Fight in Fayetteville
Another hostile environment awaits the Tigers
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
War Eagle, everybody. Another Auburn football Saturday is fast approaching. Here’s hoping the Tigers have put last weekend’s disappointment away for good and are focused on a dangerous Arkansas team. At first glance, this team doesn’t look very dangerous. It is 2–4 on the season (0–3 in the SEC), having lost in overtime to Texas A&M and having been blown out by Alabama and South Carolina.
Looks can be deceiving. Texas A&M has turned out to be a pretty decent team. The South Carolina game is deceptive, too, as the Gamecocks were able to return 3 turnovers for touchdowns. All-time, Auburn has 6 wins and 5 losses in Fayetteville. When Auburn wins in Reynolds Razorback stadium, it’s usually a tight game. Auburn has not won there by more than 17 points.
Both teams come into this game reeling and banged up. Arkansas started losing key players even before the season started and now is missing starting quarterback Austin Allen. Auburn will likely be without at least one or two key defenders, Tray Matthews and Tré Williams. Top deep threat receiver Kyle Davis was booted from the team this week.
The Razorbacks have their proverbial backs to the wall this week, and I expect them to come out fighting hard. They have to come up with 4 wins in the last 6 games of the season or spend the holidays at home. Coastal Carolina is likely a win, but Arkansas won’t be favored in any of its other remaining games till Missouri comes to town in late November. We will have our usual TrackEmTigers.com open thread and game commentary up Saturday for this one.
SEC tidbits, after the jump!
Missouri, loser of 5 straight games, has a chance to right the ship for a couple of weeks, hosting Idaho and traveling to UConn. Both are pretty dreadful teams. Missouri also has games remaining at home against Florida and Tennessee and on the road at Vanderbilt and Arkansas. The last three of those teams are really not playing well. Could Missouri reel off 3 wins and become bowl-eligible after a 1–5 start to the season?
The wheels have really come off the season for Vanderbilt. After a hot 3–0 start, the Commodores have lost 4 straight SEC contests by the combined score of 199–73. The Commodores have this week off to lick their wounds, are then at South Carolina, followed by hosting Western Kentucky, Kentucky, and Missouri before finishing the season at Tennessee. WKU and Mizzou should be winnable, but Vandy has to steal another game somewhere to get to a bowl.
I read this week an opinion that Kentucky is the worst 5–1 team in the country. Take away even one bad play of your choice against them, and the Wildcats would be 6–0 right now. They haven’t won impressively against anyone, even their cupcake opponents. However, they have won. We’ll get a bit more of a measure this week as Kentucky travels to Mississippi State for a late afternoon battle. Kentucky can get bowl eligible before the end of October with a win. How often has that happened?
South Carolina is another team that doesn’t look great, but it is 5–2 on the season is are coming off a rare win in Knoxville. South Carolina is off this week then finishes with Vanderbilt, at Georgia, Florida, Wofford, and Clemson. Wofford is probably a slam-dunk win, and the Gamecocks will be favored over Vandy. USCe is now trying to play for better bowl position.
Georgia is off this week after racing out to a 7–0 start. Of Georgia’s remaining 5 games, 2 of them are at home with road trips to Jacksonville (Florida), Auburn and Georgia Tech. If Georgia wins 2 of 3 against Florida, Auburn and Kentucky, it wins the SEC east.
For Tennessee this weekend will likely be tough as the 3–3 Vols travel to Tuscaloosa. A road trip to Kentucky follows. Southern Miss won’t be an easy out, and season-ending games against LSU and Vanderbilt are dicey as well. I’m still trying to figure a scenario where Tennessee actually gets 3 wins and gets to a bowl. It doesn’t look very likely as it has been weeks since Tennessee scored a touchdown.
The luck has ran out for thelast couple of games, as it fell at home against LSU on the strength of a missed extra point, then dropped a 2-point loss to Texas A&M. Florida has a week off to lick its wounds, but the losses put them in a bind in the SEC East race. All is not lost, though. Florida needs only to run its remaining SEC slate and hope for a Georgia loss somewhere to win the division. That slate is Georgia, at Missouri, and at South Carolina. The battle with Georgia in Jacksonville might decide the division.
Texas A&M seems to be a team that plays down or up to the caliber of its opponent. It keeps winning most of the time, though. The Aggies kept it close against Alabama and were impressive at times in the 27–19 loss. Then last week they knocked off Florida on the road. This week, The Aggies get to rest and tune up for visits by Mississippi State and Auburn. The 5–2 Aggies then host New Mexico and have road trips to Ole Miss and LSU. Barring another late-season collapse, a good bowl game is likely in the offing.
Despite getting blown out at Mississippi State, and losing its homecoming game to Troy, LSU is shockingly still alive in the SEC West race. Close wins over Florida and Auburn have come the past couple of weeks, and this week LSU is at Ole Miss. That game may come down to who has the ball last. Ole Miss is having trouble stopping anybody, but can score points in bushels. After Ole Miss, LSU is at Alabama, hosts Arkansas, is at Tennessee, and finishes with Texas A&M. To actually win the west, LSU will have to find a way to beat Alabama, something it hasn’t done since 2011.
The 2–4 Arkansas Razorbacks limp back home from Tuscaloosa, Alabama after taking a 41-9 beating and host Auburn this week. Arkansas will have to find a way to get 4 wins on its remaining schedule to become bowl-eligible. The slate is Auburn, at Ole Miss, Coastal Carolina, at LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri. Coastal is likely, Missouri is possible. Razorback fans can hope for yet another “Novembert.”
The MSU Bulldogs got off to a torrid 3–0 start this season but suffered bad blowout losses to Georgia and Auburn before taking a week off. MSU got to 4 wins against BYU and now has to find a couple more wins to become bowl eligible. They finish out against Kentucky, at Texas A&M, U-Mass, Alabama, at Arkansas, and the Egg Bowl at home against Ole Miss. My guess is that U-Mass and the Egg Bowl should get the Bulldogs back to a bowl game for the 8th year in a row.
Ole Miss is 3–3 on the season and is playing out the string as the Rebs have declared themselves out of bowl contention due to NCAA issues. Ole Miss can play loose and can test any defense out there with its brand of pitch and catch. Defensively, its had a tough time with an overly conservative scheme. Every team remaining on the Rebel schedule is beatable, but it’s doubtful that Ole Miss will take advantage. The Rebs have LSU, Arkansas, at Kentucky, Louisiana Lafayette, Texas A&M, and at Mississippi State remaining. I suspect we Auburn fans will find out if LSU is for real, or not, this weekend in Oxford.
Alabama took care of business against a beat-up Arkansas team last weekend, nailing down a 41–9 win. The intensity dials back in coming weeks as Alabama hosts Tennessee and LSU, then travels to Mississippi State. The Tide can pretty much name the score in any of these games as well as in the homecoming tilt against Mercer. Here’s hoping that Bama is a bit bloated by all of the cream-puff games before the Iron Bowl at Auburn!