Arkansas is not alone in their struggles, however, as both teams share 0-2 records in the SEC West Division. The difference between the two teams—Arkansas at 1-4 and Auburn at 1-3—is that Auburn’s losses have come in much closer games, while Arkansas has been unable to pull out of their freefall following the removal of Bobby Petrino as head coach in the wake of his controversial motorcycle accident.
After entering the 2012 season ranked 10th in the AP Poll and winning their opener against Jacksonville State, Arkansas has spiraled, losing four straight by a combined 179 to 67, allowing more than 50 points to both Alabama and Texas A&M. Both teams remain on Auburn’s schedule.
Given Arkansas’s inability to keep games close, it should be expected that Auburn—who has lost by more than one score only once—would be able to manage a victory against the Razorbacks, who allowed 498 passing yards to Texas A&M this past week.
However, this is no consolation to an Auburn offense that has struggled in every facet this season. In contrast to Arkansas’s poor pass defense, Auburn has managed only 579 yards through the air this season and will be without receiver Quan Bray on Saturday after he was arrested late last week.
Under Chizik, the 2010 Coach of the Year, Auburn has struggled in the two seasons since winning the National Championship behind Cam Newton. In that game alone, Auburn put up 519 yards of total offense and had averaged nearly 350 yards of offense each week. This year, Auburn is averaging 297.8 yards, and have lost two games by a touchdown or less, their only win coming by a similar margin: 31-28 over Louisiana-Monroe.
When Chizik was brought to Auburn, it was to replace Tommy Tuberville, who left following a 5-7 season in 2008. If Auburn were to lose to the underperforming Arkansas team, they would go on to play a 3-2 Ole Miss team followed two weeks later by a strong Texas A&M determined to make a name in the SEC.
With games against Vanderbilt and New Mexico State also on the schedule, it is reasonable to think that Auburn could start November at 3-6 when they host Georgia—currently ranked fifth in the country.
It does not seem that the schedule is going to align in a way that would allow the Tigers to finish above .500, finishing the season against Alabama A&M and at rival Alabama. Seemingly, one of the only benefits from a win against Arkansas would be to avoid last place in the West a year after going 4-4 against the SEC, but that still leaves Chizik on the hot seat.
“Nobody wants pats on the back and ‘good try’s,” said Chizik on Auburn Radio’s Tiger Talk. “We expect to win those games.”
Chizik may need a pat on the back by the end of this season if they can’t manage enough offense to win the close games they have been playing and avoid embarrassing losses to the top of the SEC in Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.