Most of the attention paid to the SEC on Saturday went to the game in Tuscaloosa, but the other team from Alabama, the Auburn Tigers, made some waves by knocking off the Texas A&M Aggies. Let's dive in to see how it happened.
This review is based on the Five Factors of winning, and it includes everything except for Auburn's last drive when it was just trying to run out the clock. Sacks count as pass plays.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
The Aggies' run defense has been suspect all year, but so has the Tigers' ability to generate explosive plays. While Auburn didn't get many through the air, it finally found a way to hit an acceptable rate on the ground. Kyler Murray's struggles throwing the ball against anyone but South Carolina continued, and Jake Hubenak wasn't a solution to that problem.
The main measure here is success rate.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
So like I said, the A&M run defense isn't so great. Perhaps this has something to do with the highly touted Jovon Robinson being healthy, but as you'll see later, everyone in white uniforms ran well.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
I think this third quarter is the highest combined success rate for any quarter I've seen yet in these reviews. That's nuts. The problem for A&M was that Auburn was consistently high all game, while it was only able to get things going in the first and third quarters. Will Muschamp won the battle of mid-half adjustments.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
I think Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee finally found Jeremy Johnson's success zone: just make smart, manageable throws and don't try to get too greedy. His longest completion was 34 yards to running back Kerryon Johnson. Just keep it simple and easy. Of course, it's easy to keep it simple and easy when the run game is going bonkers.
There is no easy answer for the Aggies. The best quarterback all year has been Healthy Kyle Allen, but Healthy Kyle Allen hasn't been available for a spell. Kyler Murray is fantastic against bad defenses, but Auburn with Carl Lawson isn't a bad defense. Hubenak graded out better in passing efficiency because he threw a touchdown and didn't have three picks like Murray did, but that's about it.
The true freshman Johnson has been coming on strong, and his performances have been a reason why AU's offense is getting better over the course of the season. It's still not a great offense by most standards, but it's not in the rut it was in back in September.
When all of them are healthy, the top four guys on this table make for a really great wide receiver corps. Unfortunately, there's only so much they can do when there isn't a quarterback who can reliably get them the ball.
Everyone was making hay here, even Barber when you let his success rate calibrate his yards per carry.
Carson had one of his better days on the year, and Murray was able to do damage with his legs. The rest, though, Auburn took care of really well.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
|Texas A&M||Own 30||36||49.3%|
This was even to a surprising degree if all you did is look at the final score or see that the Tigers outgained the Aggies by 140 yards. If anything, A&M had ever so slight an edge here.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive with a first down at the 40 or closer or a long scoring play from beyond. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
Here is how you take an even field position game and skew the scoreboard to one side. Both teams had the same number of scoring opportunities, but the Tigers cashed in while the Aggies did not.
I will note that bending without breaking is something of a pattern for many John Chavis defenses, and this one, despite being his first at the school, does follow that somewhat. AU may have gotten points on all six scoring opportunities, but four of those scores were field goals. In fact, this game would have been a lot closer if not for...
Murray threw three interceptions, while Auburn didn't turn it over once. They were all killer picks, too. The first came on a scoring opportunity, and though it had to go 80 yards to do so, Auburn turned it into a touchdown. The second one killed a red zone trip wen the Aggies had driven down to the AU nine. The third one set Auburn up at its own 44, and the Tigers nailed a field goal after it. Ten points swung to Auburn's side, while at least three, if not seven, went away from A&M's side.
The Texas A&M 247Sports affiliate is reporting that offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital will not return to the team next year. It feels to me like it might be a little early for that to be a final decision, but I understand where that impulse—whether legitimately from the team or just from the people surrounding it—is coming from.
The offense has had mid-year swoons in the years Spavital has been in charge, and only scoring ten against a previously suspect Auburn defense isn't a good look. Neither is scoring just three against Ole Miss a few weeks ago, or getting shut out by Alabama a year ago. Nor is having both five star quarterbacks under his supervision as a position coach have three interception games. Offense is supposed to be this team's calling card, but it's been too inconsistent.
Auburn is getting better as the year goes along, which is the general pattern for Malzahn-coached teams on the Plains. This year's squad is still a work in progress, and its ceiling is considerably lower than that of other recent Tiger teams.
This win was big for the way the season ends, though, as it moves the Tigers to 5-4 on the year. It means they won't have to beat Georgia to get bowl eligible with Idaho still left to go, although UGA isn't exactly in prime shape right now either. The Tigers could defeat the Bulldogs, and the fact that it's at home does help there. Beating Alabama is probably a pipe dream, but 7-5 after the way the season began wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Both of these teams turned out to have more flaws than any of us thought in September, and that fact goes a long way to explaining why the 2015 SEC West isn't the toughest division of all time after all. Auburn at least seems to be moving in the right direction, something that can't really be said of A&M right now.