The stats that have defined Auburn football's season so far
It might be hard to believe, but Auburn has had almost as many scoring chances as its Power 5 opponents. Yet both sides of the ball have one huge problem.
RB Tank Bigsby (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Auburn is 3-5.
All five of those losses have come against Power 5 opponents. Only one of those three wins are against Power 5 opponents — and it came on a fumble just outside the goal line that was nearly a game-winning touchdown.
The Tigers are 1-5 against Power 5 teams and have been outscored by 90 in those six games. Yet those numbers aren’t exactly a case of Auburn getting thoroughly dominated week in and week out.
In fact, Auburn has had nearly as many chances to score as their fellow SEC opponents, plus Penn State. But they’re still just a miracle fumble away from being winless against them.
That sounds unlikely, but let’s dive into the numbers.
For this newsletter, the term to know is “Eckel,” which was created by friend of the newsletter Parker Fleming. (It’s named after a former Navy fullback who was a key player on the longest drive in college football history.)
We’ve mentioned Eckel on the Observer before, but there’s always time for a refresher. In Parker’s own words, Eckel is “derived from the Corsi stat in hockey” and “is a ratio of productive drives in a game.”
“What's a productive drive? Glad you asked; a productive drive is one in which a team has a scoring opportunity (first-and-10 across their opponents' 40-yard line) or a big-play touchdown. Eckel is a measure of game control that is more informative than the traditionally used time of possession: instead of asking how long a team held the ball, Eckel asks how well a team held the ball.”
The two Eckel numbers to know are Eckel Rate — how often a team creates a quality possession, which is a measure of opportunity — and points per Eckel, which is a measure of finishing ability.
Against quality opponents this season, Auburn has had almost the same amount of opportunities as their opponents. It’s just been a lot worse at finishing them, which is a reflection on both sides of the ball.
In its six games against Power 5 opponents this season, Auburn has had 75 offensive possessions that weren’t a case of running the clock out to end a half. Auburn’s opponents have had 72 such possessions.
Of Auburn’s 75 possessions, 33 of them would qualify in Eckel as a “quality possession.” That’s an Eckel rate of 44%.
The ratio is not fantastic, but it’s not far off from what its opponents are getting in all these wins, either. Auburn’s Power 5 opponents have had just three more quality possessions (36) for an even Eckel ratio of 50% this season.
It’s not just about creating scoring chances, it’s about what you do with them. Auburn has scored 117 points against Power 5 opponents this season, which comes down to an average of 3.55 points per Eckel.
Power 5 opponents, on the other hand, have scored 207 points against Auburn — which is an average of 5.75 points per Eckel. The Tigers are averaging a little more than half of a standard touchdown drive per quality chance, while their opponents are more than two whole points better per opportunity.
That, over time, really starts to add up.