No. 20 Auburn (4-2 Overall, 2-2 SEC)
The Arkansas Razorbacks are in the middle of a rebuilding job under first-year coach Bobby Petrino. The transition to his pro-style offense has had mixed results as the Razorbacks have shown signs of explosiveness, but have sputtered in the red zone.
Junior running back Michael Smith has gained 423 yards on just 74 carries, including two games of more than 100 yards. Casey Dick is currently averaging 238 yards passing per game while completing 59 percent. Tight end D.J. Williams leads the team with 25 receptions.
The Razorback defense enters the game as the 112th ranked group in points allowed. Linebacker Jerry Franklin leads the team with 42 tackles, including one interception. During the last three games Arkansas has allowed an average of 271 yards rushing and 46 points.
With the installation of a new offense, the defense has collapsed allowing no breathing room for mistakes. Through five games, Arkansas has only five sacks and only 25 tackles for loss. In comparison, the Auburn defense has recorded 13 sacks and 42 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Inside the Numbers...
* Opposing running backs have feasted on the Razorback defense as Arkansas has allowed four different backs to eclipse the 100-yard mark.
* Arkansas is allowing 4.2 sacks per game, 119th in the nation.
* Arkansas is 58th in the nation in kick-returns and 101st in punt-returns.
* Since joining the SEC, Arkansas is 6-9-1 vs. Auburn, scoring a total of 348 points in 16 meetings, while allowing 355.
* In the nine meetings against an Auburn team coached by Tommy Tuberville, the Razorbacks have averaged 190-yards rushing per game with a 5.3 average per carry. * Auburn has been held to under 20 points in offense in six of the last nine meetings with Arkansas.
* In the last 16 meetings against Arkansas, an Auburn running back has rushed for more than 100 yards seven different times. Stephen Davis had a career game against the Razorbacks in 1994, rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
* Jason Campbell had the best performance by an Auburn quarterback against the Razorbacks in 2004. Campbell passed for 297 yards on just 19 pass attempts, posting a QB rating of 272.9. Patrick Nix holds the record for the most passing yards against Arkansas with 387 yards in 1995.
* Willie Gosha established an Auburn team record with 17 receptions against Arkansas in 1995, accounting for 222 yards.
* Of all the teams in the Southeastern Conference, Auburn receivers have had more success against Arkansas since the SEC expanded in 1992. Auburn has seven individual receiving performances of 100 yards or more against Arkansas.
* Ben Tate recorded his fifth 100-yard game last week against Vanderbilt and Auburn is 13-2 when Tate rushes for at least 70 yards. Last year, Ben Tate rushed for 91 yards on 23 carries against Arkansas.
* After averaging only 17.5 yards per possession during their its two possessions against Mississippi State and LSU, Auburn has averaged 45.5 yards against Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Zac Etheridge, #4, and the Auburn secondary will be put to the test against the Razorbacks.
The termination of Coach Tony Franklin on Wednesday came as a surprise to the Auburn fan base. Though the firing may not have been a complete surprise, the timing of it certainly was. All that matters at this point is that Auburn has half of a regular season remaining and the team needs to move on as soon as possible.
In the long run, the timing of Franklin's departure might benefit Auburn as the remaining coaching staff can now focus on what needs to be done on offense and will more than likely be on the same page.
Arkansas just might be the weakest defense Auburn has faced this season, but Auburn just might be the weakest offense the Razorbacks have faced. Though Arkansas has suffered through its own issues on the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers are a few miscues away from being a decent offense. At times Arkansas has been its own worst enemy and Petrino has been one of top offensive coaches in college football. Add to the mix, Auburn's recent injuries on defense and Arkansas has a better opportunity of moving the football.
As well as the Auburn defense has performed this season, there have been some soft spots in the secondary that previous opponents have failed to exploit. I tend to look at these plays as hidden mistakes that could resurface at a later date against a better offensive team.
Auburn has proven to be prone to giving up the deep routes over the middle, an area Arkansas has been able to strike in previous games. The Razorbacks' ability to showcase balance in their offense could translate to match up issues for the Auburn defense, which has been depleted by injuries.
The scoring averages and margins make Auburn a heavy favorite on Saturday, which was evident by an 18 1/2 points spread in favor of Auburn. For those shocked by the near three-touchdown spread, it has more to do with Arkansas scoring 31 points, while allowing 139 in its last three outings.
For the season Arkansas is plus one on offense and plus three on defense with an average score of 17-38. Auburn is currently minus three on offense, but minus 14 on defense with an average score of 19-11. Taking Arkansas's average score versus Auburn's scoring margins and Auburn wins, 35-3. Take Auburn's average score against Arkansas' scoring margins and Auburn wins, 22-12. Average the two scores and Auburn wins, 28-8.
Until the Auburn offense can find its identity on offense, 35 points against an SEC opponent doesn't seem probable, which makes leaning toward the 22-12 score, more realistic. Much like the Vanderbilt game, this should be a game in which Auburn can simply defeat the Razorbacks by simply out-manning them on the field. Auburn did so in the first few possessions of the Vanderbilt game, but elected to move in a different direction. Something tells me the Auburn coaches won't make the same mistake this Saturday as Auburn cruises to a comfortable victory.
Auburn 27, Arkansas 13