Thursday, October 4, 2012
This will be a hard fought battle. Neither team wants to walk off the field Saturday afternoon the cellar dweller of the SEC Western Division. The team that loses is just that.
Arkansas has been an absolute train wreck this season. It's been a long while since a team receiving as much preseason hype has fallen as hard and as quickly as the Razorbacks. Their effort seems poor, their mistakes too many to overcome, their coaching amateurish, injuries to key players unfortunate, their schedule littered with quality football teams--not quite to the same level but similar to what Auburn has faced. They're a team that scares me because offensively they're potentially explosive. They spread the ball around at a fast pace with a QB that's experienced, poised, and accurate--something we've struggled mightily to defend this season. This won't be LSU's offense rolling into Jordan-Hare trying to outphysical us without stretching us. Arkansas will take many shots downfield and have a tailback more than capable of taking it the distance when you least expect it. Defensively, if we lack intensity, if we sit back and react rather than forcing the action, if we play with poor fundamentals in our assignments and execution we run the risk of getting in a shoot-out with a team more than comfortable playing that role. This game has to be won with our defensive front seven and our offensive line. We can't be forced to commit extra defenders to stop Arkansas from running the football. Our secondary has it's hands full as it is. We have to get pressure on Tyler Wilson. If we can't get it with four, bring five. If five's not enough, bring six. Whatever it takes to make him move, throw off the rhythm and timing of their offense. They will have some success and score some points. That can't cause Kiehl Frazier to panic and feel he must match Wilson throw for throw. The offensive line must match Wilson by dominating the Arkansas front and controlling the football. Keeping Wilson on his sideline with methodical, punishing drives.
I will be watching Kiehl Frazier closely this week. For me, the training wheels must come off. He must be unleashed to be an athlete. He needs to get involved in the Auburn rushing attack. He needs to force defenses to defend the threat of him running the football. We don't have to put in a true freshman QB to accomplish that. Kiehl proved perfectly capable last season in that role. We have to be smart with the football but we also have to stretch the football field on occasion (not just laterally with McCalebb either). Go deep. Put pressure on their safeties, their corners, their defensive coordinator. To do otherwise puts the Auburn OL in a perilous situation. It's easy to stop a one-dimensional offense, even for a terrible defense like Arkansas. Complete some passes, have some success through the air and this Arkansas defense folds like cheap suit. Frazier gains confidence, the offense feeds off his confidence, the defense feeds off of the offense having a pulse. It's a game of momentum.
There's no question this is a must win game. This team must win if they're going to make any noise this season. Coach Chizik must win because a loss to a John L. Smith coached team, fair or not, is not what you want on your resume and perceptually would be nearly impossible to overcome. Both teams need a win desperately and with a lame duck coach in Smith, Arkansas can be fearless, break tendancies, let it all hang out. What's the worst that can happen?
I feel these two teams are moving in opposite directions, and no Terry from Talledega that doesn't mean I'm satisfied with a 1-3 mark. I am seeing this team improve, starting to buy-in and believe, and feel they are not far away from being a team no one wants to face. I don't get that feeling from Arkansas.