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Deep Inside the Numbers: Auburn- Clemson

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“We friends who love math. Call us Algebros.”-Drake, probably

NCAA Football: Georgia Southern at Auburn
Gobbling up QBs like Pi
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

That 1-0 feeling. Georgia Southern didn’t stand much of a chance before the game even started, as we discovered last week. If Clemson converts a third down on Saturday night, it will be the first third down conversion Auburn allows this season. That’s pretty impressive. The SEC Network Tigers are now 6-0 as the primetime SEC Network game. I, for one, wish we played all our games at 6:30 on SEC Network, but we can’t. So we have to find another reason to have confidence. We have to search the soils of math for hope in Auburn football.

We dare to dig deeper into the soft dirt of data hoping to discover evidence for Auburn’s future dominance and to divine proof of Marlon Davidson’s continued tour of destruction.

Grab your shovels. This one is going to be tough.

Saturday will be Auburn’s first road game of the season. Auburn is 80-38-6 all-time in road openers and has won nine of its last 13. Gus Malzahn is 3-1 in road openers at Auburn, winning his last 3 by an average score of 30-17. Gus’ only loss in a road opener? The crazy 35-21 loss to LSU that galvanized the 2013 team into becoming SEC champions. This is a bigger accomplishment than you might think, Auburn rarely plays a cupcake opponent on the road, and almost never plays a road game against a non-conference opponent if it can help it. These are encouraging numbers. But we need more.

Auburn has played Clemson a ton. While the theory exists that Auburn’s current AD has been hoodwinked by an evil demon not less powerful than deceitful into a Cartesian trap and is forced to “choose” to play Clemson every season, there is no proof. Maybe Jay Jacobs is just under the impression Auburn should continue to play a team it has a 14-5 record against since 1950 (Auburn was 2-2 against Clemson during the Korean Conflict, a fact that should dissuade Jacobs from scheduling the Purple Tigers should our current situation on the Korean Peninsula further deteriorate). Auburn has lost its last three to Clemson, but has never lost four in a row in the history of the series. Clemson, on the other hand, lost 14 straight to Auburn from 1952-2010. Whichever team scores more than 30 points has won 100% of the matchups between the two schools. It has never been the case that both teams have scored 30 in the same game. Auburn has scored more than 30 points in seven of its last 14 games.

The over/under for this game is 54. That either means both teams are going to score a ton of points, or it is going to be a fairly lop-sided campaign, according to Vegas. As we have seen above, both teams have never scored thirty points in the same game in the history of the series dating back 50 games to 1899. The spread is Clemson -4.5, and the money has been moving towards Auburn since the line opened. Why? Auburn is 4-1 against the spread in its last five road games. Smart money should be on this one being a nail-biter.

I don’t know what to do with these numbers. We should go deeper.

Auburn has played the defending national champion 20 times and is 5-5 in its last 10 of those matchups, but 2-1 with Malzahn on staff. In each of his wins, there must have been something that tied them together. What did Gus do or have in 2010 and 2013 that he didn’t in 2016? Most of those players only participated in either 2010 or 2013, but not both.

In Gus’ two wins versus the defending champs, the correlation is obvious. In both 2010 and 2013, Gus Malzahn had a starting QB who had been in junior college the year before. Gus Malzahn is undefeated against the defending national champions when starting a first-year starting QB who spent the last season attending classes at a junior college.

Undefeated is a good statistic. What makes me feel even better about it is Auburn currently has Jarrett Stidham at QB, who if you recall spent last season attending classes at a junior college. This is a trend now, and you can bet confidently on trends. Auburn will beat Clemson because of where Jarrett Stidham was last season.

Do the math.

Auburn plays on Espn at night, Gus has a 20-8 record in night games. Auburn is playing in its season road opener, where it has won 9 of its last 13. Auburn just beat Georgia Southern and is undefeated (1-0) all time in games following wins over Georgia Southern. Auburn has a starting QB who attended junior college last season and has never lost to a defending champion when that is the case. Pick Auburn not only to beat the spread (making it 5-1 ATS on the road) but to win outright.

Auburn 31

Clemson 29