Fun facts from the midpoint of the Chizik era, year one: Auburn’s defense has been on the field or 575 plays, tied for 113th in the nation in total snaps taken by the defense. The side effect of the espresso-paced Malzahn offense is to lengthen the game for everyone, your defense included, which is why you see your Toledos and Texas Techs down in those rankings, too. This leads to more opportunities for the opposing team, which leads to fatigue, which leads to Les Miles’ struggling offense breaking out the good knives and going to work despite struggling through most of the season. Auburn’s defense is tired, and we’d bet even money on them looking more gassed as the season goes on due to the first year of the system and the lack of conditioning. It’s not like Auburn spent the offseason lounging poolside and feasting on gelato, but you can’t really be prepared to take that many snaps unless you’ve seen what switching up-tempo can do to the defense of the team making the switch.
Well done. So, how does that translate statistically?
As you'd expect, not very well. Auburn ranks in the bottom-half of nearly every single major team defensive statistical category in the Southeastern Conference (per SECSports.com). From best to worst, the Tigers are:
- 6th in interceptions
- 6th in turnover margin (also an offensive stat)
- 7th in sacks
- 8th in pass effeciency defense
- 9th in overall pass defense
- 10th in scoring defense
- 10th in 3rd down defense
- 11th in total defense
- 11th in rush defense
- 11th in red zone defense
- Last in first downs against
- Last in 4th down defense
Dear heavens. When considering the years of excellent defensive play seen under Tommy Tuberville, these numbers are damn near shocking. And, to an Auburn fan, they should be. As the season has worn on, the Tigers have found reaching the endzone as being increasingly difficult while their opponents have found it increasingly easy. I decided to take a look at all of the Tigers' opponents which represent BCS automatically qualifying conferences and how they have fared against such opponents. Game by game, Auburn's opponents have generally performed as well or better than they have performed on average through the season thus far. In chronological order:
West Virginia, whose only loss on the season came, if you'll recall, on a very rainy Saturday night on the Plains, still managed to score 30 points despite racking up an eye-popping six turnovers. With Jevan Snead and Dexter McCluster having seemingly wriggled their ways out of whatever dungeon in which they were being held captive before murdering the idiot doppelgangers wearing their uniforms, we Rebels should really like our chances against a very, very broken Auburn defense.
*Average Score Against BCS Opponents doesn't fit so well in that column.