Arkansas vs Auburn: Keys to a Razorback Win

Donald FincherAnalyst IOctober 9, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Texas A&M Aggies at Cowboys Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Arkansas-Auburn game is a hard one to predict.  Part of that is because both of their records are misleading.

In the Georgia game, Arkansas had just scored and Georgia had just turned the ball over on their side of the field when Hades broke loose.  Arkansas was penalized 30 yards on a double personal foul penalty and lost their best linebacker to an ejection.  This caused Petrino too complain too loudly and he got another 15 yards tacked on. 

So what should have been the score that broke Georgia's back and resulted in a Razorback win ended up being the turning point that instead gave Georgia the lifeline they had to have and momentum.  But truth be told, Arkansas should be a one loss team right now.

Auburn was trailing and playing very ineffectively at home to West Virginia.  WVU was pulling away very steadily.  Then, all of the sudden, they got turnover-itis and coughed up the ball five times.  No, that's not a typo.  Even with those turnovers, Auburn only won by 11 and in the fourth quarter.  So, truth be told, Auburn should also be a one-loss team.

The betting public and casino houses apparently know this as they have set the line at two points in Auburn's favor.  Home team only accounts for three points in a betting spread meaning that on a neutral field, Auburn would be favored by five points.  When's the last time you saw a team that was 5-0 only favored by that little when their opponent was 2-2 and in the same conference?

Another reason it's hard to predict this game is because both teams mirror each other in their strengths and weaknesses.  Both teams have prolific offenses.  Arkansas' offense is high octane because of an abundance of skill players and Bobby Petrino is an offensive genius.

Auburn is a high powered offense because they run so many plays with their hurry up offense and they are hard to prepare for because they run a different offense than just about anyone else in the SEC (lots of motion, deception, and trick plays).

Both defenses have some serious holes—especially against the pass.  And both defenses have issues in the depth department.

Special teams for both squads have been hardly better than mediocre.

One would normally conclude that the home team would have the intangibles advantage.  However, the home team nearly always loses this one.  Auburn has won three of the last four meetings in Fayetteville and Arkansas has won three of the last four at Auburn.

Arkansas has a better coach but Auburn has a lot of confidence and the momentum that comes from starting 5-0.

So what will determine this game?

I think that once Arkansas gets going offensively, they won't be stopped.  Auburn hasn't seen the kind of passing game the Razorbacks have. 

They've played Tennessee (who could not be more unhappy with their QB situation), West Virginia (who is breaking in a new QB this year and he had trouble telling uniform colors apart in their game because he kept throwing to Auburn's guys), Miss. State (who could never be confused for an offensive juggernaut), and a team from the WAC and the MAC.

If Mallett and the receivers get in rhythm, Arkansas will move the ball and limit the amount of times Auburn has the ball while keeping the crowd in the game.  This will put stress on Auburn's offense to keep up and possibly make them play from behind.  Their QB is decent but not great.  He will be prone to bad decisions if he gets behind the proverbial eight ball.

Not only that but he is not the most mobile guy either.  He's not going to beat you with his feet like a Tebow would.  If Arkansas can get any pressure at all on him, he will have to hit passes on the run in Malzahn's offense which is more of a finesse offense than a power offense.  Disruptions in timing and throwing on the run will be more problematic for a Malzahn offense than most teams.

I see another shootout like Georgia but this time I don't see Arkansas fading in the 4th quarter like they did in that game.  Also, from the looks of the last two games, it also appears that monumental penalty breakdowns were taken care of after the Georgia game as well.

Since Arkansas has scored over 40 points against all of their opponents except their game against Bama (which was on the road, in the rain, and against perhaps the best defense in the game), I see Arkansas able to cross that threshold again.  This is especially true against a porous non-tested defense and after really coming together offensively in the A&M game.

Auburn's scoring average is 41 points but that average is skewed high by playing Louisiana Tech, Ball State, and Mississippi State where they averaged 46 points per game in those three outings against only 33 per game in the two outings against decent quality defenses (West Virginia and Tennessee).

And the average in those latter two games would be much lower than it is (probably high 20's) if not for the explosion of WVU turnovers that led to some easy Auburn touchdowns.

I see Auburn getting a higher amount of points than the Tennessee game (26) but less than against their weak teams average (46) which would put them mid 30s.

Therefore, my prediction is Arkansas 41 Auburn 35