By The Numbers: Auburn in first game of the season under Gus Malzahn
We are less than one week away from the start of college football and the start of Gus Malzahn's sixth season at Auburn.
As we get closer to the start of the college football season, let's take a look at how Auburn has fared in the first game of the season under Gus Malzahn. The Tigers boast a 4-1 record in the five seasons that Malzahn has been head coach.
2013 - Auburn defeated Washington State 31 - 24 (Jordan-Hare Stadium - Auburn, AL)
2014 - #6 Auburn defeated Arkansas 45 - 21 (Jordan-Hare Stadium - Auburn, AL)
2015 - #6 Auburn defeated Louisville 31 - 24 (Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA)
2016 - #2 Clemson defeated Auburn 19 - 13 (Jordan-Hare Stadium - Auburn, AL)
2017 - #12 Auburn defeated Georgia Southern 41 - 7 (Jordan-Hare Stadium - Auburn, AL)
In 2018, the first game of the season will not be easy for the Tigers. Heading to Atlanta to play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, Auburn is set to play Washington. The Huskies are the No. 6 team in the country in the preseason AP poll.
Here is a look at the averages of the first game from the past seasons:
Given the record of his five seasons as head coach, Malzahn's teams have fared well in the season opener and the averages indicate that to a certain degree.
Auburn has done a fine job scoring points to start the year and moved the ball quite well. The turnover number is a bit high, but you could possibly credit that to players having to knock off rust and get back to playing ball.
There are obviously outliers in the first five years, Auburn blew out Georgia Southern last year to begin the year, but even in that game the Tigers turned the ball over three times. Auburn had the best statistical first game of the season during Malzahn's tenure on the defensive side of the ball, allowing just 78 yards of total offense.
Auburn didn't score the ball well against Clemson in 2016, but then again nobody did that year as those Tigers went on to win the national title. Even in that season opener and the only loss of the five games, Auburn had a chance to win the game at the end.
Jarrett Stidham will be the second quarterback that Malzahn has had to start consecutive season openers. Jeremy Johnson was the first in 2014 and 2015 when Nick Marshall was suspended for the first half of the 2014 opener and didn't start.
Coming off of a season where he threw for over 3,000 yards, Stidham will likely have opportunities to air it out more throughout the year. Last season, Stidham averaged 26.4 pass attempts per game, nearly 3 attempts more than the average of Malzahn's five season openers.
Stidham came mighty close to breaking the single season passing record at Auburn and I expect him to begin his pursuit of that record with plenty of passing attempts against Washington in Atlanta.
On the defensive side of the ball, Auburn returns an incredible front seven. That group will put pressure on Washington quarterback Jake Browning to make quick decisions and it will be on the Tigers young secondary to make plays.
Games aren't won on paper, but Auburn should like its chances based on numbers alone.
In the end, however, the only number that matters is 3 and that's the number of days until Auburn plays the 2018 season opener.
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