The Notorious PAB is back this week with a statistical comparison of Alabama and Auburn versus their common opponents this season. Enjoy!
Leading up to the ever-intense, always-interesting Iron Bowl, we’ll look at how the Crimson Tide and the Tigers fared against six common opponents: the Georgia Bulldogs from the SEC East and all SEC West teams.
Personal aside… this writer grew up in Indiana, steeped in:
- The late and lamented one-class high school state basketball tournament;
- Fighting Irish vs. Boilermakers in football (once a very competitive series);
- Hoosiers vs. Boilermakers in Big Ten basketball, when Bobby Knight and Gene Keady stalked the sidelines and won a lot of games;
- The Old Oaken Bucket Game – IU vs. Purdue at the end of every football season; and
- Ohio State / Michigan – the best, but by no means the only, Big 10 gridiron rivalry.
At one point, I left my native state and moved to The Heart of Dixie, lived in Birmingham, and came to understand Alabama football and the SEC much better. My wife, an Auburn alumna, had been telling me for years how great SEC football is, but I held to my Big 10 heritage and replied “We’ll see.” I hung on to my opinion despite being a witness to history: I was at Legion Field on November 28, 1981, when the Tide bested Auburn, 28-17, to give Bear Bryant his record 315th victory.
Well, Bama Lighthouse readers, during my stay in The Magic City I was converted. I am here to testify. Whenever college football rivalries are discussed, I tell people that nothing can exceed Alabama and Auburn. Nothing. For many Alabamians, the quality, perhaps the essence, of daily life depends on the outcome. Babies are swaddled in Tide or Tigers colors in the cradle, their allegiances set for life. Personal and business relationships are strained. It would all be disturbingly crazy if it weren’t so darned much fun. War Eagle! Roll Tide!
I think it’s incorrect to state “losing is worse than death,” but “losing the Iron Bowl guarantees one very unhappy year” is completely accurate. Fortunately, I was never required to declare for either side. When I explained that I’m from Big 10 country, the response was always a sad smile, a slight nodding of the head and a gentle, “Well, bless your heart.”
Auburn and Alabama vs. Common Opponent Georgia
Auburn v Georgia 11/14 Home 13-20 LOSS
This was very little to commend either offense in this game. The game was tied 10-10 at the end of the third quarter. Georgia’s margin of victory was produced by a 53-yard punt return.
Bama v Georgia 10/3 Away 38-10 WIN
Thanks to one big run, the Bulldogs’ running game appeared to do quite well in the game: 193 net yards (Bama 189), 7 rushing first downs (6) and 5.1 net yards/rush (4.0). The key to Bama’s defensive effort against the Bulldogs in Athens was shutting down Georgia’s passing attack. The Bulldogs generated 11 completions in 31 attempts (a meager 35.5%), scored zero TDs, and suffered 3 INTs.
Games vs. SEC West Opponents – Scoring and Scoring Defense
Auburn Tigers : Record 1-4
LSU Away 21-45 LOSS
Mississippi State Home 9-17 LOSS
Arkansas Away 46-54 LOSS (4 OT)
Ole Miss Home 19-27 LOSS
Texas A&M Away 26-10 WIN
Scored: 121; 24.2 ppg avg Allowed: 153; 30.6 ppg avg Margin: -32; -6.4 ppg avg
Bama : Record 4-1
Ole Miss Home 37-43 LOSS
Arkansas Home 27-14 WIN
Texas A&M Away 41-23 WIN
LSU Home 30-16 WIN
Mississippi State Away 31-6 WIN
Scored: 166; 33.2 ppg avg Allowed: 102; 20.4 ppg avg Margin: +64; +12.8 ppg avg
Bama and Auburn – SEC West Offensive and Defensive Stats
The Iron Bowl is the last game of the season and each team in the SEC West plays every other team in the division, so SEC West stats to date provide us with a solid Bama / Auburn comparison.
The Tide ranks #5 in the SEC West in total offense; Auburn is #7. For those categories in which Auburn leads, the figures are in bold.
