As Blake Smith took the time to point out in an article earlier this week, the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Auburn Tigers match up is a hard game to predict. Vegas has the odds for the game at less than a touchdown in Arkansas’ favor, meaning that the only advantage for the Hogs is that they’re the home team.
I just don’t buy into that line of thinking. Blake’s article was a great by the numbers examination of these two teams. I took the time tonight to look at Auburn’s wins and see what really stands out to me, and if the Tigers pass the eye test.
Auburn’s marquee win this year (I guess) is over a 2-4 Louisville team that opened the season with 3 straight losses. (No, I’m not buying into the Kentucky hype yet, they haven’t really played anyone either.) Auburn was carried in that game offensively by a 115 yard rushing performance by Peyton Barber. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the season for the Tigers: Barber rushes well, and nothing else really happens.
The Tiger’s then had to go to overtime to defeat an FCS team in Jacksonville State. Auburn gave up 277 passing yards and 161 rushing yards to the Gamecocks. Barber rushed for 125, and Jeremy Johnson (who is no longer the starter) threw for 236 yards, 2 scores, and 2 picks. This has still been Auburn’s best game passing the ball.
The next win for the plainsmen would come in a 35-21 victory over San Jose State. Auburn gave up 224 yards passing and 182 yards rushing to the Spartans. Sean White took over at QB and threw for a whopping 108 yards, and Barber rushed for 147 yards and FIVE TOUCHDOWNS.
Finally, Auburn notched a much needed SEC win over the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington on a Thursday night. White threw for 225 yards and no score (but no turnovers) in the win. Barber was held to under 100 yards but still scored twice. The Tigers gave up 360 yards passing and 138 yards rushing to the Wildcats.
A lot of people think that because Gus Malzahn runs a HUNH offense, that he wants to throw the ball around. That’s not the case, actually. With the exception of Cam Newton, who as we’ve seen in the NFL this year is one of the best QBs in the nation, Gus like to spread the field out and run the ball. Newton, Nick Marshall, Tre Mason, and now Peyton Barber. Gus isn’t a fool. This Auburn team is a running team, and he’s doing his best to set them up in situations that give them the best opportunity to get yards.
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But does Auburn pass the eye test, especially when matched up strength for strength with Arkansas? I don’t believe that they do. Yes, Arkansas is 2-4, but they’ve played a much, much tougher slate of games in the first half of the season than Auburn did. 3 of the Hogs 4 losses come to ranked teams, and the Texas Tech game was just wonky. In fact, so was Toledo. The Hogs had, to my memory, 3 touchdowns and 2 high probability scoring plays negated by penalties in those two games. The Razorbacks out gained Toledo by 250 yards. The Hogs choked that game away, and then blew the TTU game.
Then the defense got reshuffled, and the Hogs had every opportunity to be TAMU, got a big win over Tennessee (who turned around and beat Georgia) and was leading Alabama 7-3 late in the 3rd quarter. Arkansas has actually looked solid in games against higher ranked teams, and has just been either out-disciplined or out-athlete’d down the stretch.
Sep 26, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks tackle Dan Skipper (70) in action against the Texas A&M Aggies at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn has looked bad in all their wins, and even worse in their losses. Again, as Blake pointed out, Auburn has the 13th worst rushing defense in the SEC. Alex Collins has more rushing yards (against better competition) than Peyton Barber, not to mention Rawleigh Williams has already had a 100 yard game this year.
Brandon Allen is 3rd in the SEC in passing yards and QBR. He’s the best pure passer that Auburn will have faced this year. Now, you can either take that as a knock on Auburn’s schedule, or as a dig on the SEC’s QB situation. Your call. I’m knocking Auburn’s schedule, myself.
Arkansas’ offensive line gives up an average of 0.8 sacks a game, and is the 13th best rushing defense in the country. That’s after playing 3 ranked teams, and a Tennessee team that averages close to 200 yards of rushing a game as well. The Razorbacks offensive line is where this game, and every other game this season, will be won and lost. And the Hogs, in my opinion, outmatch the Tigers in every way.
The Arkansas defense is better than the Auburn offense, and the Auburn offense has never looked great. The Arkansas offense, however, has looked solid in most games this year. I’m not saying that Arkansas wins by 30, but I am saying that if the Hogs play the kind of football they played against TAMU and Tennessee, then they beat Auburn physically, and get a huge SEC win.
See you at kickoff. Woo Pig.