StatTiger Column: Previewing AU at Arkansas

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) analyzes the numbers and trends to predict what will happen as the Auburn Football Tigers takes\ on the Arkansas Razorbacks.

No. 9 Auburn 7-1 (3-1) at Arkansas 3-5 (0-4)

Series Record: 11-10-1 (Auburn)

Last Meeting: 2012 (Arkansas, 24-7)

About the teams:

Auburn is coming off a 45-10 victory over Florida Atlantic and the Razorbacks had a bye-week. Arkansas was crushed by Alabama, 52-0, its last time out.

Bret Bielema is in his eighth year as a head coach, compiling a 71-29 record, including a 3-5 mark at Arkansas. Gus Malzahn is 16-4 overall and 7-1 at Auburn.

Auburn is currently No. 13 in total offense and No. 75 total defense. Arkansas is No. 100 in total offense and No. 55 in total defense.

Auburn is No. 5 nationally in run offense and will face an Arkansas defense ranked No. 71 against the run.

Arkansas is No. 106 in scoring offense, Auburn is ranked No. 24 in scoring defense. Auburn is No. 27 in scoring offense vs. an Arkansas team ranked No. 86 in scoring defense.

Quarterback Brandon Allen leads the Razorbacks in passing with a rating of 103.5, which includes 136.4 yards passing per game and eight TD passes.

Brandon Allen is completing 44.7 percent of his passes.

Nick Marshall leads Auburn in passing with 164 yards per game and is averaging 66 yards per contest as a runner. Marshall has a QB rating of 132.8. Jeremy Johnson has a QB rating of 194.4 with six TD passes and two interceptions. He is also averaging 6.7 yards per rush.

The Razorbacks have a solid running game with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. The two have combined for 176 yards per game at 5.8 yards per rush.

Tre Mason leads Auburn in rushing with 94 yards per game at 5.8 yards per carry. Auburn has four players averaging better than 56 rushing yards per game.

Javontee Herndon leads Arkansas in receptions with 20 and in yards per catch at 16.5. Tight end Hunter Henry is a threat with 17 receptions.

Sammie Coates leads Auburn's pass catchers with 21 receptions for 536 yards.

Linebackers Jarrett Lake (52 tackles) and Braylon Mitchell (51 tackles) lead the Arkansas defense along with linemen Trey Flowers, who has 8 1/2 tackles for los,s and Chris Smith (8 1/2 tackles for loss).

Tre Flowers is a key player on the Arkansas defensive front.

Robenson Therezie and Chris Davis lead the Tigers with 35 tackles apiece and Dee Ford leads the Tigers with 7 1/2 tackles for loss.

Inside the Numbers...

*The Razorback offense has generated 46 runs of 10 yards or more and 32 pass plays of 15 yards or more. The Auburn offense has totaled 77 run plays of 10 yards or more and 34 pass plays of 15 yards or more.

*The Razorback defense has surrendered 49 runs of 10 yards or more and 39 pass plays of 15 yards or more. Auburn's defense has allowed 40 run plays of 10 yards or more and 38 pass plays of 15 yards or more.

*Auburn enters the game No. 19 nationally in generating explosive plays and will face an Arkansas defense ranked 95th in preventing them. The Razorbacks are No. 55 in generating explosive plays vs. an Auburn defense ranked No. 54 in stopping them.

*Arkansas is No. 28 in run offense vs. Auburn's No. 36 ranked run defense.

*The Razorbacks possess one of the least efficient pass offenses in the country and are ranked 114th The Tigers are No. 41 nationally in pass efficiency defense.

*Auburn is 11th nationally in generating tackles for loss while the Razorbacks are No. 65. The Auburn offense is No. 18 nationally in preventing tackles for loss and the Razorbacks are slightly better at No. 10.

*Bielema is 4-1 as a coach after a bye-week, but those wins came against teams with a losing record.

What to watch...

*The Razorbacks' offensive strength is clearly their running game, which they will rely on to slow the pace of the game and protect their defense.

*During its last four games Arkansas has allowed 251.5 yards rushing per contest. Look for the Auburn offense to exploit this area with the strength of its offense.

