Things are about to get very real in the Big Easy as the Sooners prepare to travel for the 2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl. Waiting for them will be a talented Auburn team who finished second in the SEC West, behind top-ranked Alabama. Speaking of Alabama, the last time Oklahoma played in New Orleans they pulled off an epic upset of the Crimson Tide and that is most likely going to play a role in the Tigers taking OU quite serious as they prepare.
Don’t let the records fool you. Auburn is much better than your average 8-4 team. Two of their four losses came against playoff teams, in Clemson and Alabama, and another was against a Texas A&M team that came out of the gate hot to start the season. The loss that makes you scratch your head came on November 12th when the Tigers lost 13-7 at Georgia. In that loss, Auburn quarterback was just 6/20 for 27 yards, no scores, and an interception. It was a tough enough loss than rumblings began to emerge about a lack of job security for Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn.
While Auburn enters the Sugar Bowl having lost two of their final three games, Oklahoma will arrive to New Orleans riding a 9-game winning streak. The Sooners blasted through their Big 12 schedule, winning the 10th Big 12 championship under Bob Stoops, to set up their trip to the Sugar Bowl but they certainly didn’t start the season on a high note.
Oklahoma sandwiched a win over Louisiana-Monroe between disappointing losses to Houston and Ohio State to start the season. In both losses the OU defense was taken to task while the offense stalled out in key moments.
While a legitimate argument can be made that the Big 12 was down in 2016, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Sooners were superior against their conference opponents. Oklahoma won road games against Top 25 conference opponents TCU and West Virginia, and then took care of #10 Oklahoma State, in Norman, for the Big 12 Championship. All of those wins were impressive in their own right, but a win over Auburn on Monday night would no doubt be the top notch win of the season for the Sooners.
The Tigers also have wins over Top 25 opponents in conference play but not away from home. Auburn was able to handle #18 LSU and #17 Arkansas at home, and also rolled over Louisiana-Monroe, the only opponent the two schools have in common, 58-7.
Auburn scored an average of 32.3 points per game this season, which placed them fifth in the SEC in scoring offense. They topped their conference in rushing, with an average of 5.6 yards per carry and 278.5 yards per game and scored 32 rushing touchdowns on the season. On the flip-side, they were last in the SEC in passing offense. The Tigers completed 63% of their passes this season for an average of 170 yards per game. They threw 11 touchdowns to 5 interceptions this season.
The Sooners paced the Big 12 in scoring this season with an average of 44.7 points per game. They were third in the conference in passing with a 70% completion percentage and an average of 319.8 yards per game. Oklahoma quarterbacks threw 41 touchdown passes to 8 interceptions this season. On the ground the Sooners chewed up real estate at a clip of 5.4 yards per carry. Oklahoma averaged 237.5 yards per game and scored 27 rushing touchdowns this season.
Oklahoma was middle of the pack, in the Big 12, in scoring defense with opponents scoring an average of 29.7 points per game. The primary struggle for the defense was against the pass where opponents averaged 279 yards per game which was second to last in the conference. The Sooners gave up 28 touchdowns through the air this season and only snagged eight interceptions. Against the run, Oklahoma allowed an average of 161 yards per game and an average of 4.6 yards per carry. The Sooners gave up 14 rushing touchdowns this season.
Defense is where Auburn excels. The Tigers found themselves behind only Alabama, in the SEC, scoring defense with an average of 15.6 points allowed per game. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 57% of their passes against Auburn this season. The Tigers gave up 12 touchdowns through the air this season and picked off 11 passes. Stingy on the ground, Auburn allowed just 3.6 yards per carry to opposing running backs and an average of 125 yards per game.