Running Game Key Against Hogs

A look at Auburn's football opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Auburn, Ala.--The 6-1 Auburn Tigers travel to Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday for perhaps the most important game of the season when they take on the 3-3 Razorbacks looking to remain undefeated in SEC play.

Coming in after an off-week following a big 10-7 win over South Carolina in Little Rock, the Razorbacks have had two weeks to get ready for a chance at salvaging their season. That begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday as they try to hand the Tigers their second road loss of the season in a game that will likely be decided in the fourth quarter, something both teams have had amply opportunity to experience this season.

The Tigers have played five games decided by a touchdown or less this season while the Hogs have played four of their six with margins of 10 points or less. With plenty of experience in tight situations and solid kicking games from both teams, this could be a game decided by field position and time of possession. That means the team that runs the ball best wins.

Arkansas comes into the contest after having the best rushing games of the season in their last two outings. With 322 yards on the ground against Weber State and 162 against the Gamecocks, Coach Houston Nutt's team appears to have found the secret to success on the ground. The main cog of that success is junior tailback Fred Talley. The 5-9, 180-pound speedster has tallied two consecutive 100-yard games and has 347 yards on 77 carries this season. Also look for sophomore sensation Cedric Cobbs to become more involved for Arkansas this week as he continues to recover from an early season hamstring injury. If he's back to form, the one-two punch of Talley and Cobbs will be a tough assignment for the Auburn defense.

Conversely, the Arkansas defense has struggled at times against the run and that could be a big factor in this game. With a very strong secondary led by safety Ken Hamlin, the Hogs are tough against the pass and that could allow them to take some chances this weekend to stop the run. Those chances may not be warranted as the front four of Carlos Hall (6-4, 261, Sr.), Jermaine Brooks (6-3, 295, Jr.), Curt Davis (6-3, 277, Sr.) and Raymond House (6-3, 260, Jr.) anchor a defense that has allowed just 225 yards rushing in their last two games. If they continue that strong play, it will mean the Tigers will be forced to throw the ball against a secondary that allows just 180 yards per game with seven interceptions compared to just two scores given up all season.

In the passing game quarterback Zac Clark (6-2, 198, So.) continues his suspect play but has earned the start by virtue of the win over South Carolina. Averaging just 89 yards per game in the air, Clark does one thing well: he doesn't turn the ball over on a regular basis. With just three interceptions on the season in 98 attempts, he does his best not to put the defense in bad situations. When he puts the ball up you can bet that either Richard Smith (5-10, 184, So.) or George Wilson (6-1, 202, RFr.) will be on the receiving end. With 45 of the team's 75 receptions and both touchdowns and a combined 528 yards, the duo will be the players to watch when the Razorbacks put the ball in the air.

With an overall record of 246-95-10 in Fayettville, including a mark of 9-3 under Nutt, this game will be a very tough one for the Tigers. Auburn will be helped by the 11:30 a.m. start time for the game that should keep the crowd out of the game a little better than in years' past. Television coverage will be provided on a regional basis by Jefferson-Pilot television.

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