Oct 24, 2015; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Auburn Football Tigers running back Peyton Barber (25) scores a touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first half at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Here we break down the matchups in the Arkansas game this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn football tries to get win number five.
Auburn football is preparing for its next biggest game of the season as they face No. 17 Arkansas at Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday night.
The Razorbacks are coming off a huge win at home over Ole Miss that has made them a relevant team in the SEC West again.
Meanwhile, Auburn is coming off a bye week and with only one loss in the SEC they are still in the hunt for the SEC West title.
This series has been really tight throughout the years with Auburn holding a 13-11 advantage. They have split the series the past two years with Arkansas winning a four-overtime thriller at home last season.
With two SEC losses, and those coming against Texas A&M and Alabama, it would be hard for Arkansas to get back in the race for the West.
Because of that, I think this game means a lot more for Auburn as it keeps their hopes alive for this season, and legitimizes them as a real threat.
There is no doubt that this is a huge game for Auburn, and I’m glad they get it at home. The crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night will be a huge boost for the Tigers.
Now let’s take a look and see how these two teams match up against each other.
Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen (8) passes in the first quarter against the Ole Miss Rebels at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
The Arkansas offense has scored at least 30 points in five of their seven games, and they’re averaging 34.9 points per game.
They’re averaging 445.6 total yards per game, going for 265.9 through the air and 179.7 on the ground.
They have possibly the best running back in the league right now with Rawleigh Williams who has rushed for 785 yards on 140 carries for an average of 5.6 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns.
What has been most impressive to me this year though is the emergence of quarterback Austin Allen. There has not been much of a drop off from his brother Brandon Allen who threw for 3,440 yards and 30 touchdowns last season at Arkansas.
In seven games Austin has thrown for 1,861 yards and 18 touchdowns this season with just 6 interceptions in 219 attempts.
The Razorbacks might possess the most talented group of receivers in the SEC outside of Texas A&M.
Drew Morgan leads the team with 37 catches, and he’s taken them for 378 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s their possession receiver that Austin will go to in pressure situations.
Jared Cornelius leads the team in receiving yards with 448 on just 22 catches for a 20.4 average. Then Keon Hatcher leads the team with 5 touchdown catches.
If that wasn’t enough, tight end Jeremy Sprinkle is one of the best tight ends in the conference. He has 19 catches for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The offensive line only returned two starters, but you know Bret Bielema is always going to have a strong offensive line.
Sep 17, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) carries the football between Auburn Tigers defenders Johnathan Ford (23) and Stephen Roberts (14) during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
This will be the best offense that Auburn has faced since that Texas A&M game, and looking at the stats it has me a little concerned.
The way Texas A&M slowed them down was by shutting down the running game. They held Arkansas to just 130 yards rushing and 3 yards per carry.
What’s surprising is that Texas A&M only sacked Austin Allen once and allowed him to throw for 371 yards.
The Razorback offensive line has given up 17 sacks this season, but 12 of those were against Louisiana Tech and Alabama – they gave up 7 sacks in the Alabama game.
The way Auburn wins this game is if they can stop the run and get some pressure on Austin Allen. If you let him sit back there and throw the ball he is going to beat you. Their receivers are way too good.
Carlton Davis is a lockdown cornerback, but he can only cover one guy at a time. Joshua Holsey will have to step up at the other cornerback spot.
Johnathan Ford, Tray Matthews and Nick Ruffin will also be tested in this game as well. They’ll be going up against big, physical receivers.
Four of Alabama’s seven sacks against Arkansas came from their linebackers. As great as our defensive line has been, Kevin Steele will need to choose the right time to send a linebacker to get extra pressure.
This will be no easy task for our defense, but I think if they can stop the run and get some pressure on Austin Allen we can slow this offense down enough to win.
Nov 27, 2015; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock (3) is tackled by Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Brooks Ellis (51) at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas defeated Missouri 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Where the Razorbacks have really struggled this year is on defense, giving up 27.9 points per game, and 45 points or more in their two losses.
Their opponents have rushed for an average of 175.9 yards per game and an average of 5.6 yards per carry. That has to be a concern for the Razorbacks as Auburn is one of the best rushing team in the conference averaging 262.8 yards per game on the ground.
The Razorbacks aren’t afraid to give up some yards through the air either as their opponents are averaging 223 yard passing per game.
Overall, Arkansas is giving up nearly 400 yards of offense per game, which ranks 61st in the country.
Despite not being a good defensive unit, they have some really good players on defense.
They have possibly the best linebacker combo in the country with Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw. Ellis leads the team with 51 tackles this season to go along with 4 tackles for a loss. Greenlaw is right behind him with 36 tackles.
Henre’ Toliver is their best cornerback with 29 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Deatrich Wise and Jeremiah Ledbetter lead the way on the defensive line. Wise has 28 tackles, 3 sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss, while Ledbetter has 28 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss.
Both are seniors with Wise at end and Ledbetter in the middle at tackle.
This defense has given up a touchdown on 16-of-27 (59 percent) of its opponents’ trips inside the red zone.
This defense hasn’t been good all season, and let’s hope that doesn’t change this weekend.
Oct 24, 2015; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson (21) leaps over Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Jared Collins (29) during the first half at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
That red zone stat is huge for the Auburn offense as they’ve struggled at times to punch it in the end zone against teams.
They’ve scored touchdowns on just 15-of-32 (47 percent) trips to the red zone this season. This is not a game where we can settle for field goals. Arkansas’ offense is going to score, we have to match them with touchdowns.
The obvious advantage in this game is Auburn’s rushing attack. That’s why it’s essential that Kerryon Johnson is healthy and effective for this game.
I believe Kamryn Pettway will be able to pound it up the middle for four or five yards a pop when he needs to, but if Kerryon Johnson is healthy he’s able to stretch the field and open up the middle even more.
I don’t think the Arkansas defense can stop us from running the football if both of those guys are healthy. In fact, I think John Franklin III needs to play a lot in this game. He gives us the ability to open up the running game even more.
Like every other game though, things will certainly be a lot easier if Sean White comes out and completes a few passes. He’s done a great job of that lately, which is why we’ve been so effective running the football.
Our receivers are good enough to get open against their secondary. For that reason I like Tony Stevens to have a huge game on Saturday.
But, if Auburn is going to win this game they’ll have to run the ball effectively. If they can eat up some yards on the ground and keep that Arkansas offense off the field, I think we win pretty easy at home.
Oct 8, 2016; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway (36) runs the ball during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
I will have to admit, I was very confident in Auburn winning this game before I did this preview. Arkansas has been very good on offense this year and they matchup well with our defense.
I have a feeling the Razorbacks are going to score, which means our offense will have to win the game, and that scares me.
Luckily we have one of the best rushing attacks in the country, and Arkansas is one of the worst at stopping the run.
Plus, the Razorbacks are coming off an emotional win at home and will have to face Auburn on the road with the Tigers rested after a bye week.
The fact that this game is at Auburn, after a bye week and we can run the ball at will brings back that confidence that Auburn will win this game. It just may not be as easy as I thought.
For Auburn to win this game, Sean White will once again have to prove that he can complete intermediate passes to open up the running game.
Then we need to stretch the field with Kerryon Johnson and John Franklin III, and then pound away up the middle with Kamryn Pettway.
If we do those three things I am very confident we can win this game.
On defense we need to sell out to stop the run game, and then use the speed of our safeties to blitz and get pressure on Austin Allen.
I don’t think Auburn has to score 40 points to win this game, but they’ll need to keep Arkansas in the twenties.