ITAT Analyzes Arkansas at Auburn Matchup

Jason Caldwell previews this week's Auburn football game as the Arkansas Razorbacks head to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

By The Numbers:

*The road team has had great success in this rivalry as it has won five of the last six meetings between the two schools and three in a row.

*Over the past five years Auburn is 9-1 in its first game following a loss, including this year's 14-12 win over Tennessee. The Tigers are 49-11 at home since 2000.

*Auburn ranks third nationally in allowing just 4.70 yards per pass attempt. Auburn's SEC opponents are averaging just 130.5 passing yards per game.

*Auburn has held its opponents to 14 or less points in five of the first six games. It's the first time a Tiger team has accomplished that feat since 1988.

When Arkansas Has The Ball:
Even though Arkansas has struggled this season, make no mistake about it, the Razorbacks can move the football and have the potential to score points in bunches behind quarterback Casey Dick and running back Michael Smith. This season Dick is 98-165 for 1,189 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions. In just four games Smith has 423 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

When Auburn Has The Ball:
What exactly will be the identity of the Tigers this week now that Tony Franklin is no longer a part of the offense? This season the spread offense has morphed into something entirely different as last week against Vanderbilt the Tigers got under center and ran out of the ace formation (two tight ends and one back) early in the game. It won't be surprising if we will see more of that this week, but Tommy Tuberville has said repeatedly the Tigers will continue running the spread. How much they will do that is difficult to predict, but both Chris Todd and Kodi Burns are likely to get action at quarterback and if one can make plays early he will likely take things home.

Player To Watch For Arkansas:
Without a doubt it's Casey Dick. The quarterback has been turnover prone for much of his career, but has flourished somewhat in Petrino's attacking offense. With talented receivers such as D.J. Williams, Joe Adams and London Crawford to throw to, Dick has the chance to put up good numbers this week against what will be a depleted Auburn secondary without its best player Jerraud Powers. It will be up to Auburn's defensive front to get pressure on Dick and not allow him to set his feet all day long.

Player To Watch For Auburn:
If Dick is the most important Razorback then Neiko Thorpe has to get that nod for the Tigers this week. Replacing Jerraud Powers is an almost impossible job as the junior has become one of the SEC's best players regardless of position. Thorpe has played well at times, but last week when thrust into play against Vanderbilt the Commodores had some success throwing the ball against the freshman. As the every down player this week against Arkansas, Thorpe can expect to be attacked early and often by Petrino. With his NFL background and style of coaching, Petrino won't hesitate to test the true freshman in any situation.

Something You May Not Know About Arkansas:
The Razorbacks are bad on defense. Okay so they've faced some of the country's hottest offenses in recent weeks, but even early in the season they allowed 341 yards and 27 points to Louisiana-Monroe. Since then it has been 49 to Alabama, 52 to Texas and 38 to Florida. Arkansas has just five sacks in five games and only two interceptions. This season the Razorbacks have turned the ball over 11 times to just three for their opponents.

Something You May Not Know About Auburn:
While the offense has struggled without question, the Tigers have still managed 20 plays of more than 20 yards through six games this season. Of those 20, 16 have come by passing the football with Chris Todd throwing 15 of those. Four have gone to Rod Smith to lead all receivers. On the ground Ben Tate has three of the four runs with the other coming from Kodi Burns.

Analysis:
This is a game Auburn desperately needs to win if the Tigers hold out any hope of a run at the SEC Championship Game. Despite having two losses only one is in the division to LSU and as the Bengal Tigers showed last season anything is possible with two losses, even the national championship. Before Auburn even begins to worry about that though it needs to find some offense in a hurry. With a lot of players less than full speed defensively, this needs to be the week that Auburn's offense steps up and takes the pressure off of their defensive teammates. Is that even possible this week with a change in offense three days before the game? A month ago this looked like it would be a game the Tigers should win with room to spare, but there has to be concern for the Tigers against any conference opponent until the offense improves significantly. If Auburn's defense plays like it has all year, and with the Tigers at home at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Tommy Tuberville's team should be able to hold off the visitors from Fayetteville.


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