Auburn football: How 2018 Tigers compare to 2017 version

Auburn has struggled at times this season defending the pass. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Auburn has struggled at times this season defending the pass. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Is the 2018 Auburn football team better than the 2017 one? Through three weeks of the season, it’s difficult to tell.

Periodically this season we’ll look at some overall statistics to see how the 2017 Tigers that finished the season 10-4, stack up against the 2018 Tigers (2-1) to see what we can learn from the comparison.

Even though it’s just a three-game sample this season, it’s not a bad one because Auburn has played a top-10 team and LSU, which came into the matchup last week ranked No. 12 in the AP Top 25. The Tigers played Alabama State in between the LSU game and the season opener in Atlanta against then-No. 7 Washington.

At times, it’s felt like the offense is better than it was a season ago, then it takes a step back. Same with the defense — sometimes better, other times not so much.

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Here’s a look at the main team statistical categories:

35.0Points per game33.8
15.6Points allowed per game18.5
438.3Total offense451.6
235.3Rushing offense218.3
203.0Passing offense233.3
324.3Total defense319.8
90.0Rushing defense137.2
234.3Passing defense182.5
37.5%Third-down offense45.6%
30.6%Third-down defense32.8%
12-16 (10 TD)Red zone offense52-59 (38 TD)
8-10 (3 TD)Red zone defense30-36 (20 TD)
28:27Time of possession31:22

Auburn football statistical analysis

Several categories jump out when comparing this season’s team to the 2017 version:

  • Rushing offense: As much as it’s been criticized, the Auburn run game is ahead of last season’s pace. But that stat is deceiving. Of course, the 2017 team can count games against two No. 1 teams (Georgia and Alabama) and Georgia again in the SEC Championship Game. Also, Auburn gained 429 rushing yards against Alabama State, which makes up the bulk of that total.
  • Third-down offense: Auburn has struggled this season, converting just 37.5 percent of the time. That was on display last week against LSU when Auburn converted just 4 of 12 third-down plays. The Tigers are 8 percentage points behind last season.
  • Passing offense: Part of this can be attributed to Auburn running the ball so much against Alabama State because it mean just 11 pass attempts for Jarrett Stidham. Auburn hit a few pass plays in the opener against Washington, but struggled throwing it against LSU.
  • Passing defense: This places Auburn at No. 83 nationally against the pass. And what you can’t see with this stat is all the penalty yardage gained on pass interference penalties by Auburn defensive backs. Auburn will get a good taste against the pass next week against Southern Miss.

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  • Time of possession: Would you be surprised to know that Auburn has only held the ball for longer than its opponent twice in the Gus Malzahn era? That happened in 2013 and 2017, coincidentally his two best teams. The Tigers need to shift that the other direction quickly to put a dent in the deficit this season.