The shift from the hurry-up, no-huddle style of offense under Gus Malzahn to the slow, methodical style under Scot Loeffler has been the biggest disappointment in 2012.
Disappointment is probably an understatement.
Here is how the Auburn offense stacks up nationally after nine games:
Rushing Offense: 81st (143.44 ypg)
Passing Offense: 110th (161.78 ypg)
Total Offense: 113th (305.22 ypg)
Scoring Offense: 109th (19.22 ppg)
Blame can be pointed in all different directions for the ineptitude of this offense. Play-calling, young offensive line, lack of a bruising running back, etc.
While all of these issues play a part in the lack of offensive output in 2012, the biggest issue for the Auburn offense is that it beats itself. In other words, it gets off-schedule
"We're a team that can't be off schedule," Loeffler said. "When we're off schedule, it's hard for us to play right now. Staying on schedule is crucial."(via Charles Goldberg, AL.com)
Loeffler said this after the game against Vanderbilt, when Auburn had plenty of opportunities but lost to the Commodores, 17-13.
Here is one sequence of plays that sticks out in this game. It happened in the third quarter when Auburn was down 17-10 and attempting to tie the game.
After a 34-yard run by Tre Mason, Auburn gets a false start. Following that, Auburn throws a swing-pass that gains no yards. Next play? You guessed it. False start. After another failed swing-pass to Quan Bray, it's 3rd-and-20 and Clint Moseley gets sacked for a 10-yard loss. That one drive sums up the Auburn offense's struggles in 2012.
So, let's look at each of Auburn's games and see if Loeffler is exactly right in his hypothesis of Auburn having to stay "on schedule" to be successful on offense.
Here is a look at Auburn's touchdown drives and the number of penalties or plays that resulted in negative yardage.
On Auburn's 18 touchdown drives (yes, only 18) this season, the Tigers committed a total of zero penalties. There were only a total of three plays with lost yardage.
Now, here is a look at Auburn's non-touchdown drives this season.
There have been 70 plays that resulted in negative yardage on Auburn's 97 non-touchdown drives this season. There have been 23 penalties committed on those drives.
Against LSU alone, the Tigers had 14 plays result in lost yardage in the 13 drives that it did not score a touchdown.
Oddly enough, on Auburn's lone touchdown drive against LSU, an anomaly occurred and Auburn had a play with lost yardage.
So, why is this happening? The penalties are pretty easy to explain. Penalties such as false starts are just a case of mental mistakes and lack of focus.
A lot of the negative plays are happening early on in the drives and are a direct result of predictable play-calling.
Loeffler was exactly right about the importance of the Auburn offense staying on schedule.
For Auburn to have a chance to beat UGA on Saturday, the offense will have to play in front of the chains and avoid the 3rd-and-long situations.
It will also have to keep the mental mistakes that cause penalties to a minimum since that will halt any momentum it may have.
Can the Auburn offense accomplish this?
Maybe. But the numbers don't suggest that it will.