2009 National Rankings:
Rush Offense: 5th/Rush Offense: 95th
Pass Offense: 29th/Pass Offense: 7th
Total Offense: 5th/Total Offense: 18th
Score Offense: 5th/Score Offense: 17th
Rush Defense: 82nd/Rush Defense: 48th
Pass Defense: 38th/Pass Defense: 113th
Total Defense: 53rd/Total Defense: 97th
Score Defense: 58th/Score Defense: 90th
The Razorbacks are 2-2 on the season, but 0-2 in conference play. Arkansas is coming off an impressive victory over previously unbeaten Texas A&M, defeating the Aggies, 47-19.
Coach Bobby Petrino's offense is currently No. 18 in the nation, averaging 441.0 yards per game led by Ryan Mallett. The sophomore quarterback has thrown for 11 touchdowns while compiling the nation's 12th best quarterback rating at 159.1.
Mallett's primary targets have been Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, who all have over 250 yards in receiving through four games. Senior running back, Michael Smith rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, but is off to a slower start with 180 yards through four games in 2009.
Senior linebacker Wendel Davis leads the Razorbacks in tackles with 30 stops and Malcolm Sheppard (DE) leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss. Arkansas has continued to struggle on the defensive side of the football, and is currently ranked No. 97 in total defense and No. 90 in scoring defense.
The Razorback defense has improved against the run, which was rated 90th in the nation last season, allowing 170.7 yards per game. This season the Razorbacks are currently 48th in the nation, allowing 121.0 yards per game. Most of the damage to the defense has come against defending the pass with Arkansas currently ranked at No. 113 in pass defense and No. 111 in pass efficiency defense.
Since joining the Southeastern Conference, Arkansas is 7-9-1 against Auburn. In the 17 conference meetings between Arkansas and Auburn, the Tigers have averaged 158 rushing, 206 passing and 364 yards in total offense. The Razorbacks have averaged 160 rushing, 182 passing and 342 yards in total offense.
In the last three meetings against Arkansas the Auburn offense has executed 188 snaps, scoring a total of just two touchdowns.
Ryan Mallett of Arkansas has compiled a QB rating of 197.1 on first down, 132.5 on second down and 93.3 on third down against FBS competition. Of Mallett's 24 completions on first down against FBS programs, 17 have been for 15 yards or more. He has completed a total of 23 passes of at least 15 yards or more in his last three games.
Of the five starting quarterbacks Auburn has faced this season, three were held below their QB rating for the season. Tyson Lee of Mississippi State and Kelly Page of Ball State were able to compile a higher QB rating against Auburn than their overall rating for the season.
Auburn's leading rusher against Arkansas (1992-2008) has averaged 108.5 yards per game, including seven 100-yard performances. Auburn is 5-1-1 in the games the Tigers had a 100-yard rusher against the Razorbacks.
During this current decade Auburn is 11-2 in conference play when allowing at least 250-yards passing. Since 1970 Auburn is 14-4-0 in conference play when Auburn and the opponent both have over 400 yards in total offense. Since 1970 Auburn is 6-2-0 in conference play when Auburn and the opponent both score 30 or more points.
Why Auburn should win…
Auburn is currently rated higher than Arkansas in total offense and defense as well as scoring offense and scoring defense. Though Arkansas has an explosive passing game, the Auburn offense is far more balanced and Chris Todd has a higher pass efficiency rating than Mallett.
Taking the scoring averages and margins from each team's games against FBS opponents, Auburn should win the game, 44-32. Looking at conference games only, Auburn should win this game, 52-22.
Arkansas has allowed 21 or more points in 22 of their last 29 games and 30 or more points 15 times. In their last 29 games the Razorback defense has allowed their opponent to gain over 400 yards 14 times.
Why Arkansas should win…
Of the nine plays of 30 yards or more allowed by the Auburn defense, six have been pass plays. Mallet has nine pass plays of 30 yards or more in the last three games. The Auburn defense is only holding its opponent to three points below their scoring average this season. Arkansas is currently averaging 36 points per game.
During this current decade, Auburn is 8-9 against SEC opponents that have finished the season averaging over 400 yards in total offense.
In the last three games the Auburn defense has allowed its opponent to gain five percent more in total yardage than their seasonal average. If this trend continues, Arkansas is projected to gain 463 yards against the Tigers.
Since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, Auburn is 13-20-0 when allowing a conference opponent to gain over 400 yards in offense. This includes a 4-9-0 record this decade.
After quarterback Jonathan Crompton of the Tennessee Volunteers passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns against the Auburn defense there is reason to be concerned about Mallett. With Auburn's defense allowing 405 yards and 25 points per game to BCS opponents, the Razorbacks could continue the exploitation of the Auburn defense.
Petrino's offense managed to gain 416 yards last season against an Auburn defense that was playing better than the 2009 Auburn defense. If Crompton could connect on three pass plays of 30 or more yards against the Tigers, what will Mallett be able to accomplish against Auburn after connecting on seven pass plays of 30 yards or more against the Georgia Bulldogs?
The good news for the Tigers is that the Razorback defense has allowed 471 yards and 35 points per game in their last three games. With Auburn's explosive offense and a defense with the propensity of allowing the big play, this game has a high probability of being an offensive shootout. In terms of efficiency, the pass offenses of both teams are about dead even with Auburn compiling a 157.8 rating and Arkansas right behind the Tigers at 156.5. The difference between the two offenses is Auburn's running game, which has been far more productive than the Razorbacks.
When faced with a one-dimensional SEC opponent, history indicates Auburn has fared better against passing teams than running teams. From 1992-2009 Auburn is 6-22-0 against SEC opponents that were able to rush for 175 yards against the Tigers and 25-11-1 against SEC opponents that were able to throw for at least 250 yards. Against Arkansas, Auburn is 2-5 when the Razorbacks rush for 15 -yards or more and 2-1 when the Razorbacks pass for 250 yards or more.
Auburn struggled to tackle Arkansas running back Michael Smith last season.
As dangerous as the Razorback pass offense will be, it will be the draw and counter plays that could make the biggest difference in this game. Petrino's offense is similar to Steve Spurrier's offenses at Florida because Petrino will attack with a vertical passing game while keeping the opponent honest with a quick-hitting running game.
With both teams possessing Top 20 offenses, this game will come down to which defense is able to make the most stops. The Auburn defense is allowing its FBS opponents to score 31 percent of the time and the Razorback defense has a scoring percentage of 40 percent. Unless the Auburn offense has a sudden case of turnovers and miscues, the Tigers should be able to match whatever the Arkansas offense delivers and then some. Mallett will certainly test the Auburn defense, but the combination of Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb will be too much for the Razorback defense and the difference in this game. Auburn 38,Arkansas 27
Around the SEC…
Alabama over Ole Miss by 10
Florida over LSU by 7
Houston over Mississippi State by 6
Georgia over Tennessee by 6
South Carolina over Kentucky by 4
Vanderbilt over Army by 9
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