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Friday, October 15, 2010

Who has the edge: Arkansas or Auburn?

It's Friday. No messing around. Let's get to the edges.

(Quick blog plugs: Twitter and Facebook.)

No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn
  • Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium
  • When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Records: Arkansas 4-1, 1-1 SEC; Auburn 6-0, 3-0 SEC
Arkansas passing game vs. Auburn secondary
Perhaps you've heard of this Ryan Mallett fella. He's good. He leads the SEC in passing yards per game (349.6) by more than 100 yards a game. He's a big, strong-armed, prototypical NFL-type guy. But he doesn't do it alone. The Hogs' receivers play a big role. Joe Adams (408 yards), Greg Childs (363 yards) and tight end D.J. Williams (259 yards) are all in the top-10 in the SEC in receiving, in addition to other threats. The Auburn secondary, meanwhile, has given up its fair share of yards (239.2 per game to be exact, 10th in the SEC). The silver lining is that the Tigers have only allowed three plays longer than 25 yards this year. That will be key. Arkansas has 16 such plays this season. Edge: Arkansas.
Arkansas running backs vs. Auburn linebackers
The Razorbacks have been so pass-based this year that they're last in the SEC in rushing offense (108.8 ypg), with 43 fewer attempts than any other team. Knile Davis (203 yards) and Broderick Green (192 yards) get the majority of the carries. Auburn is 14th nationally against the run, giving up 95.7 yards per game. Josh Bynes (34 tackles) is a big reason. Craig Stevens is playing better and Daren Bates is coming along. For anyone who doesn't think this will be an important matchup against Arkansas, remember that in last year's 44-23 loss in Fayetteville, it was RB Michael Smith (145 yards, 1 TD) who got things going and set up the play-action pass for Mallett. Edge: Auburn.
Arkansas offensive line vs. Auburn defensive line
The Hogs have thrown the ball more times per game than anyone in the SEC, so their nine sacks allowed are relatively good. LT DeMarcus Love is on the Outland and Lombardi Award watch list, but two starters (RG Alvin Bailey and center Travis Swanson) are redshirt freshmen. Of note: this group has 18 false start penalties in five games, so not everyone appears to be on the same page. Auburn didn't get much pressure on Kentucky quarterbacks (1 sack, 0 hurries), but that was an anomaly against a quick-throwing team. The Tigers still have the SEC's sack and TFL leader in DT Nick Fairley. They'll need some pressure from DE Antonie Carter, who has four tackles and half of a sack in his last two games. Edge: Auburn.
Auburn passing game vs. Arkansas secondary
Everyone knows Cam Newton has made a big impact with his legs, but he made some big throws last week too. And WR Darvin Adams (five catches, 101 yards vs. Kentucky) bailed him out a couple of times, going up to catch a pass over a Wildcats defensive back. If those two start developing the same kind of chemistry Adams had with Chris Todd, this offense can be even more dangerous. The Razorbacks have been solid against the pass this year, giving up only 167.8 yards per game, fourth in the league. The group has five interceptions to four touchdowns allowed. Safety Tramain Thomas, who earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors after intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble against Texas A&M last week, has been sick this week but will be ready for the game, according to reports. Edge: Push.
Auburn running backs vs. Arkansas linebackers
Running backs coach Curtis Luper had some harsh words for his group this week, saying he needs more production from them as a whole. This might have to do with Mike Dyer's recent fumbling problems (two in three games) or they're just in general. Other than Newton, Auburn has had only one 100-yard rusher this season (Dyer vs. South Carolina).Mario Fannin is healthy again and has rushed 18 times for 139 yards the last two weeks. Dyer, Fannin and Onterio McCalebb combined for 115 yards against Kentucky on 22 carries (a 5.2-yard average), which apparently isn't enough. The Hogs are giving up 134.6 yards per game on the ground, ninth in the SEC. Preseason All-SEC pick Jerry Franklin leads the team with 37 tackles. Anthony Leon is second with 35 and Jerrico Nelson is third with 30 tackles. So the Razorbacks' linebackers make plays. The wild card here is Newton, who can really be considered a running back at this point. Nobody's stopped him yet. Edge: Auburn.
Auburn offensive line vs. Arkansas defensive line
The Tigers' line has played well ever since Gene Chizik challenged them prior to the South Carolina game. Auburn had 334 rushing yards against SC and 311 against Kentucky, so somebody is opening up holes. This will be one of LT Lee Ziemba's bigger challenges, going up against Arkansas DE Jake Bequette, who has a team-best four sacks this year. The Razorbacks have 17 in five games, the fourth-most per game in the country. The Tigers are tied for the third fewest allowed in the SEc with seven. Edge: Auburn.
Arkansas return units vs. Auburn coverage teams
Dennis Johnson, who burned Auburn for a long kickoff return last year, is out with an injury, so Adams and Maudrecus Humphrey have filled in. Neither have been spectacular. Arkansas in 109th nationally in kick returns. That's probably good for Auburn, which struggled against Kentucky to a) kick the ball deep and b) tackle anybody. Cody Parkey could handle kickoffs again. Fellow freshman Steven Clark will likely do the punting. He had boots of 32 and 36 yards in his first two collegiate efforts against Kentucky. Adams handled the Hogs' punt returns too. He has an 11.4-yard average, third best in the SEC. Edge: Arkansas.
Auburn return units vs. Arkansas coverage teams
The Tigers avoided near disaster when Demond Washington and Terrell Zachery botched a handoff on a reverse late in the Kentucky game. Auburn needed to try something to kickstart a mediocre return team, though. The Tigers are eighth in the SEC, averaging a mundane 22.1 yards per return. Punt returns aren't any better. Quindarius Carr hasn't looked as confident back there since some early-season muffs. Arkansas' Dylan Breeding is 24th nationally with a 44.0-yard punting average. Edge: Arkansas.
Kickers
Wes Byrum seems to have his mojo back, kicking three field goals, including a short game-winner, at Kentucky. Arkansas freshman Zach Hocker is 5-for-6 on field goals this year, with his long coming from 48. All things being equal, you take the senior over the freshman. Edge: Auburn.
Coaches
Chizik and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino aren't strangers. They coached on the same Tommy Tuberville staff in 2002, Chizik as defensive coordinator, Petrino as offensive coordinator. And they both pressed forward with their careers elsewhere with varying degrees of success (Chizik at Texas and Iowa State; Petrino at Louisville and with the Atlanta Falcons). Petrino had the upper hand last year, his offense giving Auburn fits all afternoon in a blowout in Fayetteville. And no team in the SEC seems to play Gus Malzahn better than the Hogs. They stymied their former coordinator when he was at Tulsa and made Auburn look like a Pop Warner team for the first half last year. Edge: Arkansas.
Prediction
Going strictly by who had more edges, I would have to take Auburn in this game. But Arkansas' passing game has such a ridiculous advantage on the Tigers' secondary that it truly is an equalizer. I can see ways that Arkansas might be able to slow down certain parts of Auburn's offense. But I can't see how the Tigers are going to slow down Mallett -- unless the defensive line plays out of its minds and pressures him on every play. This is the game where the secondary's problems truly get exposed. Prediction: Arkansas 36, Auburn 34.

