn has forced 20 turnovers in Kevin Steele’s 15 game tenure as Defensive Coordinator. Auburn has only allowed 10 rushing touchdowns in those 15 games. We know the defense is good. We are confident in them, but it doesn’t mean we are confident we will win this game. Let’s swim deeper.

The Mercer Bears are the first team Auburn has played named “Bears” since a 1976 loss to Baylor in Auburn. They are the Southern Conference team Auburn has played since Samford in 2014, a 31-7 Tiger victory. Before that, Auburn beat Western Carolina 62-3 in 2013. Samford finished above Mercer in the Southern Conference standings last season, while Western Carolina finished dead last. Mercer restarted its football program in 2013, after a 70-year break from the sport. I guess that means they are well rested.


In Auburn’s last 5 games following a loss to an ACC team, the Tigers have averaged scoring 32.5 points and are 4-1 with the only loss coming to Dak Prescott. Mercer has exactly 0 Dak Prescott’s on its roster. Auburn is due for another rebound game. Gus Malzahn has never been held under 30 in back-to-back non-conference games as head coach at Auburn. He will unleash a barrage of points against Mercer in order to build the confidence of his team and assuage the doubts of the Auburn fanbase. It is hard to be mad at a coach who drops 70 points on a team, and that is what I see Auburn attempting to do on Saturday. A scorched earth approach to the Mercer defense is just what the doctor ordered for Gus and the Tigers.

Auburn will increase its record on the SEC Network to 13-1, with 0 losses coming in regulation.

Auburn Tigers 70

Mercer Bears 10