The Auburn football team looks to get back on the winning track Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium when it plays Arkansas in an SEC West matchup.
The ninth-ranked Tigers (2-1, 0-1 in SEC) lost last week to LSU. The Razorbacks (1-2, 0-0) have lost back-to-back games against Colorado State and North Texas.
Auburn has this week and next week (against Southern Miss) to iron out their issues on both sides of the ball.
Against LSU, the Tigers failed to put together much of a pass rush as LSU used maximum protection most of the game to protect Joe Burrow — and it worked. On offense, Auburn again went through a long stretch where it couldn’t get anything going.
Auburn is favored to win this game by more than four touchdowns, so it should have an opportunity to work on things. Here are our three bold predictions for game:
1. Big day for Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham has thrown for 273, 113 and 198 yards in Auburn’s first three games. Only once last season did Stidham have back-to-back games where he failed to top the 200-yard mark: Week 1 vs. Georgia Southern and Week 2 vs. Clemson. While a lot has been made of the run game and how Gus Malzahn wants to see it improve, the passing game could use some improvement, too. The only way to do that is to throw the ball more.
Look for Auburn to take some deep shots — Darius
Slayton and Anthony Schwartz the likely targets — and hit on some of them. As usual, Stidham will find Ryan Davis on bubble screens and Chandler Cox out of the backfield, but it also would be nice to see Auburn hit more throws in the intermediate range.
2. Receiver hierachy
One of the reasons Nate Craig-Myers left the team was because he only had two receptions this season. Receivers want to catch the ball and he wasn’t ge
tting many opportunities. Instead, the roles of freshman Schwartz and Seth Williams appear to be increasing. That will continue Saturday against Arkansas. Schwartz should run the ball several times, too. But Williams will continue to emerge as one of Stidham’s big third-down targets. One of these two will lead Auburn in receiving yards against the Razorbacks.
3. Pass rush
The Auburn defense didn’t force a turnover last week. That starts with the pass rush. Joe Burrow had too much time to throw. Marlon Davidson, Nick Coe, Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Big Kat Bryant and T.D. Moultry need to force their way into the backfield and put Ty Storey in uncomfortable situations. Arkansas threw six interceptions in its 44-17 loss to North Texas (Storey didn’t have any, he didn’t play) and if the pass rush can be disruptive, it will lead to turnovers. We predicted at least two picks last week against LSU and were way off, but with Arkansas’ struggles in the passing game plus a new starting quarterback and an Auburn defense eager to get after a quarterback, the turnovers will happen Saturday. At least two interceptions, count on it.