Auburn trended downward in 2011. Virginia trended upward. Tonight, they meet on relatively equal footing.
Virginia Cavaliers [SRS 68]
Best Wins: Florida St. (24), Miami (41), Georgia Tech (46)
Losses: Virginia Tech (26), Southern Miss (28), North Carolina (44), North Carolina St. (66)
Famous Alum: Tina Fey
Virginia improved from 4-8 to 8-4 in Mike London’s second year, which was enough to earn him a contract extension. They were flying high until getting destroyed 38-0 in a hyped up Commonwealth Cup in Charlottesville. They had an average offense, grounded in a strong running game. Though their normally strong offensive line had an abysmal game against Virginia Tech, four sacks allowed and just 30 yards rushing. Their strength was defense which was formidable between the tackles. Though cornerback Chase Minnifield will be a big loss if Auburn can rediscover the forward pass.
Auburn Tigers [SRS 57]
Best Wins: South Carolina (20), Florida (37), Mississippi St. (38)
Losses: LSU (1), Alabama (3), Arkansas (12), Georgia (16), Clemson (27)
Famous Alum: Lindsay McCormick
Auburn defended its BCS Title without Cam Newton and without a number of starters from last year’s team. It didn’t go so well. Their young defense (93rd in FEI), made historically bad mistakes. Their offense (58th in FEI) sputtered and cycled through quarterbacks. The fallout has claimed both coordinators. Auburn looked bad, though they looked bad against some of the country’s best teams.
Michael Dyer is suspended for this game, though Auburn still has Onterio McCalebb and a pair of talented freshmen. Look for the Tigers to deploy their SEC speed on the perimeter to stretch Virginia. Auburn has the talent to be disruptive on defense, especially with Sophomore Corey Lemonier (9.5 sacks). Whether they will do so is unclear. It’s unclear what effect Roof’s departure and Chizik taking control will have, but they can’t be much worse.
Worth Noting: Gene Chizik is 8-0 in bowl games as either a head coach or an assistant.
For Recreational Purposes: Auburn is more versatile and more athletic on both sides of the ball. The time to regroup and a presumably pared down game-plan will be a benefit to their young players. Auburn (-3).
[Photo via Getty]