Prediction contest: Arkansas at Auburn

Update: The final score was Arkansas 24, Auburn 7. The prediction contest winner was Jones, who guessed Arkansas 23, Auburn 20

When the 2012 football season started, the Arkansas Razorbacks had two, maybe three, games circled on their calendar — Alabama, LSU and South Carolina. They knew going into the season that if they wanted a serious chance at a national championship, winning those games was key. After losing their fourth consecutive game last weekend in College Station, this time 58-10 to Texas A&M, it’s hard to imagine that every remaining game isn’t circled. The goal now: get to a lower-level bowl game.

Several writers are quick to say that this weekend’s matchup against Auburn is just what the Hogs are looking for. Both teams have one win. Both teams are 0-2 in SEC play. Both teams have an anemic portion to their offense. And both teams are fighting for their post-season chances.

According to Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, this Arkansas team is not one the Tigers are going to overlook:

They’re very dangerous. … There are explosive plays and turnovers that, if that doesn’t occur … much different team

The turnover comment is a definite certainty. Arkansas currently ranks dead last in the nation in turnover margin. With 15 turnovers and only 2 gained, the Hogs are at +2.6 turnovers a game. That’s not the easy path to victories. Even Arkansas head coach John L. Smith knows it:

 If we can win the turnover battle – which we’ve lost, lost, lost – we have a chance.

Is Auburn the team Arkansas was waiting for to get back on track with winning?

Auburn ranks 120th in turnover margin at +2 turnovers a game. The Tigers rank 117th in total offense and average 153 rushing yards and 144 passing yards per game. On defense, Auburn is a touch better than Arkansas. The Tigers rank 78th in total defense where they allow 208 rushing yards and 211 passing yards per game.

Arkansas is 55th in total offense (310 passing yards/game, 105 rushing yards/game and 23 pts/game) and 120th in total defense (349 passing yards/game, 160 rushing yards/game and 40 pts/game).

It sounds good on paper, but the realities aren’t good for the Hogs. It’s been proven that Arkansas can move the ball down the field, but they’re only converting 65% of their trips into the red zone. What’s worse, an average of 23 points per game isn’t going to win your team many games when opposing quarterbacks have field days, in the air, against your defense:

  • Jacksonville State — 227 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 118 passer rating
  • Louisiana-Monroe — 412 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 124 passer rating
  • Alabama — 213 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 175 passer rating
  • Rutgers — 397 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT, 213 passer rating
  • Texas A&M — 498 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 182 passer rating

And those numbers only get worse when the opposing team’s quarterback is a duel threat — enter Auburn Tiger, Kiehl Frazier.

So what must the Hogs do on Saturday to get their first SEC win?

Offensively: The Auburn Tiger defense isn’t the best in the country. Arkansas needs to come out and simply execute. Quarterback Tyler Wilson can’t try to force passes into double coverage. The receivers need to stop deflecting passes. And the running backs need to hold onto the ball. More specifically, it’s the same things the Hogs have been trying to do — protect Wilson, get Knile Davis and a running game going and spread the ball around the field. The Hogs have to find ways to score, especially when they get down to the red zone. Tight End Chris Gragg is still not well enough to play, but that shouldn’t affect the Hogs offensive attack. Two years ago Wilson came in for an injured Ryan Mallett, and performed well in Auburn, Alabama. The offense should do fine and receiver Cobi Hamilton should have another banner day.

Defensively: Simply put, Auburn is not good on offense. The offensive line for Auburn is pretty young, which could bode well for Arkansas’ defense. And the Tigers will be without their top receivers, Quan Bray, after being arrested. The big question mark for the Hogs is what will they do to contain, and ultimately stop, Frazier? Last week Johnny Manziel, almost literally, ran circles around Arkansas. Frazier is no stranger to running the football (at least in high school), but hasn’t seen much success doing that this season. If the Hogs can get pressure on Frazier, but not run past him in the backfield, they could be in for a fun day. Stopping the run will be key, too. And there’s your double-edged sword — if the Hogs commit to stopping the run, it will expose their secondary. And believe me, defensive coordinator Paul Haynes doesn’t want to expose his secondary any more than it already has been this season.

Special Teams: Kickers Zach Hocker and Dylan Breeding are still doing their jobs well. Hocker missed one of his field goal chances last week, but is currently 1st in the country in kickoffs, averaging 65+ yards a kick and 18 touchbacks. Breeding is averaging just over 45 yards/punt.

The weather in Auburn should be in the low 80s, perhaps one of the last super nice weekends before the fall sets in. Both teams will be battling for their first SEC win and their post seasons. The Hogs are the underdog, once again, as Auburn is favored by 8. It’s time for the offense to get back on track and for the defense to do enough for a victory. Arkansas 28, Auburn 24.

Let us know what you think the final score will be. If you’re the closest (see rules below), you’ll get a free t-shirt from Bearstate Supply.

How to enter

Leave a comment with your game prediction. If you want to add anything else, please feel free.

What you’ll win

One t-shirt of your choice (design, color, size) from the Bearstate Supply online store. (Hoodies, ringers and tri-blend AA’s not included)

The rules

  • You only may enter this specific contest once.
  • Contests are open to anyone anywhere except staff of Fayetteville Flyer and their immediate family members.
  • The winning entry must pick the winning team and have the smallest combined difference from each team’s final score. Example: If the Razorbacks win by a score of 21-7, and your prediction was Razorbacks 20-10, your difference would be 1 + 3 = 4. In the event of a tie, a winner will be selected by a random drawing.
  • You must pick the score by 15 minutes before kickoff for each game.
  • Make sure you leave a valid e-mail address when filling out the comment form since that’s how we’ll contact you if you’ve won.

Good luck!

Arkansas at Auburn

Date: Saturday, Oct. 6
Time: 11 a.m. Central
Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, Alabama
Broadcast: ESPN2

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