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Deep Inside the Numbers: Auburn-Arkansas

NCAA Football: Auburn at Louisiana State
Only violates endzones, not team rules
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This season isn’t over, but it feels like it after last week. Auburn now has fewer wins over ranked opponents than it does former starters kicked off the team for violations of team rules. The LSU loss was so bizarre from a statistical standpoint, I can’t even look at the numbers without questioning why I even watch this dumb sport in the first place. We have seen games like that one before, but nothing quite as miserable. Auburn not only blew a lead, it slowly allowed the lead to dwindle away like a man walking into the ocean to drown himself. When Auburn hired Malzahn I was more excited than I should have been. I knew the best chance of competing with the other school in the state would be to do the exact opposite of them from a scheme standpoint. Every team that has beaten Saban since 2008 has run some version of a no-huddle-spread offense save for the LSU team he beat in the rematch. Other people were clamoring for us to hire a “pro-style” coach, thinking we could fight fire with fire. I knew that was foolish. Malzahn came in and beat him in his first try as head coach. Everything was trending upwards for Auburn, and our risk-taking, no-huddle pioneer was leading us there.

Then he stopped. At some point Gus became risk-averse. It may have been when the Jeremy Johnson experiment had such negative results. It may have been when a fumbled snap ruined Auburn’s comeback attempt against Texas A&M in 2014. I don’t know where to pinpoint the change, but this Gus is not the Gus who coached against Alabama in 2013 and 14. This Gus hates risk, doesn’t keep his foot on the gas, and thinks the defense will win games for him when the offense does nothing. This Gus is more pro-style than he should be, in fact, he coaches like Jason Garrett.

Anyway, let’s put that all behind us. We have a game to watch on Saturday. Sports will continue to take our minds off reality. We will continue to argue about Malzahn and whether he should be fired and about a million other things that don’t matter much in real life, because it’s easier to do that than to try and pass common sense gun control legislation or decide if its OK that healthcare isn’t guaranteed to every citizen of the wealthiest country in the history of earth. I’m in a mood. Anyway, back to the distraction.

Let’s look long at the logarithms and algorithms and learn what we can when logical conclusions are leaping from the ledger to laud our linebackers and linemen. LET’S MATH!

Auburn has never been held below 30 points against Arkansas with Malzahn as head coach. He is 3-1 against current Razorback coach Bret Bielema, a man who makes Malzahn’s tenure at Auburn look like John Wooden’s time at UCLA. The one Auburn loss to Bielema was in a weird, wild, multiple overtime game in 2015. The average Bielema vs Auburn game ends in a 46-24 Tiger win.

The Hogs and Tigers have never played on the 21st of October. Last year, they played on the 22nd and Auburn won 56-3. Auburn won in 2007, and 1997—the only two times the two teams played in years that ended in 7. Both of those games also took place in Fayetteville, which is where Auburn will play on Saturday. In both of the previous games played in years ending in 7, Auburn’s defense held the Razorbacks to a combined 28 points.

Auburn is 3-2 against Arkansas in the last five meetings and 5-5 in the last 10. The series is weirdly even, despite the teams having experienced wildly different levels of success in the past 10 years. Arkansas has yet to win an SEC championship since entering the conference, a distinction Auburn has enjoyed three times in that same period. The best Arkansas team of the Bielema era finished 8-5 and third in the West.

If you close your eyes and imagine an Arkansas-Auburn game, you are probably imagining a hot autumn day and a kickoff before lunch. That’s because so many games in this series have taken place before supper. In the event these teams do meet under the lights, Auburn is highly likely to come out with a win. Did you know that the last time Auburn lost to Arkansas at night was way back in 2011? In fact, that’s the only time Auburn has ever lost to the Hogs in a game that kicked off after 4pm Central since 2000. Auburn lost in 1995 to Arkansas at night, but that game was the only time Auburn has ever traveled to Little Rock. Auburn has never lost at night in Auburn and only once in Fayetteville. It’s well-known that Auburn has never lost a night game on the SEC Network. This weekend’s game kicks at 6:30pm Central on the SEC Network.

Arkansas is 0-3 in the conference this season. The Hogs allow more rushing yards and points per game than they earn. Auburn is still statistically a really good football team, albeit one seemingly coached by Jeff Fisher wearing a Gus Malzahn mask. Gus is still responsible for every single road 50-point SEC game in Auburn history, and he might get another one.

Auburn 51

Arkansas 21