The Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks return to the field this Saturday with both coming off open dates when they meet at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network and is set to kick off at 11 a.m. Central. The Razorbacks enter the game as a three and half point favorite, and both teams are looking for their second conference win of the season. Both teams are tied with Texas A&M at 1-3 for fifth place (or last) in the SEC West. Neither team is having the season they would have expected to have with three conference losses, but the winner on Saturday can gain some momentum to end the season on a positive note. So who will win this match-up of Auburn versus Arkansas?
Auburn Versus Arkansas Preview
The Arkansas Backfield
The Razorbacks feature a balanced offensive attack that begins and ends with quarterback K.J. Jefferson. When the second-year starter missed a game against Mississippi State the offense struggled mightily to find any consistency. In his return against BYU before the off week, he had a stellar performance. He was 29 of 40 for 367 yards and five touchdowns in the 52-35 victory. On the season, he has completed 68% of his passes for 1,463 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Beside Jefferson in the backfield is the SEC’s leading rusher in Raheim Sanders. He has run for a total of 870 yards and seven touchdowns. The Razorbacks are second in the conference in rushing behind Ole Miss averaging 240 yards per game. The passing game sits at 248.6 yards per game, and this team can beat you by air or ground.
Auburn’s Struggling Run Defense
The Auburn defense has struggled lately at stopping opponents on the ground. The Tigers allow 204.4 yards per game which is last in the SEC. In the last two games against Georgia and Ole Miss, the Tigers have surrendered 740 yards and six touchdowns rushing. This game will feature the Razorbacks’ strength on offense versus the Tigers’ weakness on defense.
Auburn will need a big game from its star on defense Derick Hall. He is good at getting to the quarterback and getting Arkansas in passing situations will be key. Also, the linebackers will need to let their presence be known. Owen Pappoe has the talent to be an NFL linebacker but he has not made the impact he should. The Tigers will need him to be big if they want to slow down the Razorbacks’ rush attack.
Auburn Run Game Must Carry
The Auburn run game had struggled most of the season but may have found it against Ole Miss in their last game. The Tigers ran for 301 yards and were led by Tank Bigsby with 179. This is what the coaches advertised Auburn to be coming into the season. A run-first offense would help set things up for the passing game. The Arkansas run defense has been hit or miss during the season so far. In their four wins they on average give up just 80 yards per game.
It has been bad in the losses though. In those three games, teams averaged 223.7 yards per game rushing. They gave up 162 yards to a Mississippi State that really is not known for its rushing attack. Auburn needs to get in the 180-200 yard range in this one to keep it close. Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter are capable to achieving that against this Arkansas defense.
Arkansas Pass Defense is Suspect
The Arkansas pass defense is a head-scratcher. They are solid at getting to the quarterback with 21 sacks. That ranks third in the SEC. Drew Sanders leads the conference with six and a half sacks and is fifth in tackles with 63. Add in Bumper Pool who is fourth with 66. That being said this team has given up a lot of yards through the air. The unit overall ranks 13th in total defense, and the pass defense gives up an average of 315.7 yards per game. Five opposing quarterbacks have passed for 300 or more yards against them.
Now, Robby Ashford is not one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the conference. He has though shown improvement each week, and it will be important to see if he has gotten better during the off week. Ashford showed signs of what he can do in the first half against LSU when Auburn was up 17-0. He does not need to throw for 300 yards but hit enough big plays against the defense to keep them honest. Plus, he is always a threat to go the distance when he takes off and runs. Wide receiver Koy Moore has shown lately he can make a few big plays throughout a game. He could be a big impact player for Auburn on Saturday.
Auburn Versus Arkansas Prediction
Arkansas is the favorite in this game, and they should be. From what has been shown of these teams this season, the Razorbacks are the better team. Some of their weaknesses, especially on defense could work in the Tigers’ favor. Plus, Auburn has the advantage of playing at home. With that said, the Tigers just struggle to stop the run lately and Arkansas has the superior quarterback in the game. This will be a close one, but the Razorbacks win 35-31.