The No. 21 Tigers are looking to bounce back against Arkansas after a devastating loss to LSU. Here are some players to watch and keys to victory for this weekend’s matchup.
Players to watch
Jeff Holland (Auburn)
The junior defensive end has been a menace in opponent’s backfields all season, and it does not look like he will slow down against the Razorbacks. Holland has already recorded six sacks and eight tackles for loss this season. The 112th ranked offensive line of Arkansas is giving up three sacks a game and has been trying to find answers all season. Holland will take advantage of the lack of consistency and have himself a game Saturday.
Carlton Davis (Auburn)
An AP midseason All-American, Davis has made quarterbacks think twice before throwing to his side of the field ever since he has gotten to Auburn. Davis has eight pass deflections and one interception so far in 2017, and is looking to bounce back after a below average performance against LSU. Whether it is Austin Allen or Cole Kelley starting for the Razorbacks, look for Davis to be back to his usual self.
Cole Kelley (Arkansas)
The redshirt freshman is most likely getting his second straight start while Austin Allen recovers from a shoulder injury. Kelley did not have a bad game against Alabama throwing for 23-42 for 200 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-7, 268-pound quarterback spread the ball to nine different receivers last week and could be primed to make a nice performance on Saturday.
Keys to Victory
Arkansas’ bread and butter is its ability to control to clock and slow the game down. Auburn’s defense is banged up with four starters being listed as injured. Most are active for Saturday except Tre’ Williams, who is questionable with a lingering shoulder injury.
Arkansas must take advantage of the shorthanded Auburn defense and keep them on the field as long as possible by taking control of the time of possession in order to win Saturday’s contest.
The Tigers have jumped on opponents early all season, but have stalled late in games, most notoriously against LSU after blowing a 20-0 lead and losing the game 23-27. Auburn needs to keep their foot on the gas all game, whether the game looks out of reach or not to show the country what they are capable of.
The predictable play calling on first down must stop for Auburn to be effective on offense throughout this game. At one point, Auburn ran 17 consecutive runs on first down against LSU. Jarrett Stidham has been a first down guru all season throwing completing 38-of-49 throws on first down and averaging 12.75 yards per attempt. If Gus lets Stidham throw it more on first down then Auburn’s offense can bust open.
Score prediction: Auburn 37, Arkansas 23
Coach Malzahn has faced a lot of scrutiny about his predictable play calling throughout his tenure at Auburn, he knows his seat is as hot as it has ever been and will adjust against Arkansas. He should Stidham more freedom to throw the ball, while still having a dominating ground game with Kerryon Johnson.