You might remember I used to do bi-weekly preview posts, one about the other team, and then one about how I expected Northwestern to play that team. Then, one week, I didn't do it, and we beat Iowa. So I didn't do it the next week, and we won again. Don't mess with success. So I'm doing it slightly differently.
I've constructed this: the fear-o-meter. As you can probably tell from the left side, I'm a big fan of o-meters, so, here's another one. I'll tell you how scared on a customized scale you should be of a varying aspect of our opponent's team and gameplan.
It goes from things you should be the least scared of to most scared of:
- Chinchillas. Soft, furry, and adorable.
- The Swine Flu, represented by the cover to Tony Yayo's mixtape of the same name.
- Public speaking. Not really that scary, but the one thing people generally say they're scared of.
- The Most Dangerous Game, represented by the poster to the film "Surviving the Game" starring Ice-T and Gary Busey. The Most Dangerous Game, of course, refers to either "game" as in "something you hunt", in which case the most dangerous game is man, or "game" as in "contest", in which case the most dangerous game is used to refer to one-on-one ten-beer, ten-cup beer pong, but probably should be used to refer to something more dangerous, like six-bullet Russian roulette.
- Clowns. Yeesh.
- Zombies. Self-explanatory.
- Kidney stones, highly inaccurately represented by a picture of a kidney bean and a stone, because I really didn't want to google image search "kidney stone".
- Flying sharks. The image is taken from the motivational poster.
- The 2012 apocalypse. I was debating whether to put this or kidney stones, but they're both pretty bad.
Ignore the km/h markers and the red line pointing to zombies: I made this using Preview in about 13 minutes, so chill out. I'll tell you exactly how scared of each thing you should be.
First off, disclaimer time: to be honest, I don't know as much as I'd like to about Auburn as I'd like - I only got to watch a half of one of their games this year. I planned on watching a few of their archived games on ESPN360, but apparently I can't do that because I'm not on a college campus anymore, and don't get the service. So everything you read below is based on me doing a lot of reading, perusing stats, and watching highlight footage. But for the real scoop, you should probably ask an Auburn fan.
So now, on to diagnosing Auburn's offense, after the jump:
Quarterback: All things considered, Chris Todd had pretty good season, throwing 21 touchdowns to only six picks, picking up 8 yards an attempt for 2377 yards, pretty good considering where he's come from. You see, Todd has had a rather freaky career: he started out at Texas Tech, where he played well in limited mop-up action in their crazy spread offense but obviously wasn't going to be a part of the plan. He wanted to transfer to Auburn, but rather than spend a year not playing, he went to juco for a season, where he played at a school called Hutchinson, and quite frankly, he was very bad there: he went 104-212 with six touchdowns and eight picks. Not stellar numbers, especially considering the lower level of competition. Last season, he looked shaky again, starting the team's second game and four more after that, but only completing 55% of his passes and tossing six picks to five touchdowns, and went down with a shoulder injury that ended his season early.
This year he threw six picks again - the difference is he threw 21 touchdowns to go along with it.
But I wouldn't get freaked out by that stat. Todd isn't an astonishingly great quarterback as a 21-6 ratio would seem, and after a very strong early part of the season, he's looked suspect at best as Auburn got deeper into their conference schedule. Todd is definitely solid: when his receivers are open, he'll hit them. (See: 17-18 with four touchdowns against Furman, 19-26 with five against Ball State, 25-35 as a Texas Tech quarterback with their freaky all-out passing Michael Crabtree offense.) But when they're not, we've got issues (see: throwing more picks than touchdowns two years ago at a junior college.). Todd has shown the maturity this season by not forcing stupid passes - hence the only six picks - but against good defenses, he's shown a really tough time getting anything going. (See: the games Auburn has lost this year, where he's thrown five of his picks and been dragged down for 13 of his 18 sacks.) In those situations, he just sort of holds on to the ball, and sometimes heaves up a pass that has no chance of being received. There's a reason that just four weeks ago, people were talking of benching him. He doesn't have a particularly strong arm due to a career riddled with shoulder injuries, and he can't run with it (negative rushing yards on the year), but he's pretty accurate with the short stuff, and at times can use this to pick apart defenses, although the golden boy that emerged over the beginning of the season tailed off towards the end.
Also playing a little bit of time at quarterback is the decently named Kodi Burns, who plays Auburn's version of the Wildcat. He was a starting QB last year, tossing two touchdowns and seven picks, but after that sorta bad season, he was converted to wide receiver, where he's been pretty sub-par at that too, with only four catches on the year. But he's looked alright running the Wildcat, throwing for two TD's and running for five more, but he doesn't throw much - he's 4-13 out of the set passing, but has ran the ball 51 times.
