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GAME PREVIEW AND OPEN THREAD: #13 Auburn vs Arkansas

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Can we please look good.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

In trying to find an angle to hit while previewing this game, it was a little difficult. Auburn sucked last weekend against Georgia, really bringing the expectations down to a minimum and starting the “FAHRR GUS” chatter as early as it’s ever been (save from 2016 Clemson: The Whirlybird Affair). We know a few things to be true heading into the Arkansas tilt —

  • Gus Malzahn needs to bounce back to keep the heat on his chair at a low simmer.
  • Auburn needs to bounce back on both sides of the ball to prevent fans from predicting a winless finish to the season.
  • In doing both of those things, the run game has to actually start to cook.
  • The run game can’t cook unless the offensive line grows up in a hurry.
  • At least our tailback Tank Bigsby appears to want to play football.
  • Bo Nix will not give up, but much of his efficacy depends on how the five in front of him play. He’s the second-most pressured quarterback in the SEC thus far in 2020.
  • Our defense (particularly the line) needs to find a way to start to dominate opposing offensive lines. Georgia was a bunch of new starters that got pushed around by Arkansas, and they ran through our defense like the proverbial excrement through the proverbial tin horn.
  • This is Arkansas, and if there’s one team that Gus (and now Chad) probably saved something special for aside from Alabama, it’s this group.

For Auburn’s head coach, the Hogs haven’t been a threat. Save for the quadruple-overtime affair in 2015, Auburn hasn’t really come close to losing to the Hogs. The margins every other year? 35-17, 45-21, 56-3, 52-20, 34-3, 51-10. It’s been a laugher every single time. Auburn should beat Arkansas at this clip. Six of seven is good. We should be batting .500 against Alabama, Georgia, and LSU, and going 85-90% against the Arkansas/Mississippi schools at least.

Right now, however, we’re doubting things. We’re unsure. Georgia didn’t just wreck our team, but the minds of the fans. Remember our win over Kentucky? Yeah, that doesn’t matter anymore.

This week, Arkansas comes into Jordan-Hare Stadium a bit of a myth. What are they? Has anyone caught a good look? I heard they led Georgia at the half, but the photo evidence has the Bulldogs winning by four touchdowns in the end. I heard they beat Mississippi State, but everyone was watching us get trounced by Georgia. Do we have eyewitness accounts on any of this? I don’t know. Arkansas is a myth.

They’re Bigfoot this year. Yetis. Wompus Cats. Or, if you want to get into the Halloween mood, the monster of Boggy Creek, which can only be found in Arkansas. My dad used to love hokey horror movies, and thank the lord, because here’s one that perfectly identifies what Arkansas may or may not be this season.

From the Wikipedia page on the plot of the film... uh, documentary:

“One farmer claims that the beast carried off two of his 200 lb. hogs with little effort, leaping a fence with the animals tucked under its arm. In one scene, a kitten is shown as having been ‘scared to death’ by the creature. The narrator informs the audience that, while people have shot at the creature in the past, it has always managed to escape. In another sequence, hunters attempt to pursue the creature with dogs, but the dogs refuse to give chase.”

See that note about the monster carrying off the hogs? Yeah, we’re in the right territory here. Point is here, that while we may laugh about things like Bigfoot, or the Monster of Boggy Creek, there could still be a real threat out there. While the guy that took that grainy arm-swinging photo of Bigfoot is trying to warn you that the monster’s real, nobody actually wants to see the giant ape thing. It would be scary. However, there’s always an element of truth to legends like these. We laugh at Bigfoot truthers, and we laugh at Arkansas. But you don’t want to be the guy who actually comes across the monster in the wild and pays the price.

SERIES HISTORY: Auburn leads the all-time series 17-11-1 and has won six of the last seven meetings, including four straight. Those four wins have come by an average margin of more than 39 points per game.

LAST MEETING: Auburn decked the Hogs (led by Chad Morris) 51-10 last year in Fayetteville, with Bo Nix notching three touchdown passes and Marlon Davidson recording two sacks.

LAST WEEK: Uh. N/A for Auburn, but Arkansas ended the early season hype for Mississippi State with a 21-14 victory, their first in SEC play since October 2017.

KEY STARTERS:

Auburn

  • Bo Nix: 37-67, 410 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
  • Seth Williams: 9 catches, 146 yards, 2 TDs
  • Tank Bigsby: 14 carries, 46 yards; 7 catches, 68 yards
  • Zakoby McClain: 19 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1 sack
  • Owen Pappoe: 13 tackles, 1 sack
  • Roger McCreary: 6 tackles, 1 INT, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble

Arkansas

  • Feleipe Franks: 39-64, 412 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
  • De’Vion Warren: 5 catches, 128 yards, 1 TD
  • Treylon Burks: 8 cathces, 112 yards, 1 TD
  • Bumper Pool: 31 tackles, 1 TFL
  • Grant Morgan: 28 tackles
  • Joseph Foucha: 6 tackles, 2 INTs

KEYS FOR AUBURN:

  1. OFFENSIVE LINE, OFFENSIVE LINE, OFFENSIVE LINE. We’re putting this one into a couple of different categories. They have to be forced to grow up in a hurry. Otherwise, Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee are beating us at a minimum. Once they do that, we run the football and protect the quarterback. Bo Nix is in danger of becoming broken if he doesn’t get time to throw the football. You saw him running for his life nearly every play in Athens. That can’t happen again.
  2. RUN THE BALL. This follows the above sentiment. Gus has been at his best with an offense when he’s found a dynamic back taking over a game behind a powerful offensive line. Obviously we need the line to come first, but if Tank Bigsby can turn into the star we think he’ll be, then Auburn could begin having the kind of offense that they had in 2013 and 2017. Tank needs a bunch of carries tomorrow, as do the rest of the backs. Bo Nix doesn’t need any carries on called runs.
  3. DEFENSE HAS TO SHUT DOWN THE RUN AS WELL. Wow, groundbreaking stuff here. Run the ball, stop the run. It’s going to be rainy, and we’re going against Feleipe Franks. Arkansas’ going to be relatively one-dimensional but it’ll be nice to see us stop the run. Auburn’s going to be without K.J. Britt, who underwent surgery late this week, so the linebacker corps is now even thinner than before. McClain and Pappoe are going to have to play the whole game just about, and they can’t be doing it making tackles eight yards downfield every play. Georgia bullied the line last week, but Arkansas probably doesn’t have the muscle to accomplish that.
  4. WEATHER AND TURNOVERS. With the impending rain from Hurricane Delta, the ball will be a little more slippery. Arkansas has committed five turnovers over the first two games, so now they’re playing in bad conditions with a team prone to giving it up. Auburn has been pretty solid so far, in the plus category in that regard, but they’ll have a little more trouble keeping their hands on the ball as well. An early turnover, even a defensive score, could put pressure on a Hog team that won’t be able to keep up or erase a deficit.

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