Five things to watch for in Birmingham Bowl between Memphis and Auburn

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Nov 21, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Jovon Robinson (29) blocks Vandals safety Jordan Grabski (21) during the second quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

2. Auburn run game

There weren’t many bright spots to the Auburn offense in 2015, but the run game was one of them. They finished the regular season ranked 43rd in the nation in rushing yards per game with 191.8. That’s not near as good as their 256.4 average from the year before, but the ground attack didn’t really pick up until the second half of the season. In the final four games of the year Auburn rushed the ball 177 times for 912 yards for an average of 5.1 yards a carry, and an average of 228 yards per game. That includes the minus 18 yards Jeremy Johnson had in the Alabama game.

Sophomore running back Peyton Barber was solid all season accumulating 976 yards and 13 touchdowns on 226 carries. Junior Jovon Robinson gave the team a huge boost in the second half of the season rushing for 513 yards on just 90 attempts for an average of 5.7 yards a carry. Sophomore Roc Thomas and freshman Kerryon Johnson can come in as change-of-pace type backs to open up the running game on the outside. Thomas averaged over six yards a carry during the year, while Johnson had 184 yards rushing in just 46 attempts.

The Memphis defense ranked 30th in the nation, only allowing 137.8 yards rushing per game. It will be interesting to see how this talented group of running backs does against this good Memphis run defense. Gus Malzahn’s offense is really at its best when it’s racking up yards on the ground. If Auburn can rush for over 200 yards in this game – something they only did five times this year – their chances of winning significantly increase.

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