Bret Bielema (above) is in his third year as head coach at Arkansas.
Auburn (4-2) vs. Arkansas (2-4)
Series Record: 13-10-1
Last Meeting: (2014) Auburn won 45-21
About the teams:
- Bret Bielema is 80-43 all time as a head coach and 12-19 at Arkansas. Gus Malzahn is 33-12 all time as a head coach and 24-9 at Auburn.
- Auburn is coming off a 30-27 victory over Kentucky and Arkansas was defeated by Alabama, 27-14, its last time out.
- The two programs have split their last 10 meetings against one another and the Tigers are 7-5 on the road against Arkansas.
- The Razorbacks under Bielema are 3-16 in conference play.
- Auburn is 3-6 during its last nine conference games.
- Arkansas returned nine starters on offense and six on defense.
- Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen is currently the No. 26 rated passer nationally. He has thrown for 256.0 yards per game, including 10 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Auburn’s Sean White has completed 66 percent of his passes for 183.7 yards per game.
- Alex Collins leads Arkansas in rushing with 682 yards at 5.5 yards per carry. Peyton Barber is the fifth leading rusher in the Southeastern Conference with 108.3 yards rushing per game, totaling 650 at 4.81 yards per carry.
- Drew Morgan leads Arkansas in receiving with 27 receptions for 428 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Hunter Henry could be a dangerous player this week. He has 21 receptions on the season. Ricardo Louis leads the Tigers with 26 receptions for 347 yards and one touchdown.
- Junior linebacker Brooks Ellis leads Arkansas on defense with 49 tackles, which is ninth best in the conference. Auburn’s Rudy Ford is second in the SEC with 63 stops and Kris Frost is sixth in the conference with 54 tackles. Cassanova McKinzy is No. 12 in the conference with 6.0 tackles for loss.
How they match up...
- Arkansas is No. 46 in total offense and will face off against an Auburn team ranked No. 98 in total defense.
- Auburn is No. 98 in total offense and will face an Arkansas defense ranked No. 54 in total defense.
- The Arkansas offense is No. 100 in scoring offense and will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 64 in scoring defense.
- Auburn is No. 91 in scoring offense and will face a team ranked No. 52 in scoring defense.
- Arkansas is No. 37 in third down offense and will face an Auburn team ranked No. 111 in third down defense.
- Auburn is No. 17 in third down offense, facing a Razorback defense No. 109 in third down stops.
- Arkansas is No. 70 nationally allowing impact plays against its pass defense.
- Based on scoring margins and averages from Power-5 competition only, it projects an Auburn victory of 29-19 and an Arkansas victory of 23-16. Average the two scores and the Tigers project to a 23-21 victory over Arkansas.
- Arkansas is No. 63 in run offense vs. an Auburn team ranked No. 101 in run defense. Auburn is No. 53 in run offense vs. Arkansas, which is No. 52 in run defense.
Keys to Victory...
Since Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference the team with the most rushing yardage in this series is 16-6-1. Auburn is 1-7 vs. Arkansas when the Razorbacks rush for at least 175 yards.
Auburn has allowed an average of 200 yards rushing per game at 5.1 yards per rush during that last 36 conference games. It will be essential for Auburn to control the Razorback running game.
Auburn with a Malzahn offense is 25-5 in games the Tigers score at least 10 points during the first period. It is vital for the offense to start off well.
Sean White is a redshirt freshman quarterback for the Tigers.
Arkansas is No. 45 nationally in yards rushing allowed per attempt on first down and Auburn is worse, ranked No. 108.
Auburn is No. 24 in pass efficiency on first-down, something the Tigers must take advantage of against the Razorbacks. Arkansas is currently No. 119 in pass-efficiency defense on first-down.
Since Malzahn has been at Auburn the Tigers are 43-4 when they out-rush and out-carry their opponent.
What to Watch...
- Last week against Kentucky the Tigers attempted a season high number of passes on first downs at 31 percent. Because Arkansas is allowing only 3.8 yards per rush on first down plays, look for Auburn to exploit the Razorback defense that is allowing 11.3 yards per pass attempt on first down and a completion rate of 77 percent.
- Auburn's defense has allowed the opponent to take at least seven snaps during a possession 50 percent of the time. Look for Arkansas to exploit this weakness on the Auburn defense to make it a short possession ball game.
- Auburn is No. 61 in turnover margin while the Razorbacks are No. 113. During the last 20 meetings against the Razorbacks, Auburn is 8-4 when the Tigers don't lose the turnover battle and 2-6 when they do. Weather could be a factor this Saturday with a high probability of rain forecasted during the game.
- During this SEC West showdown, Auburn is 9-1 against the Razorbacks with a pass rating of 139 or better and 3-9-1 when under 139.
- Arkansas has held all six of its opponents below their rushing average on the season. The Razorback defense is currently holding opponents to 43 percent below their rushing average, which projects Auburn to have 105 yards rushing. Taking Auburn's rushing yardage against Power-5 opponents, the Tigers are gaining 20 percent more than the opponent normally allows. This projects for Auburn to rush for 129 yards on Saturday. Malzahn is 5-5 at Auburn when his offense is held under 130 yards rushing, averaging 22 points in those 10 games.
The series with the Razorbacks has always been a very physical match up with Arkansas winning the tackle for loss battle in 15 of the last 20 meetings. The rushing history during this series tends to favor the better running team, but that can be said in most conference games. This year's match up of run offense vs. run defense slightly favors the Razorbacks. Though the focus will initially be on the running games, Auburn has been victorious 90 percent of the time with a solid showing in the passing game. In the past, Malzahn has run to set up the passing game, but this will be a game Auburn will need to pass to set up the run.
White will be making his fourth career start, and second on the road. He has been solid in his execution of the offense, not allowing the game to become too big for his abilities. Though he has completed 66 percent of his 65 pass attempts, he has yet to throw his first collegiate touchdown pass. White will play a major role in the success of the offense, but Malzahn cannot afford to place too much pressure on his redshirt freshman.
Opening up the offense on first down plays will be the key, allowing White to throw when the Tigers want to rather than when they have to. Auburn is 14-3 under Malzahn when the Tigers attempt at least eight passes on first down with a pass-rating of 130 or better.
Montravius Adams and the rest of the Auburn defensive front should be challenged by the Arkansas running attack.
The Razorbacks had a bye-week, giving them an extra time to prepare for the Tigers and to rest up after a 2-4 start. Since joining the SEC, Arkansas is 2-5-1 vs. Auburn when entering the game with a losing record. The two victories in that circumstance came against Auburn in 2008 and 2012.
Arkansas has come close to playing well enough to be 4-2 on the season with narrow losses to Toledo and Texas A&M. Despite its record this Arkansas team is better than the Kentucky team that Auburn defeated last week, 30-27. Auburn cannot afford a slow start similar to the LSU and Mississippi State games, especially with the offense still building its identity. Auburn is 8-10 with Malzahn calling the offense and trailing on the scoreboard after the first quarter.
If Auburn continues to throw on first down and protects the football, I expect the offense to continue its upward trend. Arkansas under Bielema is 0-9 in conference play when the Razorbacks surrender more than 150 yards rushing. During those nine games, the Razorbacks allowed 18 touchdown passes with only three interceptions. Maintaining this kind of offensive balance will be the key for the Auburn offense against what should be a well-prepared Arkansas defense. Auburn 27, Arkansas 24
Around the Southeastern Conference:
Alabama over Tennessee
Missouri over Vanderbilt
LSU over Western Kentucky
Texas A&M over Ole Miss
Mississippi State over Kentucky
Season Record: 51-14