Thursday, October 6, 2011

Arkansas Preview

I say this every year. Arkansas is the most difficult opponent in the conference to face. Not always physically/athletically...although they're always good enough to beat you if you don't arrive ready to battle. When you play Arkansas, you know a physical game in store. The problem for most SEC teams is Arkansas doesn't get the competitive juices flowing. How many recruiting battles come down to Arkansas and fill in a SEC school? A few...but not many. Going to Fayetteville is even more daunting. It's hard to get to, a long trip, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, in a smaller stadium filled with squealing fans wearing pig noses. It's just different and the difference is palpable as a player.

What I like about the match-up...

1. Auburn is catching Arkansas at the right time. They got pounded by Alabama and survived a brutal battle against A&M. The Hog defense gave up over 620 yards against Texas A&M including nearly 350 yards on the ground! We want to run the football to control the clock and Arkansas has had great difficulty in stopping the run. Lots of defensive injuries for Arkansas after these two games. They are limping defensively into their off-week after their game with Auburn.

2. Auburn's performance on the road last week on national TV against a top 10 team. Tells me the stage this week (virtually the same as last) is not too big for a young football team. We should play with plenty of confidence.

3. Our greatest depth defensively is in the secondary and at defensive end, the two most important areas when attempting to slow down this Arkansas offense.

4. Punter Steven Clark. Having an All SEC caliber season and killed South Carolina last week by pinning their offense deep. Poor field position cripples an offensive coordinator and for a team struggling to run the football and wanting to air it out, Steven Clark's foot could be an enormous advantage in this game.

5. The game means something to key individuals wearing orange and blue. Gus Malzahn, Mike Dyer, Kiehl Frazier...all want to return home with their chest out for the holidays.

What I don't like...

1. Precision of Tyler Wilson with a stable of elite wide outs and one of the best offensive coordinators in all of football. This offense will be the most talented this Auburn defense faces all season. The blueprint to defending Arkansas was designed two weeks ago by Alabama. Pressure and hit Wilson consistently, give them the underneath stuff and punish the WRs after the catch. We must tackle great after the catch.

2. Back to back road games against top caliber competition. We proved last week we're capable. Doesn't make the challenge any less daunting this week.

3. Bobby Petrino vs Ted Roof. Perhaps the largest mismatch of the season (and it doesn't favor the Auburn Tigers!). It's gonna take an entire team effort once again to outscore the Razorbacks.

4. Emory Blake's doubtful status. Barrett Trotter has obviously developed a rapport with #80. Time for another WR to emerge as a playmaker.

Last year this Arkansas game was the only game I predicted a loss. This year...I believe the match-up overwhelms our defense. I just don't believe we hold Arkansas down for four quarters and the loss of Blake and Reed is too much for the offense to overcome. If we grind it out on the ground and play ball control, and score TD's instead of kick field goals we could win the game. I hope I'm proven wrong!


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