Tale of the Tape: Auburn vs Samford

The Samford Bulldogs travel to Jordan-Hare stadium to wish undefeated Auburn a happy homecoming this Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.

The Bulldogs are coming off a rough 30-7 loss at the hands of conference opponent Western Carolina, while the Tigers head into this game without a loss, most recently beating California in Berkeley 14-10.

It is clear Auburn has the edge in this game, not only from a pure talent standpoint but also because of the emotional advantage of a homecoming game.

ESPN FPI gives the Tigers a 98.7% chance of winning and improving to 3-0 on Saturday, a record Auburn hasn’t achieved since 2019, when they started the season 5-0.

Most of the country will check off this week three showdown as a blowout, but will the tale of the tape show us this game could be closer than most think?

The quarterback matchup is fairly interesting heading into this one.

Auburn quarterback Payton Thorne has been serviceable this season, completing 19/31 passes for 235 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

He has also fumbled once.

Robby Ashford has also seen ample playing time for the Tigers, completing 3/9 passes for three yards.

Most of his damage has been done on the ground, where he has rushed for 59 yards on 13 carries, finding the end zone thrice.

On the other side, Samford quarterback Michael Heirs has been absolutely electric for the Bulldogs since he transferred to the school in 2022.

Heirs was the 2022 SoCon Offensive Player of the Year last season, collecting 3,544 yards through the air and tying the school record with 36 touchdown passes.

The 36 touchdowns and 3,544 yards were fourth and sixth in the entire nation, respectively.

Heirs also checks in at 6″1 tall and 215 pounds. While you would expect an FCS quarterback to be undersized, his attributes are very comparable to Thorne, who stands 6″2 and weighs in at 203 pounds.

With all that being said, the clear edge in quarterback play still goes to Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford, as the experience and quality wins against FBS opponents outweigh the accolades of Heirs.

A more clear advantage for Auburn is on the defensive side of the ball, where they shined in week two against Cal.

The Tigers’ defense has been decent against the pass this season but struggled against the run in week one against UMass. The good news for Auburn is that run defense seemed to fix itself in week two.

The front seven was able to hold NFL talent Jaydn Ott to 3.9 YPC off the back of linebacker Eugene Asante’s SEC co-defensive player of the week performance.

The even better news for Auburn is Samford does not run the ball, as their running backs combined for just 14 carries a week ago.

The Bulldogs passing attack is better than most FCS teams, but Auburn’s defensive strength so far in 2023 has been against the pass.

As for Samford’s defense, the glaring stat is the 25.4 PPG they gave up in 2022 to FCS teams. The number itself is respectable, Auburn is much steeper competition.

Auburn gets the edge in defense.

The final edge to Auburn goes in the sheer size department. Auburn’s offensive line weighs an average of 313 pounds.

The average weight of Samford’s interior defensive lineman is 270 pounds.

Discrepancies like that exist throughout the field. Even if the Bulldogs play a great game, the physical tool endured by them may be too much by the time the second half rolls around.

Auburn kicks off its homecoming game against Samford at 7 PM CST on Saturday at Jordan-Hare.

It should be a very happy homecoming for Tiger fans.

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Story originally appeared on Auburn Wire