StatTiger: Previewing New Mexico State at AU

Jonathan Wallace

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) crunches the numbers and picks the winner for Auburn's Homecoming game.

Auburn 1-7 vs. New Mexico State 1-7 (0-4)

Series Record: 2-0-0 (Auburn)

Last Meeting: 2007, Auburn 55-20

National Statistical Rankings (2012):

Rushing Offense: Auburn (No. 98), New Mexico State (No. 113)

Pass Efficiency Offense: New Mexico State (No. 77), Auburn (No. 101)

Total Offense: New Mexico State (No. 94), Auburn (No. 120)

Scoring Offense: New Mexico State (No. 99), Auburn (No. 119)

Rushing Defense: New Mexico State (No. 96), Auburn (No. 105)

Pass Efficiency Defense: Auburn (No. 101), New Mexico State (No. 103)

Total Defense: Auburn (No. 95), New Mexico State (No. 102)

Scoring Defense: Auburn (No. 79), New Mexico State (No. 99)

Net Punting: Auburn (No. 26), New Mexico State (No. 57)

Punt-Return Offense: Auburn (No. 89), New Mexico State (No. 119)

Punt-Return Defense: Auburn (No. 2), New Mexico State (No. 77)

Kick Return Offense: Auburn (No. 22), New Mexico State (No. 70)

Kick-Return Defense: Auburn (No. 7), New Mexico State (No. 102)

Turnover Margin: New Mexico State (No. 111), Auburn (No. 111)

Inside the Numbers:

•The Aggies will bring their pass-heavy, spread offense to Jordan Hare, throwing the football 54 percent of the time and 36 attempts per game.

•Quarterback Andrew Manley has averaged 261.2 yards passing per game with 14 TD passes and eight interceptions.

Austin Franklin will be Manley's primary target. He has 57 receptions on the season for 965 yards. He has recorded six 100-yard games this year. Senior wide-out Kemonte Bateman is second on the team with 38 receptions.

•When the Aggies do run the ball Germi Morrison is the Aggies' primary rusher with 451 yards on 91 carries for 4.96 yards per rush. He has averaged 94 yards rushing during his last two games.

•Safety Cazares Davis leads New Mexico State with 83 tackles, the most of any player in the Western Athletic Conference.

•Linebacker Trashaun Nixon leads the Aggies with eight tackles for loss and defensive end Donte Savage has three sacks on the season.

•New Mexico State has struggled in pass-protection, allowing 3.1 sacks per game, slightly better than Auburn's 3.6 sacks allowed.

•The Aggies are currently allowing 223.8 yards rushing per game against their six FBS opponents.

•New Mexico State is currently ranked No. 102 in tackles for loss on defense, which could be a break for a struggling Auburn offensive line.

•New Mexico State is currently No. 107 in forcing turnovers, another break for an Auburn offense that has been snake-bitten by turnovers in 2012.

•Taking Auburn's average score vs. FBS competition against New Mexico State's scoring margins vs. FBS competition, it projects an 18-18 score. Taking New Mexico State's average score vs. FBS competition against Auburn's scoring margins, it projects an Auburn victory of 26-15.

What to watch for...

•Look for Jonathan Wallace to make his first start of the season after giving the offense a much needed spark last Saturday night. His ability to run and pass mixed in with Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb should open up the running lanes for the Tigers.

•With Auburn's problems against spread offenses (472 yards and 34 points per game), New Mexico State could make this game interesting. Auburn must find a way of lining up correctly on a consistent basis and to tackle well in space.

Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and his players are coming off their worst performance of the season.

•If Auburn can limit the penalties and turnovers, the Tigers should win this game with plenty to spare. The Tigers have not turned the ball over during their last two games.

•With Auburn falling to 1-7 and a bowl game out of the picture, how will this team respond mentally? If Wallace continues to play well, it should spark the offense, which will could carry over to a defense in dire need of making more big plays.

•Expect a heavy dose of the running game complemented with play-action to set up Wallace on the edge and deep in the pocket for vertical passes.

Keys to victory...

•If Auburn can establish the run and take away the Aggies' running game, Auburn should cruise to victory.

•The Aggies' offense will live and die through their pass attack. They have generated 48 plays of 15 yards or more, including 23 plays of 25 yards or more through the air. Auburn's defense has surrendered 41 pass plays of 15 yards or more, which means the Tigers must tackle well on the short passes and have proper alignment in the secondary to avoid big plays.

•Despite the Aggies' issues running the football, stopping their running game remains a key to success for the Tigers. If New Mexico State can somehow become balanced on offense, Auburn will find it difficult getting off the field in a timely manner.

•The Aggies have allowed 7.15 yards per play on first down, something Auburn must expose this Saturday. Playing downhill on offense will make life easier for a freshman quarterback. Of Auburn's 471 offensive snaps, only 41 have come with Auburn leading on the scoreboard.

•It is essential Auburn plays well early on to prevent a wavering Tiger team from second guessing themselves, should things go south early on.

Final Word...

At the beginning of the season New Mexico State appeared to be a break in the schedule for the Tigers before prepping for Georgia. I don't think anyone could have imagined Auburn would be 1-7 coming into Homecoming desperately seeking a victory of any kind.

Though Vegas has Auburn as a heavy favorite this weekend, Auburn could lose this game if the Tigers' defense from the Texas A&M game shows up at Jordan-Hare. Through eight games this Auburn team has been one of the worst in school history and the Tigers cannot afford to overlook any opponent on their schedule.

The confidence level of this team is questionable at this point of the season, but possessing an advantage in talent and playing at home should give the Tigers the edge needed for victory. The key will be how Auburn starts this game and whether or not the Tigers can achieve some level of consistency to secure their second victory of the season.

The Louisiana-Monroe game was a prime example of Auburn's talent level building a 28-14 lead and being on the threshold of going up 35-14. The subsequent turnovers and miscues turned a possible blowout into an overtime game, a prime example of Auburn's inconsistency and inability to finish games this season.

Should Auburn win the coin toss this Saturday, the Tigers need to elect to receive The Opening kickoff. During the last seven games, Auburn's opponent has averaged 11 plays and 69 yards during their its possession of the game. The defense has clearly failed at setting the tone so give the offense a shot this week. Auburn simply has not protected its end zone very well this season so why not attack the opponent if given the opportunity to take the first shot.

Under Gene Chizik, Auburn is 17-5, when it scores first on offense and 14-12 when the opponent scores first. Auburn has won the coin toss four times this season, deferring to the second half each time.

Expect a strong emphasis to be placed on the Auburn running game and for Wallace to make plays in the passing game set up with strong play-action. If Auburn limits its mental errors and continues to protect the football, the Tigers should win by multiple scores. Auburn 31, New Mexico State 17.

Around the Southeastern Conference...

Florida over Missouri
Texas A&M over Mississippi State
Vanderbilt over Kentucky
Tennessee over Troy
Arkansas over Tulsa
Georgia over Ole Miss
Alabama over LSU

Season Record: 63-14

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