SEC Championship Game Preview And Stat Comparison

CAVEATS: Fine print. Also, this: all of the following information is gleaned exclusively from the NCAA statistics and does not account for things like injuries, shared playing time, the 24-hour Ineligibility Influenza, and other stuff difficult to see in the stats from a bird's eye view. This is a long post, so I've put the conclusions and predictions before and after the meat for those lacking the endurance to make it to the end.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Auburn and South Carolina have played very similar and difficult schedules. The Gamecocks lost by three to a good Kentucky team and really had only one game (Arkansas) that made you go huh. Most importantly, these two teams have met once already this season, and Auburn won by only eight despite Carolina shooting off both its own feet and both its own hands on its last four drives.
  • Everyone knows intuitively that the Tigers' offense is fantastic and that SC's isn't as good, but what you may not have realized is that SC's really isn't even much better than average, even with Marcus Lattimore tearing up the field on occasion. Carolina's rushing offense begins and ends with Lattimore, but for Auburn, it begins with Cam Newton, goes through Michael Dyer, takes a trip to Onterio McCalebb, and then ends with Newton. When Newton's passing, he redistributes wealth as well. Stephen Garcia also spreads it around, sometimes throwing it to Alshon Jeffery's left shoulder, sometimes to his right, and occassionaly hitting him in the numbers, which really isn't necessary and just deprives fans of fantastic highlights.
  • Both teams have excellent rush defenses and are suspect against the pass. As far as wreaking havoc in the opponent's back field, Auburn gets it done with a single Nick Fairley, but South Carolina gets it done even better with a pack of coyotes. Seriously, have you ever heard a pack of coyotes? Those at the link are only half as terrifying as the ones in the pasture behind my house.
  • Special teams plays are probably your best bet for bathroom breaks, because neither team really shines here.
  • The numbers say AUBURN in all caps, but the drive chart from the last game screams SQUANDERED in Garnet and Black.

Predictions

  • Auburn 31, South Carolina 28.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

South Carolina Logo Auburn Logo
Southern Miss. Golden Eagles win 41 - 13 coverage coverage win 52 - 26 Arkansas St. Red Wolves
Georgia Bulldogs win 17 - 6 coverage coverage win 17 - 14 @ Mississippi St. Bulldogs
Furman Paladins win 38 - 19 coverage coverage win 27 - 24 Clemson Tigers
@ Auburn Tigers loss 27 - 35 coverage coverage win 35 - 27 South Carolina Gamecocks
Alabama Crimson Tide win 35 - 21 coverage coverage win 52 - 3 ULM Warhawks
@ Kentucky Wildcats loss 28 - 31 coverage coverage win 37 - 34 @ Kentucky Wildcats
@ Vanderbilt Commodores win 21 - 7 coverage coverage win 65 - 43 Arkansas Razorbacks
Tennessee Volunteers win 38 - 24 coverage coverage win 24 - 17 LSU Tigers
Arkansas Razorbacks loss 20 - 41 coverage coverage win 51 - 31 @ Mississippi Rebels
@ Florida Gators win 36 - 14 coverage coverage win 62 - 24 Chattanooga Mocs
Troy Trojans win 69 - 24 coverage coverage win 49 - 31 Georgia Bulldogs
@ Clemson Tigers win 29 - 7 coverage coverage win 28 - 27 @ Alabama Crimson Tide

 

Okay, so Auburn's beaten everyone on their schedule, including South Carolina. The Gamecocks have two losses in addition to that one: Kentucky and Arkansas, the latter of which is really the only truly puzzling loss of the season. There are a bunch of interesting observations buried in those two schedules, but beware of the conclusions you draw from them.

Here's the drive chart of the prior meeting between these two:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.

Oh, yeah. Now I remember that game. Auburn fumbled twice and missed two field goals, but Carolina absolutely imploded at the end, giving up four turnovers on the last four drives, yet losing by only a touchdown and two point conversion. That had to hurt.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
  Auburn Logo South Carolina Logo
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Rank
Actual
Rushing Offense 6 291.25 58 155.50
Passing Offense 76 198.83 43 239.17
Total Offense 8 490.08 48 394.67
Scoring Offense 7 41.58 27 33.25
Passing Efficiency 2 183.98 15 154.36
Sacks Allowed 50 1.75 72 2.08

Offensive observations. Auburn has oneathem fancy new fuel-injected turbo offenses. Top ten in everything but passing yards, which they make up for in efficiency. I'm a little surprised to see just how mediocre the Gamecocks' offense is, especially the running game. I mean, I've seen Marcus Lattimore run. So how is the rushing game almost smack dab in the middle of the pack? Anyway, the Tigers' offense is better than the Gamecocks. We knew that, sure, but just how much better is a bit of a surprise. At least to me.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
  Auburn Logo South Carolina Logo
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Rank
Actual
Rushing Defense 10 108.00 5 93.17
Pass Efficiency Defense 75 133.23 77 133.65
Total Defense 58 363.25 33 338.67
Scoring Defense 57 25.08 25 20.17
Pass Defense 106 255.25 99 245.50
Sacks 26 2.50 3 3.25
Tackles For Loss T-23 6.83 T-13 7.25

