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Friday, September 18, 2009

Auburn-West Virginia breakdown

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West Virginia (2-0) at Auburn (2-0)

  • Where: Auburn, Ala.
  • When: 7:45 p.m., ESPN2
  • Last meeting: West Virginia 34, Auburn 17, Oct. 23, 2008, in Morgantown, W.Va.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers no longer have Pat White, but Jarrett Brown has stepped in and starred, accounting for 719 yards of total offense in the team's first two games. He and Noel Devine, who gashed Auburn for 207 rushing yards last year, give West Virginia a great 1-2 punch.

Auburn: Auburn followed up its 556-yard performance against Louisiana Tech with a 589-yard effort against Mississippi State. The Tigers rank second nationally in rushing yards (345.5 ypg) thanks to a veteran offensive line. That group also hasn't allowed a sack this season, one of 12 teams that can still make that claim.

EDGE: Auburn
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are fast and experienced on defense, using their 3-3-5 scheme to their advantage, with seven sacks in two games. West Virginia also got good news about defensive lineman Scooter Berry (shoulder) and linebacker Reed Williams (foot), who are both expected to play despite injuries.

Auburn: The Tigers' defense has been overshadowed so far, but solid nonetheless. Despite allowing opponents to convert on 35 percent of their third downs, Auburn has clamped down in the second half this year, allowing only 10 points after the break in its first two games.

EDGE: Auburn
Special teams:
West Virginia: Redshirt freshman place-kicker Tyler Bitancurt is a perfect 4-for-4 this season. Two gaffes on the punt return team cost the Mountaineers 10 points last week against East Carolina, but Jock Sanders is a game-breaker is he gets his hands on the ball.

Auburn: The Tigers have had their share of struggles through two weeks. They had a punt blocked last week and continue to get next to nothing from their punt return game, where nobody has emerged as being capable of consistently catching the ball, let along breaking a long run.

EDGE: West Virginia
West Virginia: Bill Stewart might only be in his second year as the Mountaineers' head coach, but he's been with the program since 2000, coaching quarterbacks under Rich Rodriguez as West Virginia was putting together one of the most unique, effective offenses in the country.

Auburn: So far, so good for Gene Chizik and Co. Gus Malzahn's offense has clicked earlier than expected and Ted Roof's defense remains a formidable unit across the board. But this staff still hasn't done anything against prime competition yet.

EDGE: West Virginia
Key matchups:
Offense: Auburn offensive line vs. WVU front six: The Tigers' big boys have been nothing short of dominant this season, overpowering defenses in the running game. But the Mountaineers bring a different look with only three down linemen and linebackers who will blitz from all angles, which could take some time to sort out.

Defense: Auburn secondary vs. WVU QB Jarrett Brown. Brown is a dual-threat quarterback, and West Virginia has taken advantage of his arm this season, throwing for 577 yards and four touchdowns in two games. The Tigers haven't faced a strong passing attack yet, making this the biggest test to date for the group.
Prediction: Auburn 34, West Virginia 27


AUBigCat said...

AB did you know that Tulsa runs the 3-3-5 defense as well? That means that Malzahn probably had 2 years of running his offense against that D everyday in practice. WV might be in for a long night.

Andy Bitter said...

That's true, but that doesn't mean Auburn's players are any more familiar with it. I think you can scheme something all you want, but there's no substitute for actually going up against it.

AUsome04 said...

Andy, I would probably say Brown's ability to pass will be up against our DLinemen also. Last year Bill Stewert said he spread us out thin on D last year to open us up. This year I like our chances with three solid man-to-man corners (McFadden, Thorpe, & Washington). If we have to man up a lot tomorrow, we'll need to be able to get pressure with just that front four to get off the field on D. JMO

Great job as always.