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Deep Inside the Numbers: Auburn-Mizzou

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Two out of three ain’t bad

NCAA Football: Mercer at Auburn
Aubie’s the 01 We Need
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

On to the next game. Auburn is still 2-1 and still controls its conference destiny. Everything that has happened before this weekend amounts to little more than preseason games. Auburn starts SEC play this weekend. It’s time to get serious.

First, mood music. Cue Tre Mason’s daddy and them.

Auburn makes its first ever trip to the state of Missouri on Saturday and most of War Eagle nation is firmly in the “Show Me” category when it comes to the Auburn offense. We need points and luckily we are playing the Mizzou Tigers defense whose best accomplishment this season has been getting out of the locker room for every game with their shoes on the right feet.

We need something to feel good about this season. We need a blowout road SEC victory like last year’s Arkansas game. We need a game where Auburn’s offense completes plays with the ball still in its possession! We need to know if we are going to win before we even turn on the TV Saturday night. Luckily for you, I am here to analyze and peruse the random minutiae of sports statistics so you don’t have to.

Elevator doors

Open for you and for me

Down please, deep down, math


Auburn is 1-1 against Mizzou all time, the win in the 2013 SEC Championship and the loss in the 1973 Sun Bowl. Not much to work with.

Mizzou football is called the “Tigers” and Auburn plays a lot of teams called the “Tigers.” Our Tigers are 63-52-5 all time against other Tigers. This season is the first time Auburn will play three other sets of Tigers in the same year since the miserable 1902 campaign. What can we tell from that 1902 season? Well, probably nothing considering you couldn’t drink the water in Auburn, Alabama, in 1902 and the life expectancy in the United States was 47. Leading cause of death in the USA the last year Auburn played 3 sets of Tigers? The flu.

Luckily, things have changed. We have vaccines and clean water and a football team that plays more than one home game a season. Gus Malzahn has faced eight Tigers in his career as Auburn’s coach, and is 4-4 against them. These aren’t great numbers for Auburn, but Gus does have a 2-0 record on the road against the rotating SEC East team on Auburn’s schedule, and his best ever Auburn team (2013) beat the best ever SEC Mizzou team (2013) like a drum.

On the road against non-UGA SEC East teams, Gus Malzahn’s Tigers have outscored their opponents 85-50.

Should we go deeper?

Auburn is is 6-3 under Gus Malzahn against state colleges with M in their name with two of the three losses coming to Dak Prescott and the other coming to an Ole Miss team who will most likely have to vacate that win. Auburn has won it’s last three such games against M-state schools (including Memphis). Auburn hasn’t lost on the road to one of those schools since October 14, 2014, a streak of 1072 days without a loss on the road to a state school whose name starts with the letter M. Why isn’t this leading SportsCenter? Guess that’s what bias looks like.

In years since 2000 in which Auburn plays it’s first road conference game against a school whose name begins with the letter M, Auburn has a winning record in the Iron Bowl (5-4). This could be a good omen for the rest of the season!

Gus Malzahn is 4-1 in games played west of LSU since becoming Auburn’s head coach. (That 2015 Arkansas game is such an anomaly: Auburn’s only SEC Network loss, a four overtime game, all those drops by Auburn receivers, and BERT’s only win over Gus.)

Going down? Further?

  • This will be the third time Auburn has faced Missouri.
  • This will be Gus Malzahn’s third trip to an SEC East school other than UGA.
  • This will be the third game Kamryn Pettway is eligible to play this season.
  • Pettway rushed for three touchdowns last week.
  • Jarrett Stidham completed 18 straight passes last week, or six times 3.
  • Mizzou allowed a rushing touchdown to three different players last week.
  • Mizzou has won three SEC games since 2014.
  • Auburn under Malzahn has won all but three games against state schools whose names begin with M.
  • Auburn’s defense this season? It’s allowing opponents to average only three yards per play.
  • Three. It’s a magic number.

Jarrett Stidham should throw for three touchdowns in this game, and Auburn will run for three more. Will this game mean anything in the long run? Not likely. Mizzou is really not a very good football team by any measure, and the only outcome that could tell us anything substantial about this Auburn team would be if Gus walks out of there with a loss. I don’t think he will. I think the passing game (!) comes to the help of the monstrous defense Gus has allowed Kevin Steele to assemble.

Legatron should only be used for extra points in this one. That’s my prediction. Auburn is a 19-point favorite on the road in the SEC because the boys out in the desert know what a bad team looks like.

Orange and Blue Tigers: 42

Black and Yellow Tigers: 17