With the matchup against #6 Auburn less than 2 weeks away, we want to outline the matchups between the respective offensive and defensive units. The matchup will be one of strength on strength (Auburn’s Offense versus Louisville’s Defense) and a battle of question marks in the Louisville offense and Auburn defense. Jeremy Johnson appears to be the “real-deal” replacement for Nick Martin. He appears to have a grasp of Gus Malzahn’s offensive scheme. Look for a much more balanced attack from Auburn given the loss of the majority of their rushing output. Louisville’s Defense is expected to reload with a possible stronger front 7 than last season’s top 10 unit. We want to take a look at these two teams closer as our models kept the win probability at a maximum of 51.8% in favor of Auburn. We do not see a 10+ point victory for Auburn in any model we ran; in fact, our power rankings at CFBRatings.com have Auburn 21st and Louisville at 24th. These are the same models that predicted 79.8% of last year’s games.
For the projection, we will take Auburn’s offensive stats from last season versus Louisville’s 2014 defensive performance. The projected Louisville year 2 offensive performance versus the projected year 1 Auburn defensive statistics. We will split the difference and see where that leads us.
|Category||Auburn Offense||Louisville Defense|
|Rushing YPG||255.5 YPG||108.9 YPG Allowed|
|Pass Efficiency||156.8||105.7 Allowed|
|Total Offense (Defense)||485 YPG||308.5 YPG Allowed|
|Scoring||35.5 PPG||21.8 PPG Allowed|
Bobby Petrino is undefeated in season openers. At 10-0, he has an average margin of victory of 23.6 points (20 points at Louisville). Year-2 Petrino offenses tend to be significantly improved over year 1; points per game go up by over 47%. One can argue strength of schedule during his tenure at Louisville, however, while at Arkansas, his teams averaged 32.8 points per game over his 4-year tenure. Additionally, in years 2 through 4, his teams averaged 36.4 points per game. (36.0, 36.5, and 36.8 respectively).
Louisville returns a stable of quarterbacks that all have starting experience and a full year learning the offense. QB Efficiency in year one averages 133.1 for Petrino coached teams. Year 2 QB Efficiency jumps to 162.1; last season QB efficiency was an expected 131.2. The largest question is easily the offensive line with a very young and inexperienced group. However, the indications from the Louisville camp is this is one of the largest, most athletic lines they have had.
The general feeling from those close to the Auburn program is a marginal increase in defensive production will produce an SEC Championship and a CFB playoff berth. Adding Will Muschamp as their defensive coordinator is significant for the program. Last season, Auburn was average at best defensively. Year-1 Muschamp defenses improve over the previous coaching regime; however, it is his second season as a DC that his defenses reach that dominant level. On average, Muschamp’s first-year teams improve in Total defense by a bit less than 15%, scoring defense improves by 19.2%, and pass efficiency defense improves by 10.1%. Rushing defense actually gets 4.7% worse than the previous season. Taking that improvement, Auburn could have a top 20 defense this season; in fact, it is highly likely they will.
Auburn returns 6 starters from last year’s defense and 4 of their top 5 tacklers. They are loaded with high quality talent, but do they have enough of what Muschamp needs to be successful in the opener?
|Year 1 – 2 Improvement||2014 Actual||2015 Projection|
|Rushing Offense – 6.5%||142.7 YPG||151.9 YPG|
|Pass Efficiency – 21.7%||131.2||159.7|
|Total Offense – 9.8%||394.7 YPG||433.3 YPG|
|Scoring Offense – 47.3%||31.2 PPG||45.9 PPG|
|Year 1 Improvement||2014 Actual||2015 Projection|
|Rushing Defense – (4.7%)||168.8 YPG||176.8 YPG|
|Pass Efficiency Defense – 10.1%||124.19||111.64|
|Total Defense – 14.8%||398.8 YPG||339.6 YPG|
|Scoring Defense – 19.2%||26.7 PPG||21.6 PPG|
|Total Offense Yards||397||387|
We gave Auburn an extra point for rounding and a more reasonable final score.
Louisville’s offense projects to be top 5 in scoring and Auburn’s defense projects out in the top 20 nationally. Auburn’s offense and Louisville’s defense projects to both be top 10. We did assume each would perform at their season average levels for the game. Those are obviously larger questions for a first game. Can Auburn get in rhythm on offense without Nick Marshall? Is Jeremy Johnson the next Cam Newton? Has the Louisville defense truly reloaded? Can the Louisville offense hold up against an attacking Auburn defense? These are all questions that will be answered September 5th in Atlanta.
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