23 comments:

Bret Moore said...

I just don't see that Arkansas puts up 36 on us at home. Do you mean to tell me that our secondary is worse than TAMU's? Not buying it. I think it will be close, and probably too close for comfort, and we might even lose, but it won't be to a score that large. I mean, lookit, if Bama's crappy front seven had their way with Arky in Fayetteville, how the heck can you pick them to own our front seven (who are far and away better than Bama's, secondary notwithstanding)? Yes, Mallet and his receivers are dangerous, but I think our secondary is overly (and unjustifiably) maligned.

easyedwin said...

Uhhh..........AB , Auburn has 5 edges. Arky only 4.
EDGE has to go to Auburn

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,

I have noticed that in any of our bigger games this year you given the edge to the opponent.
Is there something about this coaching staff that has you questioning their ability to win big games?

WDEwg said...

I like Bret's analysis better. Sorry AB - -I love your stuff, but WAR EAGLE.

That being said, I have a knot in my stomach about this game.

Andy Bitter said...

I've actually picked Auburn in every game so far this season.

I just don't think the Tigers match up well in this one.

Our Family said...

I think it can go either way, but I like the fact that ARKY hasn't scored a TD in the last 2 quarters of their last two games. So much for that awesome offense with Mallett.

Tyson said...

I appreciate your objective opinion - it's the reason why I visit your blog instead of all the other ones.

Bret Moore said...

Don't get me wrong - love the blog and analysis. I just think people aren't looking at ALL the data. From what I've seen and read, Arky's not a quick-pass team like UK, and anyway, we got torched _on the road_ by Randall Freakin' Cobb, so unless Knile Davis gets loose (knock on all wood in a 10-mile radius) I don't think you can look at UK's offensive production and extrapolate that to Arkansas _at home_.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, when I said you had given the edge to the opponent in our bigger games, I was referring to coaching. Not the overall pick.

Andy Bitter said...

With South Carolina, I gave the edge to Spurrier mostly on experience. I didn't realize he wouldn't use that experience to his advantage until he faced Alabama.

As for this game, like I said, Malzahn hasn't fared well against Arkansas in his career.

It's not questioning the coaching staff's ability. It's just a game-by-game evaluation.

