Howdy and welcome back to Fun With Numbers, the weekly advanced stats breakdown of the Texas A&M football team and their opponent. As always, I do my best to present everything accurately and easy to follow, but if you are unsure of what something means, check out something like this glossary to help fill in the gaps.
How’d We Do Last Week?
The Aggies were much more dominant against ULM than I expected them to be. Offensively, the Ags were still able to generate some big plays through the air, even with Evan Stewart being held out for injury concerns, and Amari Daniels was really solid in the ground game. It was great to see some TE usage with Jake Johnson and Max Wright, as well as some great plays from transfer Jahdae Walker. On defense, the Warhawks were almost completely shut down outside of a few big plays in the 1st quarter. The Aggies took a team that relied so much on the run and made it nearly impossible for them to find success there, forcing them into passing down situations that they simply weren’t built to get out of. Overall, a pretty good showing and warm up for the beginning of SEC play.
What Do We Know?
The Auburn Tigers travel to Kyle Field this weekend for each team’s first SEC matchup. The Tigers are 3-0, with wins over UMass, Cal, and Samford. They are in year one under Head Coach Hugh Freeze, a familiar face in the SEC and also in houses of ill repute. The Aggies are a 7.5 point favorite currently in Vegas, the SP+ predicts a 28-12 Aggie win, and the FEI projects a 2-point win for the home squad. Let’s dive in.
Aggie Offense vs Tiger Defense
It’s early in the season, but DC Ron Roberts (most recently the DC under Aranda at Baylor) has the Auburn defense much improved from last season’s finish at 54th in the country in the DSP+. They’ve had some trouble against the run at times and don’t generate a lot of Havoc plays, but have done a great job of preventing big plays through the air. Not altogether different from the defense the Aggies fielded last year. Roberts actually reminds me a little of Guidry from Miami, both guys who have coached a lot of football, run 4-2-5 schemes, and the Auburn defense ranks 4th in the country in 3rd Down Defense. Weigman has seen more pressure than any QB in the SEC this season, part of that is the OL still working to get where they need to be and part of it is Petrino seems to feel confident that he doesn’t need to keep extra blockers, he can trust Conner to throw the ball quickly and make plays with his feet if needed.
Aggie Defense vs Tiger Offense
Thus far, the Auburn offense has been efficient without showing any major big play ability. They’re running the ball 58% of the time, 15th most in the country, and Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne has been decent enough, throwing for over 200 yards for the first time this season against Samford but also tossing two picks. They run more RPOs than just about anybody in the SEC right now, so lane integrity and staying home is going to big this weekend. This is not necessarily an offense that is built to really push the Aggie defense, but if they’re unable to tackle like they were against Miami and not able to force some passing down situations, it could be a long day.
What’s the Verdict?
This is a big game for the 2023 Aggies, the narrative after the Miami game from outside the program was that the Aggies are once again overrated, underprepared and unable to live up to expectations created by salaries, recruiting classes and whatever other shit we pretend matters. But for those of us keeping up with things, after the initial disappointment wore off it just meant that SEC play mattered that much more. Especially in a year where a lot of programs seem relatively down. This Auburn team is not bad, they went on the road and beat Cal in a rock fight and they’ll do that at Kyle Field if they have to.
My Prediction: I said it already, but offensively this Auburn squad is not one that I think can really attack our defense over the top like Miami did, and I just can’t help but believe in Conner. I think he’s the real deal and I think it starts showing more and more as SEC play starts. The Aggies win this one 31-20, thanks to some good Red Zone defense and a few big plays by Ainias and Evan.
Thanks for keeping up this season, the fun is starting and hoping it continues well into the season. Check out these sites below where all of my info comes from.
- Bcftoys.com for Brian Fremeau’s FEI data and other fun projects from him.
- ESPN.com is the home for all of Bill Connelly’s SP+ info (as well as the FPI rankings). You’ll need to subscribe to ESPN+ for most of his stuff these days.
- CollegeFootballData.com is a great site for data and charts that you can download and play with on your own time, in case Fun With Numbers isn’t filling that statistical void in your life. Most of my data comes from here.
- SEC Stat Cat is another great site. Solid blend of statistics and football concepts.