Fear-o-meter: Public Speaking.
Running back: Ben Tate is a fantastic running back, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. The senior ran for 1254 yards on 5.2 yards a carry with eight touchdowns, and that's not even telling the whole story. He's fast, strong, and long story short, was the second best running back on a team in the state of Alabama. There's only so many ways I can say "uh-oh" in a paragraph.
Fear-o-meter: Flying Sharks.
Onterrio McCalebb is Tate's change-of-pace backup, and he literally provides a change of pace, as he's probably speedier than Tate but isn't as good at finding holes up the gut as Tate. He got the ball 99 times - a decent amount for a backup - and turned that into 547 yards, 5.5 a carry. He ran for 114 and a touchdown against Mississippi State, and nearly outgained Tate against Georgia with 60 yards on the ground on only 11 carries while Tate had one of his worst games with 67 yards on 20. Basically, don't forget about McCalebb.
Last but not least, Mario Fannin and his backup, Eric Smith. They're more in the vein of what we call "superbacks", but they actually have a vital effect on the game. They primarily block, but are the third options in Chris Todd's passing game as he loves to throw to guys these two out of the backfield, particularly on screens, and the pair racked up a combined 629 yards receiving, including 82 on this brilliantly edited youtube clip of a screen against West Virginia. Fannin also gets the ball a decent amount, rushing for 271 yards on 8.5 - 8.5! - yards per carry, while Smith added 99 of his own. Teams might overprepare for guys like Tate and wide receiver Darvin Adams, but these guys might slip under the radar and help Auburn's spread offense dink and dunk down the field a la NU.
Wide Receiver: Basically, there's one guy to worry about. Darvin Adams is Chris Todd's first, second, and third options on most pass plays, and it shows, as nobody else on the team is close to his 855 yards and 10 touchdowns. By comparison, Terrell Zachary has 466 and five touchdowns, and four of those scores and 241 of the yards came on four passes. Adams is the team's only deep threat, but he's worth paying attention to as he will get open down field - the question is whether or not Todd hits him.
Fear-o-meter: Kidney Stones.
The rest of the unit, as noted, is rather slipshod. Lots of dropped passes, and not much production. Terrell Zachary has been able to get open for big plays, generally against inferior opponents, but he's not the type of guy worth double covering or anything. If you're wondering, Auburn's leaderboard for receiving yards goes like this: wide receiver, wide receiver, H-back, H-back, tight end, running back, wide receiver, tight end. Tommy Trott is a decent tight end, but he's a goal line threat and little more.
Fear-o-meter: Swine flu.
O-line: Haven't been great at giving Todd a lot of time, but Auburn's spread isn't necessarily predicated on that. They've been good at opening up holes for Tate and at giving Fannin room to run off of those screens, and it shows. All in all, a pretty decent o-line. They gave up only 1.5 sacks a game, and as noted, 13 of those came in their losses, when the failure was probably on any receiver to get open, causing Todd to hesitate and take too long. The line produced two all-SEC second teamers in left tackle Lee Ziemba and Ryan Pugh, and this is pretty much all I can say about them. For what it's worth, Ziemba is one of the few offensive linemen in the country to have recorded a reception, as Auburn runs a trick play in which he runs a screen route but unfortunately for Ziemba's stats, it went for -3 yards.
Auburn's offense: It's a good one. You don't score 32.9 points a game in the SEC by accident. That being said, it's a stoppable one. Teams have shut down Chris Todd rather easily, and when they do that, regardless of how otherworldy Ben Tate is, they generally aren't going to win with a spread offense if they don't have any semblance of a passing game. (Theory in numbers: Todd has thrown under 200 yards five times this season. Four resulted in losses for the Tigers, and in those four losses, Tate averaged 107 yards on the ground, which isn't too bad. The fifth game was a 49-24 romp over Mississippi State that featured 390 yards on the ground.) (More theory in numbers: Darvin Adams recorded either a touchdown or 100 yards receiving in six of Auburn's seven wins, and failed to do either of those in four of their five losses.)
I look at this team and see a very good offense. But all things told, they're passing game, although it's worked well, seems just a few tweaks away from getting shut down completely. This is a team that lost five of their last seven games, and one of those wins was against Furman, and a major contributor in those losses was Chris Todd's inability to perform at the same level that he had at the beginning of the year, whether it be due to a nagging shoulder injury, not enough time being given from the line, or failure of his receivers besides Darvin Adams to do anything that could compel a defense not to focus their cover Adams with all they had. So although it's a unit with major scoring potential, and one that certainly causes a major threat, it's flawed.
Offensive fear-o-meter: Zombies.
So that's that. I'll have another one on the defense sometime, not necessarily soon, but sometime.