Jason Ivester

Stat Tiger Column: Previewing Auburn at Arkansas Football Game

Inside the Auburn Tigers/AUTigers.com columnist Stuart Carter crunches the numbers to pick a winner as the Arkansas Razorbacks travel to Auburn for a Saturday evening SEC football contest.

Brett Bielema (above) coach the Razorbacks.

No. 17 Arkansas (5-2) at No. 21 Auburn (4-2)

Series Record: Auburn leads 13-11-1

Last Meeting: 2016, Arkansas 54-46 (four overtimes)

About the teams:
*Coach Brett Bielema of Arkansas is 91-46 overall and 23-22 at Arkansas. Gus Malzahn is 40-18 all-time as a college head coach and 31-15 at Auburn.
*The last time out Auburn defeated Mississippi State 38-14 before a bye week while Arkansas got past Ole Miss 34-30.
*Auburn is 3-5 against Arkansas during the last eight meetings.
*Austin Allen of Arkansas is the No. 2 rated passer in the Southeastern Conference at 156.0. He is averaging 265.9 yards per game and has thrown for 18 touchdowns passes through seven games.
*Rawleigh Williams of Arkansas is the second leading rusher in the conference with 785 yards at 5.6 yards per attempt.
*Senior Drew Morgan leads the Razorbacks with 37 receptions this season for 378 yards and two touchdowns. He is currently the third leading receiver in the conference.
*Linebacker Brooks Ellis leads the Arkansas defense with 51 tackles. Deatrich Wise leads the Razorbacks in the tackles for loss with 4.5.
*Auburn’s Sean White is the No. 1 rated passer in the SEC with a rating of 157.2. He is averaging 198 yards passing per game while completing nearly 70 percent of his attempts. His primary target has been senior Tony Stevens, who has hauled in 24 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns this season.


Sean White is in his second season as a starter for the Tigers.

*Auburn has two 500-yard rushers in Kerryon Johnson, who is averaging 89.7 yards per game, and Kamryn Pettway, who is averaging 101 yards per contest. The two have combined for 10 rushing touchdowns.
*Rudy Ford leads Auburn’s defense with 37 tackles and Carl Lawson leads the Tigers in tackles for loss with seven.
*Auburn is No. 5 in the SEC in producing plays of 20 yards or more and the Arkansas offense is No. 6. The Auburn defense is No. 7 in the conference in allowing 20-yard plus plays and the Razorbacks are No. 13.
*Auburn is No. 6 in the conference in rushing yards against Power-5 competition while Arkansas is No. 11. The Tigers are No. 8 defending the run against Power-5 competition and Arkansas is No. 12.
*Malzahn’s offense has averaged 449 yards and 36 points per game during seven meetings against Arkansas.
*Malzahn’s offense at Auburn has averaged 249 yards rushing against the Razorbacks.

How They Match Up...
*Against Power-5 competition Auburn is No. 10 in total offense, facing off with an Arkansas defense No. 14 in the conference. Arkansas is No. 4 in offense, challenging an AU defense ranked No. 8 in the conference.
*Against Power-5 opponents Arkansas is No. 3 in pass efficiency in the conference and will face an Auburn defense rated as No. 4 in the SEC.
*Arkansas is No. 3 in the SEC in third down conversions against Power-5 competition. It will face an Auburn team ranked No. 2 on defense in that category. Auburn is No. 9 against Power-5 competition and will face an Arkansas defense dead last in the conference.
*Auburn has the edge in the red zone. The Tigers are No. 12 on offense in conference play and will face an Arkansas defense ranked No. 11. Arkansas is No. 8 against SEC competition and will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 2.
*Auburn averages a touchdown every 22.8 snaps and will face an Arkansas defense that allows one every 18.8 snaps. Arkansas has scored a touchdown every 17.6 plays and will face an Auburn defense allowing one every 41.2 snaps.