*Auburn should have better success on third down passing situations. The Tigers have a pass rating of 158.5 on third down compared to the Razorbacks at 103.9. Auburn's defense has a pass rating of 87.6 and the Razorbacks are 108.4 in pass defense.

*Auburn is No. 76 in turnover margin while the Razorbacks are 105th.

*The Tigers should hold a huge advantage inside the red zone. Auburn is No. 32 in red zone scoring percentage and will face a team ranked No. 91 in red zone defense. The Razorback offense is No. 91 in red zone scoring and will face an Auburn defense that is No. 13.

*Arkansas quarterback Allen is more of a pocket passer, which should create opportunities for an Auburn defense ranked No. 23 in sacks.

*Through eight games Auburn's offense is scoring 21.9 percent more against FBS competition than what the opponent normally allows and its defense is holding their opponent to 30.0 percent below its scoring average. Arkansas is scoring 25.8 percent less than what its opponent allows and the defense is holding opponents to their normal scoring average.

Keys to victory...

*Playing on the road the Auburn offense must start off well as it did against Texas A&M, avoiding the early mistakes they previously made against LSU. The Razorbacks had questionable effort against South Carolina and Alabama once the game began to go south on them. The same is likely to happen if Auburn starts off well.

*Auburn has invested major practice time the last few weeks polishing the zone read offensive packages. Much of Auburn's offensive attack is built off this element, which means the Tigers need to continue their success in this area for the offense to play to its potential.

*If the Tigers can limit their turnovers and penalties they should win this game going away. If not it will breath life back into an Arkansas team that is on the verge of imploding.

*Marshall has a pass rating of 132 or better in every quarter except the second period. During the second quarter his number has dropped to just 73.9 so getting that issue solved needs to be a priority this week.

*Should backup QB Johnson see significant action, he needs to take the plays as they come and not attempt to force anything. There are plenty of weapons around the freshman to make plays.

*Auburn comes into the game leading the nation in first down rushing and fourth quarter rushing totals. The Tigers need to run early and late to finish strong.

Final Word...

The Arkansas game has caused the Tigers problems in recent years with Auburn winning just two of the last seven matchups. The average margin of defeat in those losses is 17 points. Malzahn's offense has averaged 262 yards rushing in his games against the Razorbacks yet he is 1-3 vs. Arkansas. Turnovers and an inconsistent passing attack brought Malzahn's offense down during the losses.

Gus Malzahn is looking for a win on Saturday at the college he attended and coached at as offensive coordinator.

History could repeat this Saturday if Auburn is careless with the football and struggles throwing it. Like Auburn, the Razorback offense is built around its running game and the team with the better rushing performance will likely be victorious. Since 2000 the team with the better running game has won 78 percent of conference games within the SEC.

The teams appear to be traveling in opposite directions. Since the fourth game of the season Auburn is 4-0 with an average score of 45-19. Arkansas is 0-4 with an average defeat by 45-12. The Tigers should match up well on both sides of the line in what should be a very physical game.

In this series the team with the better rushing performance is 14-6-1 since 1992. As poorly as the Razorbacks have performed recently, their running game will give them a chance. The last time the Tigers faced a very physical running attack was against LSU, a game they lost 35-21. LSU rushed for 228 yards and the week before Mississippi State rushed for 202 in a too-close-for comfort 24-20 Auburn victory. Based on scoring averages and margins against FBS competition, Auburn is projected to win 33-17 and 39-13 for an average score of 36-15.

If the Tigers play to their potential they should win handily, but they still continue to have trending issues despite the overall team improvement. Marshall is far more efficient during the second half, the Tigers have missed opportunities in the vertical passing game, the defense is allowing too many big plays and the offense has fumbled the football in every game this season.

With an extra week to prepare for the Tigers, I expect the Razorbacks to come out inspired early. Auburn can offset this emotional surge by executing well on offense. Forcing the Razorbacks to throw more than they want will be the key defensively and the Auburn offense can aid the Tiger defense in doing so. Look for the Tigers to continue their blue-collar grind and win their eighth game of the season. Auburn 34, Arkansas 17

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Missouri over Tennessee
South Carolina over Mississippi State
Georgia over Florida
Kentucky over Alabama State
Texas A&M over UTEP

Season record: 58-10


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