What To Watch: Auburn vs. Arkansas

Auburn, Ala.--Winning football games in Arkansas is nothing new to Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville. He has won on several levels there--as a player, a high school coach and as a college assistant, but the Arkansas native has never won a game as a college head coach.

The third-year coach will make his fourth attempt Saturday at Reynolds-Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville when his No. 17-ranked Tigers face Houston Nutt and the Hogs. Tuberville lost twice while at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebels and made a less than spectacular debut as the Tigers' head coach two seasons ago losing 34-10 to the Razorbacks.

If Tuberville wants to notch his first win in Arkansas, then he will need a more consistent Daniel Cobb under center this week. How Cobb performs in his first-career road start is just one area we will highlight in this week's What To Watch:

Risk Management

Cobb showed during his relief stint vs. Florida and his start vs. Louisiana Tech that he is much more willing to take chance than former starting QB Jason Campbell. His risk taking worked out well against the Gators, but it was nearly disastrous against the Bulldogs a week later. "I'm going to be aggressive and try to make plays," Cobb says. "But, there's a fine line between being aggressive and shooting the ball in there and going past that line and doing something that is really not smart.

It's highly unlikely that Cobb and the Tigers will be able to escape from Arkansas with a victory if the senior signal caller makes the same ill-advised throws he made late in the contest vs. the Bulldogs. His statistics were impressive as he completed 28-48 passes for 381 yards, but his touchdown to interception ratio of 5:4 was not.

Stingy Hogs

One week after the Tigers found their passing attack, they might be forced to shut it down again as they face a Hog defense that is allowing just 180.2 yards a game through the air. Auburn offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is probably not too concerned because that same Hog defense ranks ninth in the conference against the run yielding 155 yards per game. Mazzone's Tigers are averaging 157.1 yards on the ground and watch for Auburn's one-two punch of tailbacks Casinious Moore and Carnell Williams to try and wear down the home team.

Sputtering Hogs

Arkansas would likely be sitting at 0-4 in conference play if it weren't for the defense's effort vs. South Carolina. Not that 1-3 is much better, but you can't blame the defense when your offense is still stuck in neutral and only averages 15.8 points per outing. Just how bad is it? The Razorbacks are the only conference team averaging less than 300 yards of total offense per game (240.7). They rank last in passing offense (121.8) and rank 10th in rushing offense (118.8). It gets uglier. The Hogs' 82 first downs are the fewest by any league team and their third-down conversion percentage of 27.2 also ranks at the bottom.
One area of the Arkansas offense that is beginning to show signs of life in is the running game. Junior Fred Talley had back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts and nifty backup Cedric Cobbs returns to the lineup fully-recovered from a hamstring injury.

Paper or Field

If the game was played by just looking at the stats, then Auburn would have the decisive advantage. But it's not. This game will be played between the chalked lines of the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium field and Coach Houston Nutt is 10-3 in games played there. Arkansas has also had two weeks to prepare for the Tigers after its emotional 10-7 upset over No. 10 South Carolina and will have had time to heal and put in new wrinkles both offensively and defensively.
The Hogs' homefield advantage could be hurt by an 11:30 a.m. kickoff and the forecast of pleasant weather Saturday because an early afternoon crowd seems to get less involved in a game until they are needed and the Tigers have yet to play in ideal weather conditions in previous trips to Fayetteville.

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