Total yards: 4591 4147
Yards / game: 417 377
Passing yards: 2403 1937
Passing yards / game: 218.5 176.1
Rushing yards: 2188 2210
Rushing yards / game: 198.9 200.9
Points: 385 313
Touchdowns: 41 34
Points / game: 35.0 28.5
= = = =
Completion rate: 66.6% (225/338) 54.7% (128/234)
Yards / attempt: 7.1 7.3
Touchdowns: 15 (37%) 9 (26%)
Interceptions: 10 9
= = = =
Rushing attempts: 453 494
Yards / attempt: 4.8 4.5
Touchdowns: 26 (63%) 25 (74%)
= = = =
First downs: 241 222
By passing: 118 (49%) 128 (57%)
By rushing: 107 (44%) 86 (42%)
By penalty: 16 (7%) 8 (4%)
3rd down efficiency: 36% (55/152) 43% (65/151)
4th down efficiency: 45% (9/20) 60% (6/10)
Penalties: 69 for 645 yards 51 for 496 yards
= = = =
Field goals: 14/22 (63.6%) 20/23 (87.0%)
Longest FG: 55 yards 56 yards
PAT kicks: 47/47 (100%) 35/35 (100%)
Sacks: 38 17
Yards lost to sacks: 227 122
Interceptions: 15 13
INT return yards: 422 138
TDs from interceptions: 4 1
Fumbles recovered: 7 7
Common SEC West Opponents: Auburn 1-4 / Bama 4-1
Auburn 9/19 LSU Away 21-45 LOSS
Bama 11/7 LSU Home 30-16 WIN
Bama: +14 Auburn: -24 Aggregate for Bama: +38
Auburn 9/26 Mississippi State Home 9-17 LOSS
Bama 11/14 Mississippi State Away 31-6 WIN
Bama: +25 Auburn: -8 Aggregate for Bama: +33
Auburn 10/24 Arkansas Away 46-54 LOSS (4 OT)
Bama 10/10 Arkansas Home 27-14 WIN
Bama: +13 Auburn: -8 Aggregate for Bama: +21
Auburn 10/31 Ole Miss Home 19-27 LOSS
Bama 9/19 Ole Miss Home 37-43 LOSS
Bama: -6 Auburn: -8 Aggregate for Bama: +2
The very similar game margins in losses to Ole Miss do not tell the complete story.
The Ole Miss Rebels win over Bama came in the Tide’s first SEC West contest of the season and is the Tide’s only loss. 24 of the Rebels 43 points (56%) came from Bama turnovers, including three pick-six INTs. Bama trailed 30-17 at the end of the third quarter and outscored the Rebels 20-13 in the final period. If anyone wants to dispute that turnovers matter in top-level football competition, this game stands as compelling evidence to the contrary.
The Auburn / Ole Miss game saw the Tigers trailing 20-19 in the fourth quarter. The Rebels scored a touchdown and then stopped the Tigers on two possessions, including a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. It was a competitive game, certainly, but Auburn’s offense could not deliver late in the game when trailing by 8.
Auburn 11/7 Texas A&M Away 26-10 WIN
Bama 10/17 Texas A&M Away 41-23 WIN
Bama: +18 Auburn: +16 Aggregate: Bama +2
Bama holds a big edge in aggregate margin: +96 points over 5 games, an average of +19.2 ppg. If we concede 16 points to Auburn, the arithmetic points to Bama scoring in the high-30s.
Auburn at Home and Bama on the Road
The Iron Bowl will be played in Jordan-Hare Stadium this season, so let’s look at how Auburn has fared at The Loveliest Village on the Plains and how the Tide has done away from the friendly confines (tip of the hat to Wrigley Field) of Bryant-Denny Stadium. We’ll look at SEC contests exclusively, believing that not much can be gleaned from non-conference games.
Auburn at Home : Record 0-3
Mississippi State 9-17 LOSS
Ole Miss 19-27 LOSS
Georgia 13-20 LOSS
Scored: 41; 13.7 ppg avg Allowed: 64; 21.3 ppg avg Margin: -23; -7.6 ppg avg
Bama on the Road : 3-0
Georgia 38-10 WIN
Texas A&M 41-23 WIN
Mississippi State 31-6 WIN
Scored: 110; 36.7 ppg avg Allowed: 39; 13.0 ppg avg Margin: +71; +23.7 ppg avg
Captain Obvious will now step in and give this profound assessment: these results do not bode well for the Tigers. No way, no how. Auburn is winless at Jordan-Hare while – in the starkest of contrasts – Bama is undefeated playing away from The Capstone. An SEC team that can’t find a way to protect its home field in any way, shape or form soon finds itself in a world of hurt. On November 28, “soon” will most likely translate into “in 60 minutes or less.”
Auburn’s at-home scoring average is 13.7 ppg; Bama has allowed an average of 13.0 ppg on the road. So don’t be too surprised if the Tigers put up two TDs or less in the Iron Bowl. If we look at average game margin, Bama comes out way ahead: 23.7 ppg compared to -7.6 ppg for the Tigers. Might the Tide put forth a strong offensive effort and win the Iron Bowl with a score in the 42-14 range?