First and foremost, the Tigers have to get the quarterback situation finalized with a healthy Daniel Cobb to take over the reigns of the leading offense in the SEC. Averaging 434 yards and 36.6 points per game, the offense under the direction of Bobby Petrino should have Cobb back under center if he continues to get better after injuring his ankle against Syracuse.
"I would think that he would get to 100 percent by game time," Petrino said. "I don't think he was 100 percent (Sunday). He took his reps and stepped into the ball and threw it. It's just a matter of how he keeps coming along. I think having the break with the weekend off helped him tremendously. He went to treatment for a couple of days straight so he's in pretty good shape."
Cobb and the Tigers had the day off on Monday, but will be back on the practice fields for a Tuesday evening workout.
If Cobb is unable to go full speed on Saturday then the job would go to sophomore Jason Campbell. After filling in admirably in Auburn's comeback win over the Orangemen, he says that if he's not named the starter this weekend he'll continue to work just as hard.
"It's not hard," Campbell said of practicing knowing that he might not earn the job this week. "You just go out there and stay focused and you just continue to work. You continue to play and you go out there like you do every day and every week when you're preparing for a game."
Despite Arkansas playing to six overtimes Saturday night before losing to Tennessee and being drummed at home by Alabama the week before, the Tigers aren't overlooking the Razorbacks by any stretch of the imagination. Last season's memories seem to have spurred Auburn to be ready to take care of business when the Hogs roll into town. Losing a game 42-17 in which you outgain the other team 492 to 297 will usually take care of that. Although he wasn't a part of last season's game, Petrino said that he expects nothing but the best from Arkansas and his own offense. After struggling in the first quarter of all but one game this season, he knows that can't continue if this team hopes to continue winning down the stretch.
Linebacker Mayo Sowell tackles Arkansas tailback Cedric Cobbs during last season's game.
"I don't think so," Petrino answered if he thought the Hogs would be flat after Saturday's marathon loss. "I think they'll be as ready as any game they've been in. They have to feel that they played real well. They're going to see that they did a good job of shutting Tennessee's offense down. They're going to come in with a lot of enthusiasm and confidence. It's going to be up to us to play our game and offensively we have to get out there and execute early. We can't take a quarter off and not execute and not get the ball in the end zone in the first quarter. It's going to be important that we move the ball early.
"They are a very good defense. They're fast. They put eight or nine guys in the box and they have two good cover corners. It will be a lot of hard work for us, but I think our kids are up to the challenge."
Defensively, the Hogs have continued to play the same style that former coordinator and current Florida coach John Thompson employed. Blitzing at almost every opportunity because of the play of corners Lawrence Richardson and Ahmad "Batman" Carroll on the outside, they bring the heat to opponents and Petrino said the Tigers have to be ready for any and everything Saturday.
"They're a multiple front team," Petrino noted. "They move guys around and get up into the line of scrimmage. They do a lot of blitz. Their corners play a lot of man coverage, press them up and play man with them. Their safeties are very good tacklers, both of them make a lot of tackles. They give you a lot of problems with their scheme."
Offensively, the Tigers will have to stop quarterback Matt Jones to be successful. Leading the team in passing with 551 yards and second in rushing with 249, just 44 yards behind Cedric Cobbs, the elusive and speedy sophomore will be a load for the Auburn defense. After rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown off the bench in last season's victory over the Tigers, Jones isn't a secret weapon anymore. The Tigers know exactly who he is.
"Matt Jones is a great athlete," junior linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "He's got deceptive speed, he can run pretty good. He's kind of tall, kind of long. People really doubt his size. I think he's about 6-6, 225. He's a good-size kid. He can run with the ball. That's their key on offense and we have to try to stop him."
With an off week to prepare for Jones and the option attack the Hogs occasionally throw at teams, the Tigers spent much of the time working on assignments and technique on both sides of the ball, but in particular on defense. After getting burned last season with Jones at the helm, senior free safety Travaris Robinson said the Tigers are practicing hard so that doesn't happen again.
"We worked on our assignments for the option because we know we're going to see it again," Robinson said. "We know they're going to run it and they run it pretty good. Coach (Gene Chizik) has us back in our techniques. We didn't really work a lot on Arkansas (last week), we worked a lot on ourselves. Now we're going to focus on Arkansas. We threw them in every now and then, but now we'll concentrate on them and get back to our normal routine."