When analyzing a game, one must look at the quality of opponents faced by each team. The comparable quality of each team’s schedule will have a very profound effect on any statistical comparison of either team.
There are very few cases that demonstrate this point better than the Chic-fil-A Bowl matchup between Auburn and Virginia.
The first and most obvious factor that was certainly shaped by the quality of opponents faced is the two teams' offensive statistics. Auburn had an abysmal offensive season by almost any measure. Virginia wasn’t much better, but did manage 68 more yards per game than did Auburn.
When looking at Auburn’s schedule, it is obvious that their offensive statistics have been drastically affected by the quality of defenses faced through the course of the season. Auburn faced the top four teams in total defense this season and five of the top 10 best teams in total defense.
That leaves Auburn facing the very best defenses the nation had to offer 42 percent of the time this season. This is a staggering number that can’t be claimed by any other team in college football.
Only two teams Auburn faced all year ranked outside the top half of the FBS in total defense. This left Auburn facing formidable defenses in at least nine games of the 12 games on their schedule.
Virginia faced two of the top 13 teams in total defense this season. They faced formidable defenses in about 13 percent of their games this season. Virginia also faced three teams outside the top 100 in the FBS in total defense.
The two lowest ranked defenses Auburn faced were Ole Miss at 88 and Florida Atlantic at 71. They averaged 35.5 points per game against those two opponents.
The two lowest ranking defenses Virginia faced were Indiana (ranked 109th) and Maryland (ranked 108th) in total defense. They averaged 32.5 points per game in those contests.
The two best defenses Auburn faced this season were Alabama (ranked first) and LSU (ranked second) nationally in total defense. Auburn averaged 12 points per game in those contests.
The two best defenses faced by Virginia were Florida State (ranked sixth) and Virginia Tech (ranked 13th) nationally in total defense. Virginia averaged seven points per game in those contests.
Virginia is ranked 31s nationally in total defense. The next higher ranked team that Auburn faced this season in total defense was Florida ranked ninth nationally. Auburn scored 17 points against Florida.
Auburn is ranked 79th nationally in total defense. The next highest ranked defense Virginia faced was North Carolina ranked 40th nationally in total defense. Virginia scored 17 points against North Carolina.
Over the course of the season, Auburn averaged 24.25 points per game and Virginia averaged 23.17 points per game. Auburn played a much more difficult defensive schedule than did Virginia. It appears this small advantage in scoring offense would give Auburn the sleight advantage on offense in this game.