Arkansas football: 3 keys to victory over Auburn
How much has Arkansas improved over previous years? Just look at the Auburn series as an example. In 5 consecutive losses to the Tigers, Arkansas was beaten up by totals of 51, 32, 31 and 41 points before a 30-28 nail-biter last season, head coach Sam Pittman’s first in Fayetteville.
That’s quite a leap from previous trouncings. And now it seems likely that the Hogs are ready to turn the tables on their nemesis and break a stream of setbacks in the series that totals 7 losses over the past 8 games. The Hogs opened as a 3-point favorite to break through and narrow the gap in the overall series in which Auburn leads, 18-11-1.
It’s Homecoming and No. 17 Arkansas (4-2, 1-2) welcomes in Auburn (4-2, 1-1) for an 11 a.m. kickoff at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. The Hogs are looking to get back to their winning ways after opening the 2021 season with a 4-game win streak before stumbling to consecutive SEC losses.
Auburn is coming off a humbling 34-10 loss at home to top-ranked Georgia, a team that the previous week blanked the Razorbacks 37-0 between the hedges. If transitive results account for anything, this should be a very evenly matched game.
Here are 3 keys to victory for Arkansas.
1. Stop the run
Georgia and Ole Miss were wildly successful running the ball right at the heart of the Arkansas defense. The Hogs yielded 273 and 324 yards, respectively, on the ground in their past 2 games.
Auburn hasn’t exactly been the juggernaut on the ground that many expected coming into the season with Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter sharing duties at running back. The Tigers rank 6th in the SEC averaging 206.17 yards rushing per game.
But you can bet that they’ll try to duplicate what both Georgia and Ole Miss did in plowing right at the Hogs’ defense.
2. Exploit Auburn’s secondary
Sure, the Razorbacks like to run the football. They’re 1 of only 4 teams in the SEC with more rushing yards than passing yards (Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky are the others), but Auburn opponents this season have had great success through the air.
Only 3 teams in the SEC have allowed more passing yards than has Auburn (LSU, Tennessee, Vanderbilt). So, Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson might want to crank up the arm a little extra this week.
Treylon Burks could be the key. When the Hogs’ leading receiver (29 catches, 519 yards, 3 TDs) draws a double team, it could put even that much more pressure on Auburn’s secondary and maybe open things up for Tyson Morris or Warren Thompson to perhaps step forward and have a big game.
It will be an interesting chess match for offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
3. Convert on 3rd down
The Razorbacks were better last week against Ole Miss but still lag behind the rest of the conference when it comes to converting on 3rd down. In the SEC, only Ole Miss has converted fewer such plays.
Against the Rebels last Saturday, Arkansas was 7-for-13 on 3rd down, tying their season high for conversions. That was a very good sign after converting just 3 times each in the previous 2 games with Texas A&M and Georgia.
Obviously, keeping the ball out of the hands of Bo Nix and the Auburn offense is ideal, but continuing drives and giving the defense as much rest as possible will be a big key on Saturday, especially when you consider the Rebels ran 70 offensive plays against the Razorbacks last week.
Yes, Arkansas’ 3rd consecutive early 11 a.m. (local) kickoff – the following week with Arkansas-Pine Bluff is also scheduled for 11 a.m. – should be as evenly matched as the Ole Miss slugfest. These 3 keys should go a long way in determining the outcome.