Arkansas at #6 Auburn Preview and Predictions


Nov 2, 2013; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Angelo Blackson (98) reacts after a stop as Arkansas Razorbacks full back Kiero Small (36) looks on during the first half at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Arkansas Razorbacks (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at #6 Auburn Tigers (0-0, 0-0 SEC)

When: 3:00 p.m. CT (SEC Network)

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama

All-Time Series Record: Auburn leads 12-10-1

Most Recent Meeting: #11 Auburn 35, Arkansas 17 (2013)

The light at the end of the tunnel is approaching, and fast.

2014 is perhaps the most highly-anticipated season in Auburn Tigers history. The offense is as loaded as it’s ever been. The defense has the potential to be vastly improved. A second consecutive SEC championship is in play. The third national title in school history (and second in five years) is in play.

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What stands between Auburn and its fulfilled potential is a brutal schedule that starts with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday.

This game, beyond being the season-opener for both teams and being one of the SEC Network’s first live football broadcasts, is filled to the brim with storylines. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has been vocal in his opposition to hurry-up offenses, while Malzahn has furiously defended his fast-paced approach. The two have traded verbal blows, and although they deny they are rivals, it’s hard to see how they could be anything but, considering all the talk.

This Saturday, the talk will stop. The Tigers and Hogs will finally face off after a seemingly endless offseason.

Keys to the Game:

Key for Auburn: The D-Line must be strong. Arkansas is coming off a 2013 campaign where they could hardly do anything right. The one thing they did well, however, was run the football. The Hogs have a big offensive line and one of the nation’s best stable of running backs with Alex Collins, Johnathan Williams, and Korliss Marshall. In the 2013 meeting, Arkansas ran for 222 yards against the Tigers on 47 carries. Now, Auburn’s missing stud defensive linemen Dee Ford (NFL) and Carl Lawson (ACL injury). The Tigers have a very good defensive line rotation intact with starters Gabe Wright, Jeffrey Whitaker, Angelo Blackson and Elijah Daniel and reserves DaVonte Lambert, Ben Bradley, Montravious Adams and LaDarious Owens. Auburn’s defensive line will have to dig deep and win the line of scrimmage.

Nov 2, 2013; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Auburn defeated Arkansas 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Key for Arkansas: Don’t “over-plan” for Auburn’s quarterbacks. Reports have surfaced that Bret Bielema has prepared defensive gameplans for both starter Jeremy Johnson and the briefly suspended Nick Marshall. However, Arkansas can’t afford to simply make assumptions about these quarterbacks and change the gameplan too much. What I mean is that if they line up to combat the pass when Johnson is in, they could be burned by the rushing attack. If they focus on stopping the run when Marshall is in, they could be torched through the air (if you recall, Marshall threw an 88-yard touchdown to Sammie Coates against the Hogs last year). It’s wise to prepare for two quarterbacks, but don’t overthink it.

Auburn players to watch: Sammie Coates and D’haquille Williams. This might be the best receiving duo in the country. Coates led the nation in yards per catch a year ago, while Williams emerged as the nation’s top JUCO prospect and has impressed Auburn’s coaching staff with his playmaking ability. Coates and Williams might prove to be a dynamic duo, especially against an Arkansas pass defense that gave up 234.8 yards per game last year and often had breakdowns in coverage.

Arkansas players to watch: Trey Flowers and the defensive line. Flowers, a Huntsville native, has emerged as one of the SEC’s best defensive ends. In 2013, he had five sacks and three forced fumbles. He turned down the NFL to return for the Hogs, and he’s joined by a defensive line that might be a little outmatched against Auburn’s offensive line, perhaps the best in college football. Arkansas’s success as a defense will depend on the defensive line. Can they slow down the run? Can they create pressure in passing situations? Flowers and company have their work cut out for them.