Keys to Victory...
•Since Arkansas joined the conference in 1992, the Tigers are 9-3-1 vs. the Razorbacks when they rush for at least 180 yards and 3-8, when they don’t.
•Limiting the big plays will be essential for the Auburn defense. Against four Power-5 opponents Arkansas has produced 27 plays of 20 yards or more while Auburn’s offense has produced only 12 against four Power-5 opponents.
•Auburn’s defense has allowed 17 plays of 20 yards or more during four Power-5 games and the Arkansas defense has surrendered 28 such plays.
•A good start for the offense under Malzahn is a key to victory. The Tigers are 32-5 when they score at least 10 points during the first quarter and 29-20 when they don’t.
•Both teams are in their comfort zone offensively when they establish their running game. Arkansas is 2-2 with 40 rush attempts or less and 3-0 with more than 40 rush attempts.

What to Watch...
*Though Allen is No. 2 in pass efficiency in the conference, he drops to No. 7 on third down. Can Auburn place Arkansas in obvious passing situations? 
*Auburn’s linebackers will be severely tested this Saturday defending the run and pass with multiple tight end alignments by the visitors.
*Which team is more efficient on first down? Auburn is No. 13 in yards per play on first down in the conference and will face an Arkansas defense that is No. 12. Arkansas is No. 8 on offense, going up against a defense ranked No. 3 in the SEC.
*Auburn running backs were targeted seven times during the first three games and 11 times during the last three games. Look for this trend to continue and for the running backs to be more involved in the passing game.
*Scoring margins and averages against Power-5 competition projects two scores. The first projection is a 26-22 Arkansas victory and the second projection is Auburn, 46-19. Average the two scores and Auburn wins 34-23.

Final Word...
Both teams enter the contest ranked in the Top 25 of the AP poll and the coaches polls. Neither team can afford another conference loss. Auburn is coming off a much-needed bye week and will face an Arkansas team riding high from its big win over Ole Miss.
Because Arkansas is the most balanced team (play-selection) in the conference, the Razorbacks will be the most challenging offense Auburn has faced this season. The Razorbacks’ use of multiple tight ends is an element no other team in the conference utilizes. They can operate from power formations and spread the opposition out with three tight end sets. They are different and very well coached under offensive coordinator Dan Enos. His development of the Allen brothers at quarterback the past two seasons has been exceptional.
The most consistent element of this Auburn football team has been the defense, something that hasn’t be said about the Tigers since 2008. The defense has held its four Power-5 opponents to 42 percent below their scoring averages, which projects Arkansas to score 19 points. Auburn hasn’t given up 30 or more points in eight consecutive games. The last time Auburn’s defense accomplished the feat was in 2007 and 2008.


Photo by Jason Caldwell

DeShaun Davis has developed into a key player for the Tigers at linebacker.

Auburn has not been dominant on defense this season, but the Tigers have been very consistent. They have held their last seven opponents under their scoring average and yardage average for the season. The last time an Auburn defense accomplished this feat was during the 2005 season. As well as the defense has performed this year, it has not reached its full potential.
Auburn’s defense is finally performing at a level to position the Tigers into defeating every opponent remaining on their schedule. Had Auburn’s offense scored only 20 points in every game this season, the Tigers would be 5-1 (83 percent). Placing the same standard of the Pat Dye Era, Auburn would have won 69 percent of its games. During the Terry Bowden Era, Auburn would have won 50 percent of its games had the Tigers scored just 20 points in every contest. The percentage of wins would have increased to 58 percent under Tommy Tuberville and dropped to 28 percent from 2009 through 2015.
Auburn hasn’t performed this well on defense since the 2006 season, but the Tigers still need the offense to continue to improve. The flashes of explosiveness we witnessed during the first half of the Mississippi State game will be necessary Saturday night against the Razorbacks. Auburn 31, Arkansas 24

Around the Southeastern Conference:
South Carolina over UMass
Alabama over Texas A&M
Missouri over Middle Tennessee
Mississippi State over Kentucky
Vanderbilt over Tennessee State
Ole Miss over LSU

Season Record: 50-13

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