Auburn Football: Previewing The Arkansas Game
The No. 15 Auburn Tigers will try to defeat a ranked opponent for the second straight week when they travel to No. 10 Arkansas on Saturday night. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT start on ESPN.
Auburn (4-1, 2-0 SEC) returns to action after upsetting South Carolina 16-13 on Saturday. The Razorbacks (4-1, 0-1 SEC) rallied from well behind to defeat Texas A&M 42-38 in their last game.
Both teams’ only losses have come to teams currently ranked in the Top 10, with Auburn falling at Clemson and Arkansas dropping their SEC opener to Alabama.
The Opponent: Arkansas Razorbacks
The explosive Razorbacks enter the game with one of the nation’s most potent offenses. The Razorbacks rank seventh in college football with 351.8 passing yards per game and 16th with 39.4 points per game.
Arkansas’ offense is orchestrated by first-year starting quarterback Tyler Wilson. Wilson has done an excellent job early in the season, passing for 1,517 yards. He’s thrown nine touchdowns with only three interceptions. Wilson threw for a school-record 510 yards against Texas A&M, which is the highest total by any quarterback so far in 2011.
The Razorbacks have a talented corps of receivers for Wilson to target, led by Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. Wright, who set an Arkansas record with 281 yards against Texas A&M, is the leading receiver with 478 yards and four touchdowns.
The Arkansas defense is led by standout defensive end Jake Bequette, who is an NFL draft prospect. Bequette has missed the last three games with an injury but could return on Saturday. Linebacker Jerry Franklin leads the team with 36 tackles and is aiming to lead Arkansas in stops for the fourth straight season.
Tigers vs. Razorbacks
This will be the 21st meeting between the teams. Arkansas has won three of the last four games, but Auburn holds the all-time advantage with an 11-8-1 record.
Auburn is 5-3 when facing Arkansas on the road. They will be looking for their 12th straight win against SEC opponents.
A win over Arkansas would be Auburn’s 20th victory over teams ranked in the AP Top 10 since 2001. This is the second of four straight games for Auburn against ranked opponents.
Auburn Defense Faces Next Challenge
The much-maligned Auburn defense finally broke out with a solid performance in Saturday’s win over South Carolina.
The Tigers entered the game with one of the worst defenses in the nation but held South Carolina to only 289 total yards. Star running back Marcus Lattimore was limited to only 66 yards by the Tigers.
Now the Tigers will face the opposite of South Carolina’s inept passing attack in the form of the Razorbacks. Tyler Wilson enters the game on a high note after throwing for over 500 yards against Texas A&M, and the Tigers’ secondary will face their biggest test of the season so far.
Under head coach Bobby Petrino, Arkansas passers have thrown for over 300 yards in 23 of 43 games since his hire.
Wilson a Familiar Foe to Tigers
Tyler Wilson is in his first year as a starter for Arkansas, but the junior quarterback is no stranger to Auburn. In last year’s meeting, Wilson stepped in for an injured Ryan Mallett and threw for 323 yards in four touchdowns.
“Extremely impressed,” said Gene Chizik about Wilson. “I didn’t know a lot about him. You don’t really know a lot about backups going into games...For a guy coming off the bench and probably not expecting to play, I thought he showed an incredible amount of poise.”
Wilson’s has shown this season that the performance against Auburn last season was no flash in the pan. The Auburn defense will be challenged to limit his production on Saturday, but they might have a bit of an advantage of other teams in that they’ve already played nearly a full game against Wilson.
Dyer Looks to Build on Big Game
Michael Dyer may have flown a bit under the radar as an elite running back this season, but he enjoyed a breakout performance against South Carolina with 141 yards. He also set a new career-long run with a 52-yard touchdown.
The sophomore now has 550 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. He ranks 12th in the nation in rushing yards.
Dyer, who carried the ball 41 times last week, should expect another heavy workload while Auburn looks to keep the Arkansas offense off the field. The Arkansas defense has been mediocre against the run this season, giving up 168.2 yards per game.
Razorbacks Loaded at Wide Receiver
Arkansas features one of the most deep and talented groups of wide receivers in the country, with no less than four players on the Biletnikoff watch list.
Senior Jarius Wright, who had the huge game against Texas A&M, is the current leader. He’s threatening to break the school records for both yards and touchdowns.
Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton and Greg Childs are also capable threats who each rank in the Arkansas top 12 for career receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns.
Wright, Adams and Childs are in their final year of eligibility and could possibly all be selected in the NFL Draft.
Emory Blake Questionable for Saturday
Auburn will be without one, and possibly both, of its starting wide receivers on Saturday.
Trovon Reed is already set to miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. Leading receiver Emory Blake could also miss the game after injuring his ankle against South Carolina. Blake leads the Tigers with 333 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
“I’m not going to rule him out, but we are planning to play without him,” head coach Gene Chizik said in his press conference on Tuesday.
Look for wide receivers such as Quan Bray, Travonte Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton to see more playing time if Blake is unable to go.
Lutzenkirchen Keeps Making Big Plays
Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen hasn’t caught many passes during his Auburn career, but when he does, they usually play a big part in the game’s outcome.
The junior struck again on Saturday, as his nine-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter proved to be the winning score. Three of his six receptions this season have been in the end zone. Lutzenkirchen is now one score away from tying the Auburn career record for touchdowns by a tight end.
Barrett Trotter’s top passing target, Emory Blake, may not play on Saturday, so expect Lutzenkirchen to see a few more looks than usual.
Arkansas Running Game Sputtering Without Davis
Auburn will face many top running backs this season, but one who is missing from action is Arkansas’ Knile Davis. Davis, who ran for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, injured his ankle in training camp and will miss 2011. The Razorbacks running game is still looking to recover.
Arkansas enters Saturday averaging just 120.0 rushing yards per game, which places them towards the bottom third in the nation. Their leading rusher, Ronnie Wingo, is averaging 53.4 yards per game with two touchdowns.
The team does employ a solid goal-line specialist in Kody Walker, who has 68 total rushing yards but five touchdowns. Broderick Green and Dennis Johnson both saw their first action of the season against Texas A&M and could make more of an impact against Auburn.
Auburn’s run defense has some momentum after the strong showing against South Carolina, and it appears that their main concern against Arkansas will be the pass.