Auburn vs. Arkansas Advantages:

Quarterback: Auburn (The Tigers have two capable QBs)

Running Backs: Even (Both teams are loaded)

Wide Receiver: Auburn

Tight End/H-Back: Auburn

Offensive Line: Auburn

Defensive Line: Auburn

Linebackers: Auburn

Secondary: Even (Both teams struggled last year but return some talent)

Punter: Arkansas

Kicker: Even (Both teams have freshman kickers)

Coaching: Auburn

Interesting Facts:

  • Arkansas has won 3 of their last 4 games in Jordan-Hare. Two of those wins were against teams that would go on to have losing records (2008 and 2012). Their last win over a winning Auburn team in Jordan-Hare was in 2006, when Gus Malzahn was their offensive coordinator.
  • Bret Bielema is 8-0 in season openers as a head coach. However, he has never faced a ranked team to open the season.
  • As an offensive coordinator and a head coach, Gus Malzahn is 2-3 against Arkansas. He lost in 2008 (30-23 with #19 Tulsa), 2009 (44-23 with #17 Auburn) and 2011 (38-14 with #15 Auburn). His wins have come in 2010 (65-43 with eventual national champion Auburn) and 2013 (35-17 with eventual SEC champion Auburn).
  • This game will be the 17th time in the series’s 24-game history where a ranked Auburn team faced an unranked Arkansas team. Auburn is 10-6 in such games so far.
  • The last time Arkansas opened the season on the road against a ranked team, the Razorbacks lost to #10 Texas in 1980, 23-17.
  • The last time Auburn opened the season against an SEC team was 1995 against Ole Miss. Ironically, much like 2014, Auburn entered that season ranked #6 in the AP Poll. Auburn won the game, 46-13, at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
  • The last time Arkansas opened the season against a team coming off a loss in the BCS National Championship Game, they fell 50-14 to USC in the 2006. USC was ranked, yes, you guessed it, #6.


Bielema’s team will be improved from their 2013 debacle. But are they improved enough to take down a hungry Auburn team in Jordan-Hare? Probably not. The Tigers have too many weapons on offense. The Razorbacks are too one-dimensional on offense. The heat will be a factor. The weather might be a factor as well. I predict that Jeremy Johnson will throw three touchdowns, Corey Grant will have north of 100 yards and Nick Marshall won’t see the field for more than 10 plays thanks to Johnson’s effectiveness. The Tigers run away with it in the second half.

#6 Auburn Tigers 45, Arkansas Razorbacks 20

SEC Predictions:

#9 South Carolina 30, #21 Texas A&M 20 (Aggies make it close, but Gamecocks are too loaded.)

#18 Ole Miss 40, Boise State 35 (This under-the-radar game will be one of week one’s best.)

Vanderbilt 49, Temple 0 (I don’t need to explain this.)

#2 Alabama 38, West Virginia 14 (QB or no QB, Alabama is going to be way too much for the Mountaineers.)

#12 Georgia 31, #16 Clemson 24 (Dawgs get revenge for last year’s close loss in Death Valley.)

#14 Wisconsin 24, #13 LSU 23 (Wisconsin wins on a last-second field goal.)

#24 Missouri 55, South Dakota State 8 (Why open your season against an FCS team?)

Kentucky 45, UT-Martin 14 (WHY open your season against an FCS team?!?!)

Florida 52, Idaho 3 (Gators’ offense shocks, gains over 600 total yards against the Vandals.)

Mississippi State 41, Southern Miss 13 (This might be Mullen’s best team yet.)

Tennessee 33, Utah State 24 (Chuckie Keeton will do his thing, but the Vols survive.)

Other Notable Games:

#1 Florida State 35, Oklahoma State 27 (Almost an upset in itself, the Pokes hang close all night.)

#5 Ohio State 34, Navy 28 (Midshipmen are a trendy upset pick, and it is a sure possibility.)

#7 UCLA 49, Virginia 7 (This one might be close for a quarter.)

Miami 30, Louisville 24 (OT) (Hurricanes, with a freshman QB, invade the ‘Ville and win.)

UPSET ALERT!  California 29, Northwestern 28 (The Wildcats look to rebound from their 5-7 season last year, but even though this game’s at home, they’ll fall on a last-minute California touchdown.)