Auburn vs Arkansas: Pre-Game Prediction


Apr 19, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Quan Bray (4) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the A-Day spring game at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

It is finally here. Auburn vs Arkansas. The defending Southeastern Conference Champions will host the Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium at 3:00pm local time.

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Most major college football programs would rather to ease into the season by playing a cupcake opponent in week one. That’s why we have such exciting matchups Saturday as Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky, South Dakota State at Missouri and Idaho at Florida. However, the Auburn Tigers will face a conference opponent out of the gate to begin 2014 when the Arkansas Razorbacks come to town.

We’ve talked a lot about the matchup over the past month. We know the scouting report, the reasons Auburn should worry, the keys to victory and the players to watch. Now, it’s time to predict the outcome.

Despite the fact that the Razorbacks were terrible at times last season (they were outscored 134-17 in just three games in the month of October), and they were winless against SEC opponents, Auburn must respect Arkansas today. Conference openers are always difficult, and the test is amplified when two SEC West teams play in the first game of their individual seasons.

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Auburn Tigers wide receiver Melvin Ray (82) celebrates with quarterback Nick Marshall (14) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The weather could play a factor, as rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast for the afternoon. Like teams that rely on the pass, those that emphasize an option attack would rather handle a dry football. That means Auburn quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall will need to be especially careful on zone read and inverted veer-type plays in head coach Gus Malzahn’s #AuburnFast power rushing offense.

Auburn led the nation in rushing last season with an average of 328.3 yards per game. Despite the defection of Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason (and his 1,816 rushing yards) to the NFL, the Tigers still return more rushing yards than any other team in the SEC. This year, Auburn will rely on a senior trio of Cameron Artis-Payne (610 rushing yards, 6.7 yards per carry, six touchdowns in 2013), Corey Grant (647, 9.8, 6 TDs) and Marshall (1,068, 6.2, 12 TDs).

Of course, the Hogs have a strong rushing attack of their own. Running backs Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall are all talented and accomplished, and they have a solid offensive line to run behind. The Tigers will utilize a big front four of defensive linemen, including Gabe Wright, who has moved to defensive end from his normal interior spot. The move was necessitated by the loss of Carl Lawson to a knee injury this spring, and will affect Auburn’s ability to rush the passer.

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  • While the Razorbacks don’t put the ball in the air often, they will utilize play-action passing to try and attempt to attack vertically down the field. Expect the Hogs’ quarterback Brandon Allen to target tight end Hunter Henry and wide receiver Keon Hatcher to capitalize on a relatively young Auburn secondary.

    But, the edge in the passing game belongs to Auburn. The Tigers have a stacked receiving corps in Sammie Coates (who led the nation in yards per catch in 2013), junior college transfer Duke Williams, and other returners like receiver Quan Bray and tight end CJ Uzomah. The Arkansas secondary struggled last season, and will have to be much better today to keep this group of Auburn receivers off the scoreboard.

    The game will be hard fought on both sides, and should be close early, but the Tigers will wear down Arkansas and put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. The Razorbacks cover the 18 points, but lose the game.

    Auburn 41, Arkansas 24