Prelude to the Iron Bowl: Tide and Tigers in 2015

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.

Alabama                                Auburn

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?



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