It has been a tale of two teams for Auburn in 2012. In the first two games against Clemson and Mississippi State, it would have taken a miracle for even an immobile tackling dummy to not break a tackle against the Auburn defense (we’re certain the dummy has a mean stiff-arm, though).
For six-and-a-half of the past eight quarters, Auburn has played much differently than the team we saw against Clemson and Mississippi State.
After a bye in Week 5, expect to see the team that played well for two-and-a-half quarters against ULM in Week 3 and the team that drove LSU to the brink of defeat in Week 4.
Against ULM, Kiehl Frazier looked comfortable. He was making accurate throws and managing the offense effectively through the first two-and-a-half quarters. Auburn was also running the ball well.
Then disaster happened.
Mike Blakely fumbled the ball at the ULM one-yard line to prevent Auburn going up by three scores. A few minutes later, Frazier threw an interception and the Warhawks grabbed all of the momentum and forced overtime, although Auburn eventually won.
The offense struggled to get anything going against the stout LSU defense too. There were spates of success on the offensive side of the ball, though. Scot Loeffler was quick to point out that Auburn averaged 5.1 yards per carry against LSU...if sacks were not included.
"#Auburn OC Scot Loeffler said if you exclude sacks, they rushed for 5.1 yards per carry against LSU. Said his guys played hard.
— Justin Hokanson (@JHokanson) September 28, 2012
In Week 4, against LSU, the Auburn defense held LSU to only one offensive touchdown and played its best game of the year by far. There was good tackling, coverage skills and rush defense.
The common denominator in the first three games this year were that the opposing offenses were more spread-based offenses. That gave the Auburn defense a lot of trouble while they were spread out in nickel coverage.
Arkansas will also look to spread it out and let QB Tyler Wilson throw the ball down the field like those other teams did. However, the new-look secondary, with Erique Florence and Joshua Holsey, will be much more formidable against the Hogs passing attack than we've seen recently.
Also of note, TE Chris Gragg, the Hogs second-leading receiver, will miss this weekend's game, giving the Auburn defense one less threat to worry about.
John L. Smith said on his radio show TE Chris Gragg is "still a week away" and the Razorbacks will play without him Saturday.
— Robbie Neiswanger (@NWARobbie) October 4, 2012
Arkansas will still have success on offense like they've had all year, averaging 417 yards per game so far. Their problem has been turnovers and poor execution in the red zone. The Hogs have committed 15 turnovers and scored a touchdown once in their last eleven times in the red zone.
With consistent pressure on Tyler Wilson from sack-machine Corey Lemonier on the end and an Auburn interior defensive line that showed a lot of improvement in the final three quarters against LSU, that trend should continue.
The Auburn offense will build off the little things it did right against LSU and have its best performance of the year against the last-ranked defense in the SEC. If the Auburn offense is going to have any sort of success in the SEC this year, it will come this weekend.
If for no other reason, we will see a similar Auburn team from Week 4 this weekend because Auburn is coming off of its bye week. The bye week came at a perfect time for Auburn. It allowed them to reassess what they have done well so far and what they need to do to continue improving.
"Our one goal and intent in the off week was to improve, I feel like we’ve done that," Chizik said. “I feel like we’ll continue to do that this week, but we’ve got to go out and show it Saturday." (via Charles Goldberg, AL.com)
Kiehl Frazier used the bye week to work on his fundamentals. He thinks you'll see a different quarterback come Saturday. Auburn fans certainly hope so.
They also hope to see the same passion and style of play from the Auburn team that they saw in Week 4. All signs indicate that the Auburn team that they saw in Week 4 is much closer to reality than the one's they saw in Week 1 and Week 2.