The Sugar Bowl now features the top two teams in the SEC and Big 12 who are not playing in the playoff. With Alabama playing in the playoff this year’s matchup features the Big 12 Champion, Oklahoma, verses Auburn, who is only 7-4 this year against the FBS, that’s how thin the SEC is this year. Considering the Big 12 champ isn’t playing in the playoff shows how beat up they are this year too, so there is a lot of pride at stake for both sides.
Using advanced statistics from Football Outsiders to try and normalize how each team played against good opponents in quality situations we get a glimpse of what may occur in this game. Oklahoma has the better record and a significantly better record against Power Five teams, but Auburn, as evident in their Fremeu Efficiency Index has played much tougher against a harder schedule this year, even if they didn’t get the win.
Offensively, Oklahoma destroys Auburn statistically. Their overall efficiency is 112%, making them the third most efficient FBS team offensively and the highest Power Five program. While the Sooners don’t have the highest gain of available yards, they have a staggering ratio of success in gaining first downs and scoring touchdowns. Matter a fact they have the second highest efficiency in scoring touchdowns in all of the FBS and that includes the first three games when the offense played terribly. No Power Five teams have scored at will like Oklahoma as the season progressed.
The Sooners need to score are a quick clip as well, because they barely field a defense. At year end they sport a defensive efficiency of 4%, which ranks 55th in the FBS. Auburn, on the other hand, has a top ten defense. Most of that is playing well in tight situations, but there are cracks in the armor as the Tigers allow their opponents nearly a 75% success rate in first down situations. The stat that will be interesting to see play out in this game is Auburn’s ability to hold tight on opponent’s touchdown attempts matched up against Oklahoma’s scoring machine. Something has to give.
The downfall to some of these advanced stats is they still rely on rankings and Auburn is getting a giant boost from playing teams in the SEC West well, defensively at least. However, now that A&M, Arkansas, Vandy, and South Carolina have dropped bowl games already, the SEC was likely highly over rated this year, even more so than past years. Auburn simply hasn’t played a team in the SEC with as much offensive firepower that Oklahoma starts. With two powerful backs and a quarterback/receiver combo that ended up in the top five of Heisman voting the Tigers will have their hands full in stopping the most efficient offense they’ve seen all year.
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