Anonymous said...

Andy, how dare you? Just kidding. You always give it a fair analysis. I love Auburn, hate your prediction, but have to agree with it...ugh

-Hock E Hair

aubiebattle said...

Great breakdown as usual AB!I don't like your prediction but I respect your objectivity and there is definitely that possibility that we lose this game. Wanted to let you kow that you stated that Petrino had been Auburn's defensive coordinator in your coaching breakdown. Minor little mistake...

My prediction: Auburn 38- Arky 24

Andy Bitter said...

What, you mean they weren't co-defensive coordinators?

Thanks for the heads up. Fixed it.

tptoomers said...

I agree with your analysis. Are we also in agreement that in this crazy season one loss Arkansas is more dangerous than undefeated LSU? That is crazy. I am going to assume you were picking Arkansas against the 3.5 spread. I agree Auburn wins by 3 on the resurgence of Fannin.

Anonymous said...

Andy I would agree with you if the game were in Fayettenam. Fortunately its in Auburn. I think that makes a tangible difference between two close teams.

Auburn wins. Not by much, but I think we win.

Anonymous said...

Auburn's secondary has been horrid this year...heck, for the last 3 years. How does Lolley keep his job when his DBs don't know how to play man coverage?

If Auburn plays man to man, Mallet will burn them deep. If Auburn plays zone all game, Mallet will pick them apart on crossing routes underneath. Barring domination by the AU defensive line, I don't think it will be close.

CHB said...

Pressure, pressure and more pressure. That is how we stop Mallet. Our dline has played much better than bama's and they were able to get to Mallet and that is what won the game for them. Also there is no way TAMU's D is all around better than ours. They don't have the Dline that we do. On the other side of the ball I don't see anyway of shutting Newton down. You might slow him down but he will get his yards and points. We have a lot of weapons on offense that are being overshadowed by Newton's remarkable play. I think its a shoot out but Auburn pulls away in the 4th. Auburn is playing extremely well on both sides of the ball and Arky is not. 45-31 good guys. The fans create a huge advantage in this game.

Love your work Andy but I think you got this one wrong. We will find out tomorrow.

MikeP said...

The Auburn secondary is not as bad as portrayed. By and large they are doing what the coaches want, which is not give up long TD's. Auburn is shutting down the run, which forces teams to throw more against us. Does anyone realize that Auburn is #2 in the SEC in total defense?

However, the secondary is not the question. Arky has an O-line that's not nearly as good or experienced as South Carolina's. Our D-front got 3 sacks and 15 QB hurries vs USCe. Anything like that tomorrow and Auburn wins going away.
My pick:
Auburn 31
Arky 20

Anonymous said...

SO how come you rave about Mallett and totally ignore Cam Newton? In case you haven't noticed, NOBODY has come close to shutting him down, and he holds the Auburn record for longest touchdown pass (like 94 yards) and number of games by a quarterback with over 100 yards rushing! Mallett has proven only that he will choke under pressure if you can get heat on him in the pocket. So far, at the juco level (national title!) and Auburn, Newton has shown no signs of being rattled, and has delivered more shots to the defense than they have put on him. Edge at QB has to go to the man with the performance edge, undefeated so far as a D-1 QB, the Caminator!

AUsome04 said...

Ah guys, AB's entitled to his opinion. And it's an honest assessment. Arkansas' players have been bragging all across the message boards of knowing how to shut down Malzahn's O. We'll see. And of course AB voted their coaches better. Until Chizik outcoaches Petrino head to head, then the nod goes to Ark. Hopefully Chizik's reign starts tomorrow. War Eagle

Anonymous said...

Why don't we let them play it out on the field and see what happens? If the TIGERS come out ready to play and take care of business I think they will send the pigs home crying. With the great fans at Jordan-Hare being loud that's like having an extra man on the field every down. I think this team has something to prove and will be ready. We can anylis the X's and O's til kick off but what it comes down to is who wants if more. I say it's the TIGERS! WAR EAGLE!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I love my Auburn Tigers and win lose or draw I will stand with them. I realize that we haven't played four quarters yet and that our secondary it weak. However, I do think that this team has walked thru the fire together last year and has found ways to come together and win this year. That says to me that the tigers will roar at Jordan Hare on Saturday. WAR EAGLE!!!!!!!

Moose said...

Good write up Andy. I don't know what's up with these folks that don't realize how outmatched our secondary is going to be today. Like I said earlier this week; I think Mallett is good for 400 yards through the air. Our pass defense is just too soft, and to say that they will come around in this game is wishful thinking at best. If Auburn wins it will be done by scoring at least 40 points.

Good write up Andy, I am glad we've got beat writers that can keep it real.

War Eagle! Beat Arkansas!