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How Auburn’s Gonna Win the Iron Bowl

With interactive charts!

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Alabama v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Unlike many of you, I won’t be sharing a dinner table with family that cheers for the University of Alabama this week. I count myself lucky in that regard. But, many of you don’t share my good fortune, so I thought I’d give you guys some ammunition to fire off at kin tomorrow afternoon. Sometimes, just knowing that Auburn is going to win isn’t enough.

First off, let’s look at Auburn on offense. Yes, things haven’t exactly been pretty all season. But, I would make the argument things have started to look better. Bo hasn’t really struggled at home since the the Tulane game, and in the last three weeks he’s posted 735 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions, along with 62 yards on the ground a 2 more touchdowns. Has he been great? No, but he hasn’t prevented us from winning. I don’t really expect a huge performance from Bo, though, because I think Auburn can get it done on the ground.

Boobee Whitlow looks to finally be back healthy, and he should have plenty of room to work against an average Alabama rush defense. Alabama is 49th in the country in yards per carry, and, get this, 109th in the country in stuff rate. You may not trust our offensive line fully, but they may be able to create some holes against the Alabama defensive front. And while Auburn isn’t necessarily the most explosive team on the ground, Alabama doesn’t exactly prevent big plays, either. The respective units are ranked #42 and #41 in the country in rushing explosiveness rates, so I would expect at least a few big plays on the ground by this Auburn running game. Whether that’s getting Eli Stove out wide, or finding ways for Boobee to get into space with pull help, Auburn’s got a chance to succeed here. This is a long ways off from the Georgia defense.

The Alabama offense versus the Auburn defense is certainly the strength vs strength match up. Alabama gains nearly 7.8 yards per play which is just bonkers, but most of that has been a result of them gaining 10 yards per attempt when passing the ball, good for #3 in the country. On the ground, they’re a little more pedestrian, sitting at around 5.4 ypc, good for #40. What stands out is the success rate of the Alabama offense. They’re top 5 in both passing and rushing success rate, meaning they are near impossible to put behind the chains. But we’re not here to talk about why the Bama offense is good!

The Auburn defense is no slouch, ranking in the top 20 in both yards per passing attempt and yards per carry. They’ll be going up against a Tua-less Alabama passing game, which can’t be understated enough, no matter how good the wide receivers are. Auburn’s secondary is #6 in the country at not allowing big plays, thanks in large part to an emphasis on tackling in the open field. They may allow the completion, but it’s not often the receiver can turn that into anything else.

Where Auburn has a huge advantage is in stopping the Alabama ground game. Remember what I said about stuff rate? The Auburn defensive front stuffs ball carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage on nearly a quarter of all rushes. Despite Bama’s elite rushing success rate (55%), when they don’t get what they need, it often times goes really poorly. The Alabama ground game allows stuffs on 20% of their carries, and that’s without having played Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson yet.

The Alabama ground game doesn’t really generate any big plays, either, which has been the one glaring weakness of Auburn’s front - over-pursuing into the backfield and getting beat if they guess wrong.

Hopefully some cold, hard data can get you through having to talk football with any Alabama fans this Thanksgiving. And if they can’t accept math, which is quite possible, just ask them how basketball is going.

If you’re still looking for tickets for this weekend’s game, check out StubHub! They aren’t cheap right now, but trust me, you don’t want to be having figure out the ticket situation at the last minute.