StatTiger: Analyzing Auburn at Arkansas

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) previews Auburn at Arkansas on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.

Arkansas Razorbacks: 3-2 Overall, 0-2 SEC

Offensive NumbersYards Per GameNational Rank
Points:42.6 points10th
Defensive NumbersYards Per GameNational Rank
Points:26.2 points63rd

Series Record Against Auburn: 6-9-1

After representing the SEC West in the championship game last season, the Arkansas Razorbacks are off to an inauspicious start in 2007. Houston Nutt's running game is operating at an all-time high but his defense has allowed more than 40 points to both Alabama and Kentucky, starting off the season with a 0-2 record in conference play.

The combination of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones has accounted for 282 yards rushing per game, giving the Razorbacks the second best rushing attack in the nation. As a team, Arkansas has averaged 338 yards rushing per game and 42.6 points per game. This Saturday's game against Auburn could make or break the Razorback's season.

Last time out...

The Razorbacks are coming off a workman-like performance against Chattanooga, defeating the Moccasins by a score of 34-15. Both McFadden and Jones rushed for more than 100 yards, but McFadden was slowed by bruised ribs and the Razorback defense surrendered a couple of big plays.

Auburn makes its second road trip of the season after defeating Vanderbilt at home, 35-7. Once again, the Tigers put on a near flawless exhibition during the first half while building a 28-0 halftime lead. Auburn fans saw the return of running back Brad Lester and Coach Al Borges did an excellent job in distributing the football to his trio of backs.

About Arkansas...

Simply put, the Arkansas Razorbacks are riding the talents of one of the best running back duos in the history of college football. The two junior running backs made their first appearance in 2005 and have amassed some very impressive career numbers over the last three seasons. McFadden has totaled 3,589 yards rushing for an average of 119.6 yards per game. Jones has rushed for 2,425 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry over a 30-game stretch.

This season, McFadden is averaging 155.8 yards rushing per game and Jones has gained 126.2 yards. McFadden has been the primary rusher with 130 carries for a 5.99 average. Jones' carries have been limited to about 12 per game but he's averaging an eye-popping 10.5 yards per carry. The Razorback passing game has struggled this season with fullback Peyton Hillis the leading receiver with 17 catches.

The Arkansas defense has allowed 352 yards per game, which is currently 46th in the nation. Though the Razorbacks possess a prolific running game, their opponents have found success running the ball, averaging 151 yards per game on the ground. Both Alabama and Kentucky were able to amass well over 400 yards in total offense against the Razorback defense.

About Auburn...

After starting off the season at 1-2, the Auburn Tigers are currently on a three-game winning streak. The most notable improvement has been offense where the Tigers are averaging 37 points per game on offense over the last three games compared to the 20 points per game during the first three games. Auburn has improved its third down production from 32% to 45% and is averaging 6.05 yards per play on first down, compared to the 4.30 yards per play during the first three games.

The primary reason for improvement on offense has been the execution of a very young offensive line. During the first three games of the season, Auburn averaged 3.4 yards rushing per play and 4.4 yards per play on offense. In the last three games the Tigers have gained 4.4 yards rushing per play and 5.8 yards per play. Because of the improvement up front, offensive coordinator Al Borges now has the opportunity to be more creative in his play calling.

Despite numerous injuries on the defensive side of the ball, Auburn has consistently played well in 2007, allowing 293 yards per game and 17 points per game. Ten different players on the Auburn defense have totaled over 20 tackles on the season, with Chris Evans leading the team with 35.

McFadden has a dangerous stiff-arm and deceptive speed.

Final Thoughts...

If Auburn is to collect its fifth victory of the season this Saturday, it must control the Arkansas running game. Expecting the Auburn defense to shut down the Razorback running game is asking for the near impossible. Over the last 15 games the Razorbacks have been held to under 200-yards rushing only three times, and they have surpassed 250 yards rushing 10 times.

Auburn fans are well aware of how dangerous the Arkansas running game has been since Nutt's arrival in Fayetteville. Over the last three seasons, Auburn has not been the only prominent team within the conference to fall victim to the Razorback running game. Arkansas has put up over 200-yards rushing against Alabama (2 times), Georgia, Tennessee and LSU.

During the last eight meetings between Arkansas and Auburn, the Razorbacks are 4-0 when they have 40 rushes or more and 0-4 when they don't. Interesting enough, this has been the case for Arkansas against all their opponents over the past three seasons. Over the last 30 games, the Razorbacks have averaged 169.5 yards per game when held to under 40 rush attempts during a game (11 games). When Arkansas totals 40 carries or more (19 times), they have averaged 284.8 yards rushing per game.

Under 40 carries, the Razorbacks average 4.9 yards per carry and 22 points per game. Over 40 rush attempts, Arkansas has averaged more than six yards per carry and 34 points per game on offense. Arkansas is 12-7 when it totals 40 rush attempts and 5-6 when held to under 40 rush attempts. The Arkansas coaching staff has been patient with their running game. Even when it fell behind Alabama, it continued to run the ball until they actually retook the lead late in the final period.

Though the Tiger defense has been a constant through six games, it will certainly have its hands full against the Razorbacks. Another team effort will be needed to secure a victory in Fayetteville. Because the Auburn offense is remaining on the field in recent weeks, Auburn's defense is taking fewer reps on the field. During the first four games of the season the Auburn defense was averaging just over 14 series per game. Against Florida and Vanderbilt, the defense was on the field for an average of 11 series.

For the season, Arkansas is +10 on offense and –4 on defense in scoring margins, with an average score of 43-26. The Auburn Tigers are +6 on offense and –13 on defense with an average score of 28-17. Based on the both team's average scores and scoring margins, Arkansas wins this game 29-28. Tossing out the North Texas, Chattanooga and New Mexico State games, Auburn wins this game, 31-26. Factoring the scoring margins from conference play only and Auburn wins this game, 35-21.

Possible scores based on the various scoring margins:

Auburn 32-30
Arkansas 27-24
Auburn 39-24
Arkansas 28-23
Auburn 42-18
Auburn 27-25

Just as the sun will certainly rise Saturday morning, the Razorbacks will certainly have some success running on the Auburn defense. The keys for Auburn will be limiting the Razorbacks total number of rushes, not allowing the big play and for the Auburn offense to sustain drives and to score at least 27 points. The defense had to carry the offense during the first three games and the time has come for the offense to return the favor this week.

Auburn 31, Arkansas 25

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