You’d think that after starting the year at 3-4, and having all sorts of tumult, the bye week would’ve been a perfect time for some quiet reflection and a chance to get healty.
Instead, we got to see the Auburn team splinter even more as multiple players announced their intentions to separate from the group. Landen King, Tar’Varish Dawson, among others announced that they were going to be leaving, thanking certain people while leaving others off of the gratitude list.
Like Billy Zane said in Titanic, “It’s starting to fall apart”. While Auburn in 2022 wasn’t as highly touted as the Unsinkable Ship, it still applies. You know of everything that’s happened on the field, showing little sign of life in blowout losses to Penn State and Georgia, while looking listless in other games and having nothing to point to in the three wins we managed to accumulate.
Now we get Arkansas. This is a team that’s going to be looking for a statement and some revenge after last season’s loss in Fayetteville, which they thought was mishandled by the officials. I cannot lie and hope that if they do win, it’s in a fashion that will allow the powers that be to go ahead and get rid of Bryan Harsin as soon as possible. Of course, we still don’t even have an AD. ALAS.
WHEN ARKANSAS HAS THE BALL: It’s the K.J. Jefferson show, as the Hog quarterback does have a striking resemblance to one Cameron Newton. He’s obviously not in Cam’s league, but he can throw and he can run, and he’s big and strong. The offense doesn’t revolve as much around his ability on the ground, but he can break one off and make you pay for ignoring his shiftiness. He’s thrown for over 350 yards in a game twice this year, including last time out against BYU.
Raheim Sanders is having a great year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he passes 1,000 yards on the season today. Jadon Haselwood is a former top prospect at receiver, and he’s leading the way for the Hog passing game thus far. While Auburn hasn’t been successful at getting turnovers this season, they likely won’t get many today. Jefferson has 14 touchdowns to just a single interception.
WHEN AUBURN HAS THE BALL: Who the hell knows man. Tank Bigsby had a great game last week against Ole Miss, racking up nearly 200 yards and a dazzling long touchdown run, but our gameplan has decidedly not included him in many other games this year. Will we figure out that we need him or not?
The passing game is the great mystery, because we have no idea what to expect. How many series will T.J. Finley play if any? Will Robby Ashford hit 50% completions? Man, it’s tough. We really just want to watch Tank and Jarquez Hunter run the ball, and then see Derick Hall do his thing on defense.
SERIES HISTORY: Auburn leads the all-time series 19-11-1, and has dominated the series as of late. The Tigers have a 6-game win streak and have won 8 of 9, with the only loss coming in 4 overtimes in 2015 in the rain.
LAST MEETING: Last year was a fun one, when we thought we might have something under Bryan Harsin. Auburn jumped out to a 14-3 lead, and then held a 28-23 edge entering the fourth quarter. Bo Nix’s 23-yard scramble touchdown to clinch it led to Auburn’s fifth win of the year and put the Tigers at 5-2. WE THOUGHT IT WAS GOOD.
LAST WEEK: Auburn was on its bye week, but lost 48-34 to Ole Miss the week before. The Rebels ran for more than 400 yards, which bodes well for us today. Arkansas, meanwhile, was also on its bye week, but took care of business against BYU the weekend before as well. The Hogs wrapped up a 52-35 win to sit at 4-3.
TUCKER GREGG AWARD CANDIDATE: Raheim Sanders is a do-it-all guy for Arkansas, with 140 carries and 15 receptions over the year, by far the most prolific ball-handler aside from Jefferson. He averages 6.2 yards per carry, so we’re going to be seeing him run through us with alacrity today.
RANDOM PREDICTION WITH NO BASIS IN REALITY: Both Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter have long touchdown runs in the second half but neither one gets the Tigers within one score.
KEYS FOR AUBURN:
- Stop the run. You can’t give up 448 rushing yards in your last game and expect anything good to happen. Arkansas will pound it today, and you have to be able to show that you can stop them.
- Find some consistency in the passing game. Arkansas has given up a ton of yardage through the air, with the only games where they didn’t allow 300 yards coming against A&M and Alabama (both backup quarterbacks). Otherwise, Cincinnati, South Carolina, Missouri State, Mississippi State, and BYU all went well over 300 yards. This is the chance for Robby Ashford to find a foothold and make some big completions. He was able to hit some big plays and stack yards against LSU, but it should be even easier today.
- If you’re gonna lose, just do it enough to get this guy out of here. A loss at Ole Miss is one thing, and before that a loss to LSU where it was a night game and close at the end is another. If we’re down in the second half and fans are heading to the exits, the move has to be made.