When Arkansas and Auburn square off on Saturday, don’t be surprised if the Razorbacks walk out of Jordan-Hare Stadium reaping the seeds of victory.
No, that isn’t a misprint, nor is it a Skip Bayless-esque prediction of any sort. Instead, it’s merely piggybacking onto the point that any team can win on any given Saturday in college football. One only needs to refer to Thursday night when Texas A&M and Rutgers defeated opponents who were favored to win.
Here’s how Arkansas can do the unthinkable come Saturday.
Get Out In Front Early
It may be cliché, but against Auburn, it will be vital for the Razorbacks to do just that.
Also playing to their advantage is the fact that the Tigers will be without starting quarterback Nick Marshall and cornerback Jonathon Mincy to begin the game. Both will start the game on the bench due to off-the-field issues but are expected to play later, per The Montgomery Advertiser’s James Crepea.
With that said, that means Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson will be making his first start against an SEC foe. The sophomore does have a start, but that was against an FCS opponent, Western Carolina. This will be a different animal for Johnson. Will he play it safe or take some risks?
If Arkansas can jump out to a quick score against the Tigers, it could help quiet what should be a raucous crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Follow that up with a defensive stop or two, and momentum could quickly start building on the visitor’s side.
Once that occurs, there’s no telling what could happen.
Run, Hogs, Run
If the Razorbacks want to hang around in this game, they will need to open up strong on the ground.
The rushing attack was something of a bright spot for the team a year ago, as Arkansas accumulated 2,504 yards and 14 touchdowns. The team’s marks of 208.7 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry ranked No. 21 and No. 17 in the nation, respectively.
With another year under their belt, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams should be a lot more explosive and productive in the backfield. The duo combined to record eight 100-yard rushing performances a year ago; they easily give the Razorbacks one of the best—if not the best—rushing duo in the SEC.
|2013||Alex Collins||Jonathan Williams|
|100+ YD Games||4||4|
It’s no secret that Auburn is lackadaisical when it comes to rush defense. The team conceded 200 rushing yards or more six times last year. Losing Dee Ford and having Carl Lawson sidelined due to injury isn’t going to help matters much either.
If Arkansas can get Collins and Williams going early, it can really put the pressure on the Tigers.
Consider this: In the Razorback’s three victories last year, the team averaged 294.3 rushing yards per game while finding the end zone six times. Collins and Williams both topped 100 yards on the ground in each of those games.
Win the Battle of Special Teams
Yes, Auburn’s standout play from 2013 occurred on special teams. But that doesn’t change the fact that the team will have a lot of rebuilding to do.
What will be the outcome of this game?
For starters, the Tigers will need to replace kicker Cody Parkey and punter Steven Clark. In their places, the team will turn to redshirt freshmen in Daniel Carlson and Jimmy Hutchinson, respectively. Not to mention, Chris Davis—the player who gained headlines for returning the missed field goal for a game-winning touchdown against Alabama—has graduated.
With that said, the Tigers could find themselves in a tough bind if the game comes down to a battle of field position or if Carlson is tasked with kicking a game-winning field goal.
On the other hand, Arkansas benefits from having Korliss Marshall returning kicks. The sophomore returned 19 kicks last year for 422 yards. If he can break some big ones, he could give the Razorbacks excellent field position, or even better, immediately put points on the scoreboard.
Overall, even if Arkansas executes its game plan to absolute perfection, it will still be a tall task to top Auburn.
Then again, stranger things have happened in college football. Who last year really saw the Tigers’ 2013 coming?
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
Sebastian can be reached on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.