Defensive observations. Auburn's pass defense stinks, but Carolina's isn't really any better. Both teams have solid rushing defenses that will be tested tomorrow. Really, these guys are like mirrors, and the only advantage that jumps out is the Gamecocks' better ability to get sacks. Which, you know, is a bit frightening, because I've seen Nick Fairley. You've seen Nick Fairley. Craig McElwainey (yeah, he can't remember his name, either) has seen The Rampaging Shadow Of Nick Fairley. So who are these sackmasters? See below.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
  Auburn Logo South Carolina Logo
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Rank
Actual
Net Punting 92 34.67 38 37.33
Punt Returns 93 6.00 T-111 3.65
Kickoff Returns 16 24.41 87 20.58
Turnover Margin 35 .33 T-32 .42

Special teams and turnovers observations. For some reason "tied for 111th" strikes me as really funny. I understand "tied for 1st" or "tied for some slot toward the top," but being grouped together with a bunch of folks whose claim to infamy is having one nostril above water . . . well, maybe it's just me.

So where was I? Right. Nothing to see here, really. That temptation to conclude that Auburn is much better at kickoff returns? Four yards better. You can stay here and gawk at that if you like, but I'm moving on to the monkeys because they throw poo.

Stastical Comparison

Here's how the teams looked when the RTT BlogPoll Computery Thing chewed them up and spit them out all wet and sloppy like.

Rank Team WL SOS PED RD 3DO TD PEO OPPG TO 3DD
5 Auburn Logo 1 24 75 10 9 58 2 57 8 38
14 South Carolina Logo 19 25 77 5 12 33 15 25 48 44

Yeah. Not a whole lot of difference here. Similarly tough schedules. Essentially the same at pass efficiency defense. Marginal advantage for SoCar in rushing defense and the converse for Auburn in third down offense. And on and on and on. This is going to be a good game.

Players to watch for

  Auburn Logo South Carolina Logo
Category Player National
Rank
Actual Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Cam Newton 11 111.33 Marcus Lattimore 20 101.27
Michael Dyer 64 73.83      
Onterio McCalebb 97 61.08      
Mario Fannin 33.36      
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Cam Newton 2 185.57 Stephen Garcia 14 157.72
Total Offense Cam Newton 11 299.17 Stephen Garcia 42 236.33
Michael Dyer 73.83 Marcus Lattimore 101.27
Onterio McCalebb 61.08      
Receptions Per Game Darvin Adams 3.42 Alshon Jeffery T-22 6.25
Terrell Zachery 3.08 Tori Gurley 3.25
Receiving Yards Per Game Darvin Adams 95 57.67 Alshon Jeffery 5 112.58
Terrell Zachery 48.58      
Emory Blake 34.08      
Scoring Cam Newton T-9 9.50 Marcus Lattimore 6 10.36
Wes Byrum 17 8.92 Spencer Lanning T-57 7.67
Onterio McCalebb 4.50      

Offensive observations. The blind man holding some part of the elephant might say that Marcus Lattimore's legs (worth 101 yards per game) essentially cancel out Cam Newton's (worth 111). That's all well and good until you realize there's more to an elephant than its trunk. Auburn's rushing box up top also includes another 74 yards on the ground from Michael Dyer and another 61 from Onterio McCalebb who's name makes me wanna wear a tuque and a kilt. I'm actually wearing that to work today.

That narrow-visioned man also fails to see Cam Newton's arm which, like the pachyderm's stench, is an essential element of who he is. (Sidenote: We got to feed an elephant in Orlando a few months ago. My shirt still smells.) Newton's 2nd in the nation in passing efficiency. Stephen Garcia's not too shabby, either, but he's more like orangutan stink. Concentrated and powerful, just smaller.

Get this close to an elephant at your apparel's peril.

Carolina probably has the edge in wide receivers with awesome Alshon Jeffery, who's the nation's 22nd-best full service gas station attendant and also catches passes at a rate of about six per game for 113 yards. Auburn has more; South Carolina has better.

