Chattanooga (5-3) at (3) Auburn (9-0)
Saturday, November 6th, 1:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: In what appears to be an extremely lopsided match-up, the third- ranked Auburn Tigers put their undefeated record on the line against the Chattanooga Mocs, an FCS squad.
Chattanooga fell to 5-3 overall with a 49-35 loss to Elon last weekend. That setback halted a five-game win streak for the Mocs, who have yet to play any opponent that even approaches Auburn's talent level. Russ Huesman is in his second season as the head coach at Chattanooga, and he is the reigning Southern Conference Coach of the Year.
"Obviously we didn't play our best game of the year on either side of the ball," said Huesman after the loss to Elon. "You cannot turn over the ball seven times and expect to beat a good team. I am putting the blame on the whole football team and not one area in particular."
Auburn earned the top spot in the BCS standings on October 24th and justified that ranking with a 51-31 victory over Ole Miss on the road last weekend. The Tigers are now 9-0 for the first time since 2004, and it is interesting to note that they have come from behind in six of the nine victories this season.
"I can't say enough about our football team week in and week out trying to find ways to win," said head coach Gene Chizik after the win over Ole Miss. "I really felt like our team stepped up to the plate. I couldn't be more proud of our coaches and the plans that they're putting together for our team every week."
Auburn has won all 20 previous meetings with Chattanooga, the most recent of which took place in 1995.
Chattanooga has put up some strong offensive numbers so far this season, as the team is averaging 32.6 ppg and 440.5 total ypg. The Mocs are led by quarterback B.J. Coleman, who has completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 2,257 yards and 21 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. Although not much of a running threat, Coleman does have four rushing scores. Joel Bradford is the club's top receiver, as he has hauled in 66 receptions for 1,027 yards and seven touchdowns, flashing FBS-level talent. As for the ground attack, Erroll Wynn is tops with 491 yards.
Against Elon last week, Chattanooga rolled up 504 total yards, 386 of which came from the arm of Coleman. The quarterback threw five touchdown passes, but he was intercepted five times, the most obvious reason for the loss. Bradford made 11 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the setback.
Opponents are posting 27.8 ppg and 342.0 total ypg against Chattanooga, which has been average defensively to date. The Mocs have done a solid job against the run, limiting foes to 3.6 yards per carry, but 12.3 yards per pass completion have been mustered by foes. Generating turnovers has been an obvious area of strength for Chattanooga, which has forced 14 fumbles and intercepted 12 passes. Ryan Consiglio has recorded 91 tackles for the Mocs, more than twice as many as his closest teammate. Chris Donald has registered seven sacks, and Kadeem Wise has intercepted six passes.
Elon managed to post 490 total yards against the Mocs en route to six touchdowns. Chattanooga played fairly well against the run, but the squad was victimized for 317 passing yards at a clip of 13.2 yards per completion.
"I am sure they are hurting, but we have to play better than that," said Huesman on the mood of his team after the game.
It will be awfully tough for the Chattanooga defense to bounce back strong against Auburn, as Tigers' quarterback Cam Newton has been college football's best player this season. Ole Miss was determined to stop Newton from running wild last week, so the 6-6 signal caller relied on his arm, completing 18- of-24 passes for 209 yards with two touchdowns. The highlight, however, was when Netwon split wide and hauled in a 20-yard touchdown reception.
"Every week we have to figure out what is the best thing to do to move the football," said Chizik after the tilt. "It doesn't matter who is running, throwing, or catching it."
Michael Dyer was sensational in the win over the Rebels, as the tailback rushed for 180 yards and a score. The Tigers finished the game with 572 total yards and were 9-of-13 on third-down conversion attempts.
Auburn was far from dominant defensively against Ole Miss as the team surrendered 407 total yards and four touchdowns. The run defense struggled mightily, permitting the Rebels to post 218 yards at an average of seven yards per carry. Fortunately, with Newton and the offense playing lights out football, the team will have a chance to win the national title even if the defense plays mediocre the rest of the way.
Speaking of Newton, he has led the Tigers to 40.0 ppg and 496.2 total ypg. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns against only five interceptions. He has rushed for 1,122 yards as well, the most ever in a season by an SEC quarterback, and has 14 rushing touchdowns to his credit. Dyer has run for 723 yards, and Darvin Adams has hauled in 32 receptions for 527 yards and three scores.
Opponents are posting 24.3 ppg against Auburn, which is yielding 358.3 total ypg. The Tigers have surrendered 28 touchdowns to opposing offenses, including 15 passing scores. A total of 16 takeaways have been mustered, as well as 20 sacks, so there have been some big plays made. Nick Fairley is a force for Auburn, as he has recorded a staggering total of 18 TFLs, including 7.5 sacks.
There is no reason to expect anything other than a blowout victory for the Tigers. Newton will shine as usual and likely get to rest for most of the second half.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Auburn 63, Chattanooga 6
11/03 10:32:17 ET