Who: #11 Auburn Tigers (7-1) at Arkansas Razorbacks (3-5)
When: 5:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Where: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas
All-Time Series Record: Auburn leads 11-10-1
Most Recent Meeting: Arkansas 24, Auburn 7 (2012)
Normal, American football.
If I picked up a fictional football dictionary right now and searched for “Normal, American Football”, I would be greeted by an explanation that probably goes along as follows:
“Normal, American Football (nor-mull, a-mair-i-can foot-ball) – The art of a football team winning football games with a powerful rushing attack and hard-nosed play on offensive and defensive line.”
Before the season, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema promised that his Razorbacks would play “Normal, American Football”, all the while criticizing Gus Malzahn and other up-tempo spread coaches for their schemes.
In a strange twist of irony, it is Gus’s Auburn Tigers who are playing “Normal, ‘Murican Football.”
Translation: Auburn is good. Arkansas is not good.
The Tigers are 7-1, ranked 11th in the BCS standings and control their SEC West destiny. Arkansas is 3-5 (0-4 SEC) and has progressively gotten worse with each game.
However, Auburn fans are still worried about this game. Unranked Arkansas teams have beaten ranked Auburn teams before. Do the Hogs have what it takes to ruin the Tigers’ season once again?
Key for Auburn: “Do what we do!” Sorry for using a Gene Chizik quote, but it’s rather appropriate here. Top-to-bottom, Auburn is better than Arkansas. However, the players can’t afford to think like that. No matter the QB, whether it’s Nick Marshall or Jeremy Johnson, the Tigers must continue using the formula that has made them successful: pound the ball, pound it some more and play tough, hard-nosed defense. There’s no reason to believe Auburn will go away from that.
Key for Arkansas: Dominate the point of attack running the football. Auburn’s run defense was gashed by Mississippi State and LSU, but since then, they’ve greatly improved, allowing just 105 rushing yards per game against #24 Ole Miss (124), Western Carolina (66), #7 Texas A&M (133) and Florida Atlantic (97). Running the football with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams is crucial, because Arkansas has no passing game or real defense to speak of. Arkansas’s only chance is to run effectively and own time of possession. If they don’t run well enough to sustain drives, this game will get ugly quickly.
Auburn players to watch: Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. Arkansas’s passing game is the worst in the SEC and one of the worst in the country, so they will obviously look to run the ball. That’s why Auburn’s linebackers must step up. Auburn has a good defensive line, but the linebackers will need to turn in a good effort to fully contain the Hogs’ sporadically potent rushing attack.
Arkansas players to watch: Chris Smith and Trey Flowers. For all that has gone wrong for the Razorbacks this season, they have gotten good play from their defensive ends. Auburn will not only run up the gut, but they have also shown the ability to be lethal on the edge. It’ll be up to these dynamic defensive ends to nip some sweep plays at the bud.
Auburn vs. Arkansas Advantages:
Running Back: Auburn
Wide Receivers: Auburn
H-Back/Tight End: Auburn
Offensive Line: Auburn
Defensive Line: Auburn
Linebackers: Auburn (This is the only category where it’s even remotely close.)
Kicker: Arkansas (Cody Parkey’s been great, but Zack Hocker’s as accurate as they come.)
Interesting Facts: Auburn enters this game ranked 11th in the BCS standings. This means this will be Auburn’s fifth consecutive game in Fayetteville as a ranked team…. 15 times in 22 meetings, a ranked Auburn team has faced an unranked Arkansas team. Auburn is only 9-6 in those games…. Auburn has a 5-5 record all-time at Arkansas. They’ve dropped their most recent two games in Fayetteville by a combined score of 82-37…. Auburn’s last win in Fayetteville was 2007, when the Will Muschamp’s defense shut down Darren McFadden in a 9-7 win. Auburn led 3-0 in the 4th quarter…. Arkansas has won two in a row against Auburn, tying its longest winning streak against the Tigers ever (2008-2009)…. Since Arkansas had a 24-7 lead at Rutgers, they’ve been outscored 200-50…. Auburn leads the FBS in 4th quarter rushing yards. Arkansas’s defense is 99th in the FBS in rushing yards allowed during the 4th quarter.
Prediction: Many Auburn fans are nervous about this game. Arkansas has always been a thorn in the Tigers’ sides. However, this isn’t Tommy Tuberville or Gene Chizik. This is Gus Malzahn, a man who knows the Razorbacks’ past abilities. The fact of the matter is, Arkansas is just not a very good football team. Auburn will slug it out with the Hogs in the first half and then run away with it in the second half, sending the fans home in the 3rd quarter on Senior Night.
#11 Auburn Tigers 49, Arkansas Razorbacks 14
#14 South Carolina 24, Mississippi State 14 (The Bulldogs will stick around, but that’s about it.)
#9 Missouri 45, Tennessee 17 (The Vols are dreadful away from Neyland. Mizzou rebounds nicely here.)
#12 Texas A&M 63, UTEP 21 (This game will be over at kickoff, basically.)
Georgia 28, Florida 16 (Georgia gets Todd Gurley back. I highly doubt Florida will beat them, in that case.)
Kentucky 48, Alabama State 17 (Could this be Kentucky’s final win of the season? In all likelihood, yes.)
Other Notable Games:
#3 Florida State 41, #7 Miami 20 (I think the ‘Canes will stick around before FSU surges ahead for good.)
#18 Oklahoma State 48, #15 Texas Tech 35 (Kliff’s doing a great job, but I see OSU getting a nice win in Lubbock.)
#22 Michigan State 17, #21 Michigan 10 (This is about the most B1G score ever, you guys.)
#4 Ohio State 56, Purdue 7 (OK, Buckeyes, I get it! I’ll stop picking against you in games you win by double-digits.)
UPSET ALERT! Nevada 46, #16 Fresno State 44 (OT) (Nevada’s lost three in a row and is desperate to get on track. Fresno State is eyeing a BCS bowl but they don’t play a whole lot of defense. Even at home, in a “Blackout”, I think Nevada scores its first BCS-changing upset since beating Boise in 2010.)