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From the Eagle’s Nest

By on October 21st, 2016 in Football 11 Comments »
Oct 24, 2015; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Drew Morgan (80) dives into the end zone to score the winning touchdown during the quadruple overtime against the Auburn Tigers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Arkansas Razorbacks defeat the Auburn Tigers 54-46. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn kicks off the second half of its season this weekend in a game that will feature two teams trying to turn a pivotal corner in the SEC West. A win for either one sets up a much more optimistic outlook on the second half of the season, while a loss serves as a huge setback. 

Arkansas’ normally run-happy offense has been replaced to a degree this season by a potent air attack led by Austin Allen. Allen enters Saturday with 1,861 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. To give you some perspective, Sean White enters Saturday with 1,187 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. This Arkansas team loves to move the ball through the air, and that is mostly due to its diminished output at the running-back position and having no equivalent replacement for former halfback Alex Collins.

Austin Allen has enjoyed a nice, spacious pocket to throw out of for most of the year thanks to Arkansas’ very large and talented offensive line. The key to Auburn disrupting the rhythm of their offense is going to be outstanding defensive line play. Kevin Steele is really going to have to focus on mixing up his looks and keeping Arkansas’ offensive front off balance to maintain the effectiveness of our pass rush. I like our chances tremendously if Auburn’s front four on defense can put together a great performance and limit Allen’s time to make decisions in the pocket. 

I like our chances to limit the Razorbacks’ offensive production. Of course, it cannot be ignored that the Hogs hung 30 on Alabama’s defense, but I think they’ll fare a little worse on the road at night in Jordan-Hare. Arkansas is leaning heavily on Austin Allen’s throwing ability to win its games. If Auburn’s defensive line can bring some significant pressure early, I like our chances to keep Allen disrupted and out of rhythm for much of the evening.  

Offensively I think Auburn has to play its best game of the year. Arkansas is not a team that will blow you away with its play-making ability, but they do not make many mistakes. They significantly limit the amount of opportunities they give opposing offenses. Auburn has to be willing to throw the ball early and often and not get caught leaning too heavily on running the football early on, or the Tigers might find themselves playing from behind for most of the game. 

The middle of the field is almost a no-fly zone for this Auburn offense. It’s gotten better over the past few weeks, but for the most part, it is an untapped resource for passing yards. Ultimatum time has arrived for these coaches. For this Auburn team to take the next step, the passing offense has to evolve and be relied upon for more production. This offense won’t survive (and hasn’t so far) as a ‘run early, run late, run often offense’ like it did in 2013. It’s not 2013.  And this group of wide receivers (although young) is too talented to be underutilized. 

With legitimate deep threat guys like Nate Craig-Myers and Eli Stove or Marcus Davis, I’d like the offense take advantage of more intermediate routes. This has improved to a degree with guys like Tony Stephens and Kyle Davis stepping up for more catches on 1st down plays, but it has to continue to evolve and grow. It’s midway through the season and I’d like to see the coaches trust these players a little more and open up the playbook some. If they can’t put their talent in positions to succeed, then what are we paying them to do? 

This is another pivotal, crossroads type game for Auburn. They passed the Mississippi State test with flying colors.  Now it is time for them to deliver at home as a 10-point favorite over an SEC West opponent. This game is as big as any other for Gus Malzahn—without a doubt, it is a must-win.  A victory this weekend really puts a lot of concerns and fears to rest for the remainder of the season and allows this coaching staff some wiggle room. A loss makes Auburn’s second half schedule look extremely daunting and opportunities for additional victories scarce. 

11 Comments

  1. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    I believe Auburn wins, but does not cover that 10 points.

  2. DBAU81 says:

    We win this one, but close. And if Kerryon and Pettway are healthy I’m fine with a run-heavy scheme this week because Arkansas’s run defense is suspect at best.

    • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

      I agree mostly with Arky’s run defense, but I think the same could be said about Auburn’s running offense against quality opponents. The last thing I’m willing to see right now is our coaches costing us a game because they go all in on our own suspect running game.

      • dyingculture dyingculture says:

        I’m optimistic about the run this game. Arkansas is dead last in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up an average of 5.6 yards per rush for the entire season. If I remember right, the largest player on their entire DL weighs 280 or so. It appears their DL is getting manhandled by everyone.

        • dyingculture dyingculture says:

          I just researched this some more, not that anyone should care. But it’s significant and I wanted to share.

          Arkansas DTs: One starter is listed at 281. The other starter is listed at 255. Really??? A starting DT that weighs 255 in the SEC???

          So, yes: I think AU can pummel this DL and Johnson and Pettway will both have a great day.

          • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

            …..I can remember Ole Miss giving us fits back in 2003 with DT McKinley Boykin. He looked like he was about 240, but he was in the backfield constantly, wrapping up our backs. Ole Miss won a share of the West, that year.

  3. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    The 30 they scored on Bama was essentially garbage points, considering who Alabama had to play the next week.

    I don’t doubt the Hogs get the back door cover on us, though.

  4. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    Looking at the stats Arky has given up the most 20+ yard rush plays in the conference this year. I think Auburn finds a groove and puts over 350 rushing on them (including another 50+ yd TD run from JF3), as well as another 225 or so from SW through the air. Auburn 38 – Arky 24

  5. audude audude says:

    I have a feeling, nothing more, that either we win big or we don’t win. I believe we will dominate on offense and be disruptive more than they can handle on defense. I don’t think we will get back doored on this game.

    I like War_Eagle_2010’s prediction: Auburn 38 – Arky 24

    War Damn Eagle!

  6. ausouthal says:

    To get to where AU is not just an after thought by others AU has to beat a good team. While Arkansas is not a great team they are good. Limit penalties, no turnovers, play good in all three phases of the game. Easily said so we will see if AU has truly turned the corner. If we are running the ball with success you can limit your passing game. Rests your defense and keeps the ball out of their hands. AU will throw the ball but you don’t have to go all in the passing game unless it is there for the taking.

  7. AUNation AUNation says:

    Allen has enjoyed a nice spacious pocket because of their talented line? I think you might want to review numbers on that one. Allen has some decent passing stats but it’s despite his line not because of it. AA has been hit so often and so HARD this year I’m surprised he doesn’t have PTSD. AU wins big, a la the MSU game. Carl has three sacks and he starts getting the press and respect he deserves again as one of the best DEs in the league.