  Auburn Logo South Carolina Logo
Category Player National
Rank
Actual Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions Josh Bynes T-87 .25 DeVonte Holloman .17
Demond Washington .17 Stephon Gilmore .17
Zac Etheridge .17      
Sacks Nick Fairley T-17 .79 Melvin Ingram T-33 .67
Antoine Carter .41 Devin Taylor T-36 .62
        Cliff Matthews .38
        Travian Robertson .33
        Antonio Allen .25
        Stephon Gilmore .25
Tackles      
Tackles For Loss Nick Fairley T-5 1.67 Devin Taylor T-74 1.00
Antoine Carter .91 Antonio Allen T-92 .95
        Travian Robertson .83
        Melvin Ingram .75

Defensive observations. Speaking of more versus better, Auburn has Nick Fairley, who will eat your face and take the flag, thank you very much. They also have Antoine Carter, who loves the leftovers, but after that, well there are four blank boxes filled with finger-lickin'-good Gamecocks. And what's with all of the musician names, Carolina? James Ingram, James Taylor, Dave Matthews, and David Gilmore would make a really strange band. Put 'em in helmets and pads, and you'd have something not even Pink Floyd could have imagined no matter what they took before picking up the pen.

  Auburn Logo South Carolina Logo
Category Player National
Rank
Actual Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS, ETC.
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Spencer Lanning 26 43.80
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Quindarius Carr 61 5.68      
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Demond Washington 47 25.21 Bryce Sherman 20.71
Field Goals Wes Byrum T-39 1.25 Spencer Lanning T-39 1.25
All-Purpose Runners Cam Newton 56 114.83 Marcus Lattimore 38 131.09
Onterio McCalebb 83.75 Alshon Jeffery 64 112.58
Demond Washington 81.92      

Special teams. A whole lotta little-better-than-average here with the possible exception of Carolina punter Spencer Lanning, who's a little-better-than-a-little-better-than average.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Auburn Logo South Carolina Logo
Last Game
Prediction
Auburn rush v. SoCar rush defense 291.25
(#6)
93.17
(#5)
334 250
Auburn pass v. SoCar pass defense 198.83
(#76)
245.50
(#99)
158 240
SoCar rush v. Auburn rush defense 108
(#10)
155.50
(#58)
79 150
SoCar pass v. Auburn pass defense 255.25
(#106)
239.17
(#43)
305 220
Auburn scoring offense v. SoCar scoring defense 41.58
(#7)
20.17
(#25)
35 31
SoCar scoring offense v. Auburn scoring defense 25.08
(#57)
33.25
(#27)
27 28

These are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations. The general analytical framework is a bit different than how we normally do this because these two teams have actually played each other once before. Here's the thought process: Auburn is averaging X in a certain category. SC averages Y against that, and in the prior game Z happened. All of that leads to an informed guess labeled as Prediction. We have a whole season of data, but football is a relatively short season, so the predictions are still pretty sketchy.

This week's example: Auburn is averaging about 291 yards per game on the grounds. First, wow. Now, the Gamecocks, on average, hold their opponents to 93 rushing yards. Something's gotta give, right? Not necessarily. When these two teams played each other earlier in the season, the Tigers actually rushed for even more than their average -- 334, which . . . double wows. Can they do that again against a great defense? Who knows, but I'm playing the odds and guessing they'll work their way back to the still-excellent mean, so I'm predicting 250.

The thought process wasn't always the same in all categories, and I gave a pretty good deal of weight to South Carolina's self-mutiliation on their last four drives the last time around. Mostly, though, I just think it's going to be close.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • Auburn and South Carolina have played very similar and difficult schedules. The Gamecocks lost by three to a good Kentucky team and really had only one game (Arkansas) that made you go huh. Most importantly, these two teams have met once already this season, and Auburn won by only eight despite Carolina shooting off both its own feet and both its own hands on its last four drives.
  • Everyone knows intuitively that the Tigers' offense is fantastic and that SC's isn't as good, but what you may not have realized is that SC's really isn't even much better than average, even with Marcus Lattimore tearing up the field on occasion. Carolina's rushing offense begins and ends with Lattimore, but for Auburn, it begins with Cam Newton, goes through Michael Dyer, takes a trip to Onterio McCalebb, and then ends with Newton. When Newton's passing, he redistributes wealth as well. Stephen Garcia also spreads it around, sometimes throwing it to Alshon Jeffery's left shoulder, sometimes to his right, and occassionaly hitting him in the numbers, which really isn't necessary and just deprives fans of fantastic highlights.
  • Both teams have excellent rush defenses and are suspect against the pass. As far as wreaking havoc in the opponent's back field, Auburn gets it done with a single Nick Fairley, but South Carolina gets it done even better with a pack of coyotes. Seriously, have you ever heard a pack of coyotes? Those at the link are only half as terrifying as the ones in the pasture behind my house.
  • Special teams plays are probably your best bet for bathroom breaks, because neither team really shines here.
  • The numbers say AUBURN in all caps, but the drive chart from the last game screams SQUANDERED in Garnet and Black.

Predictions

  • Auburn 31, South Carolina 28.
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