A month ago we had Separation Saturday; this weekend you’re going to see some SEC separation. With Auburn-Arkansas, Georgia-Tennessee and Florida-LSU on the docket for Saturday, it’s arguably the biggest weekend of the season for the SEC. The winners of these three contests will likely separate themselves for good, from the rest of the conference pack.
For Auburn, it’s also a homecoming week of sorts. Former Lombardi and Outland Trophy winner Tracy Rocker returns to the Plains as the fourth year Arkansas defensive line coach. Talk about street cred, wait until his players run on the field and see the huge picture of Rocker hanging near the scoreboard.
Saturday also marks the return of former Tigers linebacker coach Reggie Herring. Herring served on Pat Dye’s staff from 1986-1991. Here’s an interesting footnote: Herring was defensive coordinator at Clemson at the same time that current Auburn tight-ends coach Steve Ensminger was offensive coordinator for the Tigers (1997-98).
It’s also a home style match up for Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. He was born in Camden, Arkansas and played college ball (free safety) at Southern Arkansas University.
Auburn’s comes into this weekend’s contest with a three game winning streak over the Razorbacks. Arkansas was off this past weekend after defeating Alabama 24-23 in overtime, the previous week. The Razorbacks lead the SEC in rushing, averaging 187.8 yards per game.
They are lead by sophomore running sensation Darren McFadden. He’s already topped the 100 yard mark twice this season. McFadden is probably the best running back Auburn will see this season. You may remember that he injured himself in a fight during preseason practice and dislocated his toe. He’s managed to play on it and is now 100%.
The battle Saturday will clearly be at the line of scrimmage. Expect Arkansas to test the beat up offensive line of Auburn. With center Joe Cope and tight-end Cole Bennett out Saturday, the offensive line hopes to put together some sort of cohesive group to open holes for the conference’s top back, Kenny Irons. A lot of attention will be put on the center position where Jason Bosley will get his first start in place of Cope.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp hopes to quiet some of the critics who have taken shots at the defensive unit after last week’s play at South Carolina. It’s incredibly ridiculous that anyone would criticize the job Muschamp has done.
Virtually the entire defensive secondary is made up of players who have gotten most of their career snaps this year. With Jonathan Wilhite out, it has been Baptism by fire for the secondary. Standing up, on the road last Thursday in the waning moments and stopping Steve Spurrier’s offense was a huge step forward for this unit. Wilhite says he will play and start against the Razorbacks. That’s a huge addition.
How good is Auburn’s defense? It’s one of only two teams in the country who haven’t given up a rushing touchdown this season. The Tigers rank third nationally in scoring defense allowing only 8.2 points a game.
Auburn’s contest with Arkansas kick-offs at 11:00 a.m. CST from Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will carried by CBS Sports.