Auburn Football 2012: An Early Look at the Arkansas Game

Kevin McGradySenior Writer IMarch 16, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Knile Davis #7 of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This series started as a pre-spring practice look at the teams that beat Auburn in 2011. These teams were put in order of the least to most challenging games for the 2012 season.  

Georgia appears to be the least challenging of these five teams this season as it has several very severe issues to address before kickoff this fall. Clemson appears to be next as it must replace experience along both lines to start the season. These are generally the most difficult positions to replace experience.

The task now gets more difficult as the final three teams are simply on another level. Not many who know college football put Clemson or Georgia in a class with Arkansas, Alabama or LSU at this point.

This fact makes ranking the next three opponents next to impossible with the current information that is available. For argument's sake, they will simply be ranked according to their conference finishes in 2011.

Arkansas was the third-place team in the SEC Western Division for 2011. This was a formidable team that simply did not have the talent on the line to compete with the elite of the SEC West.

Arkansas will be facing a host of issues in 2012 but should be a very solid team. This is a team that brought in a new defensive coordinator in hopes of improving the defense this year, which may be harder than anyone is willing to admit.

The biggest issue the Arkansas defense has to overcome is the Bobby Petrino offense. Arkansas converted less than 43 percent of its third downs last season, which becomes much more pronounced when looking at opponents that had a decent pass defense.

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 9: Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder of the Atlanta Falcons during minicamp at the Falcons Complex on May 9, 2009 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Paul Abell/Getty Images)
Paul Abell/Getty Images

For a defense to be successful in the SEC, it must either have great depth or must get off the field regularly for extended periods. With the Arkansas quick-strike offense, the Razorbacks found themselves back on the field very quickly in most cases.

Arkansas has neither great talent nor depth on defense. It is a blue-collar unit that could be serviceable given the right circumstances, but not when left on the field early and often.

The Arkansas defense was serviceable at getting off the field in 2011, allowing opponents to convert third downs only 37 percent of the time. The problem is it was back on the field in short order due to the offense.

The Arkansas offense is not likely to change much in 2012 and the defense will be on the field too much. The only logical cure is based in recruiting and that takes time. Arkansas simply needs more quality depth on defense.

Arkansas will be breaking in a new receiving corps for 2012. This will be made easier since Arkansas likely returns the best quarterback in the SEC this season. The Razorbacks have also recruited well for this position. The Arkansas offense is relatively deep and has much better talent than the defense.

For this particular game, Auburn will be facing a team that could be a little better than in 2011 but is certainly unlikely to be worse in any way. Arkansas is a very solid offensive team that will challenge the Auburn defense in every way imaginable.

Expect Arkansas to be in a very similar position as in 2011. The Razorbacks will only be beaten by those teams that can dominate them along the lines.