Will the Aggies beat Auburn? That's the proverbial and literal million dollar (which is I believe is fairly close to the payout for the game) question. The answer will be provided over the course of three and a half hours tomorrow evening and will depend a lot on whether Chase Holbrook and the Aggie Air Raid offense can do something that very few teams have done against Auburn's stingy defense: pass for 300 plus yards and/or throw more than two touchdown passes (this obviously being the more important of the two stats).
Over the past five seasons and through the first three games of this season, 67 games in all, the Tigers' defense has only given up five 300+ yard passing games and no team has passed for more than 355 yards during that span. This is significant because the Tigers lost two of those games. The last team to throw for 300 yards on the Auburn defense? Wisconsin with 301 yards in the Capital One Bowl back in 2006 (24-10 winners).
Chase Holbrook through 15 games in his career has thrown for more 300 yards twelve times and for more than 350 yards ten times. He's also passed for more than 400 yards in six games and passed for more than 500 yards in three games. In fact, he's only had three sub-300 yard passing games and in two of those games Nevada and Utah State, he only played one half or less of football because of injury.
Auburn has held 43 of 67 opponents under 200 yards passing and only 14 of 67 teams have thrown for more than two touchdown passes in a game. Only three times in those 67 games has a team thrown three or more touchdown passes in a game, Arkansas (3), LSU (3) and Ole Miss (3).
Chase has never been held under 200 passing yards and he's thrown three or more touchdown passes in 11 of his 15 games.
Auburn's defense has also held 22 of 67 opponents to no touchdown passes.
Chase has never been shut out of the endzone in a game.
In addition, the Tigers' defense has had eleven games in which they've held their opponents under 100 yards passing. The list includes Penn State (98 yds.), LSU (79 yds.), Arkansas twice (87 and 66 yds.), Tennessee (69 yds.), Kentucky (73 yds.) and Mississippi State twice (41, 82). Of course, these numbers are a little deceiving because in those eleven games, their opponents only passed the ball an average of 18 times per game. That's about two series in the Air Raid offense. Still, to hold a team under 100 yards passing is usually something you only see in an EA Sports video game.
For Chase and the Air Raid to accomplish what it needs to accomplish, protection from the offensive line will be key. Against SE Louisiana, UNM and UTEP last year, the Aggie o-line had given up 14 sacks, against those same opponents this year? Half, only seven. Give Chase time to throw and he will pick an opponent apart with his precision passing (73.6% completion rate). Also, if the Aggies' running game can produce against this fairly stout Auburn defense, that will help the offense out tremendously. If Auburn has to worry about the run as well as the pass it'll make things much easier for Mumme and Co. to do what they do best. Attack.
Chase has proven that he shows up to play, especially on the big stage. In five games against UNM (2), UTEP (2) and Boise State (nationally televised) he has thrown for 472, 506, 529, 473 and 434 yards and 17 touchdowns against only seven interceptions.
The Auburn defense doesn't give up 300 yard passing games, the Aggie offense does nothing but produce 300 yard passing games. So what happens when the the irresistible force (Aggies' Air Raid) meets the immovable object (Auburn's defense)? On Saturday night, we'll get our answer.