Auburn Football vs. Oklahoma: Matchup and Prediction for Sugar Bowl

Nov 19, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; The Auburn Tigers mascot Aubie leads the team through Tiger Walk before the game against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Here we break down the matchups for Auburn football and Oklahoma as the two teams face each other in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Monday night.

Auburn football will try to finish the 2016 season on a positive note by representing the SEC strong with a win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

The two teams have only met once in their history with Oklahoma coming away victorious 40-22 in a game that was also played in New Orleans.

The Sooners are coming in as one of the hottest teams in the country, and a team that many feel may have deserved a spot in the College Football Playoffs.

They won their last nine games of the season and swept the Big 12 conference to win another Big 12 championship. They’ve now won the Big 12 championship seven times since 2006.

Meanwhile, Auburn was in the running for the College Football Playoffs before a terrible loss to Georgia that I don’t’ think I’ll ever understand.

In the end the Tigers finished 8-4 overall and 5-3 in SEC play with losses to Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. Their only other loss came to Clemson, so two of Auburn’s four losses came against teams playing for the National Championship.

Early on Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was known as “Big Game Bob,” but has since lost that title. Although the last time Oklahoma was in the Sugar Bowl they embarrassed Alabama.

I think Gus Malzahn was able to calm some fans down with the 8-win season, but in order to avoid any talk in the offseason I think he really needs to win this game.

Let’s take a look at what it’s going to take for Auburn football to win the Sugar Bowl.

Oct 8, 2016; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway (36) runs the ball as he is defended by Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Jamoral Graham (9) during the second quarter of the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn Offense vs. Oklahoma Defense

There is no denying that this Auburn offense was completely different once Sean White and Kamryn Pettway got injured. Yes, that’s an excuse, but it’s a good excuse.

I’ve never seen anything so pathetic as what this offense did against Georgia. But even before that the offense struggled against Vanderbilt without Sean White at quarterback.

It’s pretty simple for Auburn football on offense in this game; if Pettway is healthy and can run the ball effectively, then we should be able to score some points.

Sean White will also need to be able to complete some passes down field like he did before he got hurt in order to open up the running game.

The Oklahoma defense is nowhere near elite giving up 29.7 points per game this season playing in the Big 12. They also gave up 439.8 yards per game, including 160.8 yards per game on the ground.

Dec 3, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Justice Hill (27) attempts to elude Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Jordan Evans (26) during the fourth quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Evans leads the team in tackles with 89, including 9 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and a team-high 4 interceptions.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo led the team in sacks with nine from the linebacker position, and he’s third on the team with 67 tackles.

Jordan Thomas is the team’s best corner with 17 passes defended and 16 pass break-ups.

The Sooner defense gave up at least 20 points in nine of its games this season, and only held a team under 17 points once (Kansas). They gave up 40 points three times this year and still won, so they know how to win a shootout.

The Auburn offense will need to be able to light up the scoreboard on this defense and take what they give you. I really think if Pettway is healthy Auburn will be able to just pound the ball up the middle all game.

Nov 12, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Baylor Bears during the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn Defense vs. Oklahoma Offense

This is the matchup that everybody is wanting to see Monday night. Can Auburn’s defense slow down one of the most powerful offenses in college football?

We’ll start by looking at what Sooner fans call the Four Horseman, which is led by Baker Mayfield at quarterback. He threw for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2016 with just 8 interceptions in 330 attempts.

They have a two-headed monster at running back in Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. Mixon led the team with 1,183 rushing yards in 168 carries for a 7 yard average, while Perine led the team with 11 rushing touchdowns to go along with 974 yards rushing.

And then you have possibly the best wide receiver in the country in Dede Westbrook who caught 74 passes for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Both Westbrook and Mayfield finished as finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

Altogether this offense averaged 44.7 points and 557.3 yards per game in 2016.

On the other side of the football, Auburn gave up just 15.6 points and 384.4 yards per game this season.

Nov 5, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defenders Joshua Holsey (15) celebrates an interception with Darell Williams (49) and Markel Boston (11) during the fourth quarter against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

They were much better at stopping the run than stopping the pass, so that worries me a little in this game. I think the key matchup will be in our secondary where Carlton Davis and Johsua Holsey will need to have huge games to slow down Oklahoma’s passing attack and Dede Westbrook in particular.

Auburn football finished with a disappointing 25 sacks, but they faced a lot of mobile quarterbacks that were able to avoid a lot of sacks and throw the football away.

Carl Lawson leads the defensive line with 9 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss, while Montravius Adams was second on the team with 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks.

Both of those guys are hoping for big paydays in the NFL Draft this coming April, so who knows how hard they will play in this game, and I wouldn’t blame them if they took it easy.

However, there is still plenty of talent on this defensive line with Marlon Davidson and Devaroe Lawrence.

The linebacking core led by Tre’ Williams surprised a lot of people this year and is now a strength of this team.

Tray Williams and Johnathan Ford are two of the best tackling safties in the country, and can hold their own in coverage as well.

I can’t wait to see how these two groups matchup on Monday.

Oct 29, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway (36) carries the ball to score a touchdown during the first quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview 

I don’t want to make it sound like this game doesn’t mean anything, because I know once the ball is kicked Monday night both fans and players will want to win more than anything.

However, you never really know how 18-22-year-old kids are going to react in games like this. Some of them are thinking about the draft, some are enjoying the experience and others are just thinking about getting home to their families before school starts back.

It always comes down to what team is more motivated and focused in these bowl games, and that depends on the coaches.

As far as the matchups in this game, if Auburn plays like they are capable then I think they have a great chance of beating Oklahoma in this game.

I don’t think Oklahoma’s defense is capable of stopping Kamryn Pettway when he’s running like he did in the middle of the season. A healthy Sean White should be able to keep the defense off balance. And the emergence of Eli Stove as a weapon on offense will help spread the defense out.

The key will be whether or not the Auburn defense is able to stop or limit the Oklahoma offense. You know they’ll be motivated to come in and try to embarrass another SEC defense like they did against Alabama a few years ago.

If our defense can stall their drives or even force them to field goal attempts, then that will give our offense a chance to run the ball and control the clock.

The biggest key in this game though will be if our offense can stay on the field. Against Georgia and Alabama the offense struggled to put together drives and as a result the Auburn defense got worn down in the second half.

The Auburn offense has to find ways to sustain drives and allow our defense to rest against a very good Oklahoma offense.

Prediction: Auburn – 31 Oklahoma – 28

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