The Auburn Plainsman sports staff gives their preview of Saturday's matchup between No. 21 Auburn and Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Will Sahlie, sports editor
Auburn enters this weekend’s game in Fayetteville at a crossroads. Everyone wants to know the answer to the grand question – how is Auburn going to bounce back from last weekend’s meltdown at LSU?
Arkansas could provide a good opportunity for Auburn to get back on track. The Hogs have struggled in every phase of the game in SEC play. Will Auburn be able to keep Arkansas on the mat? That is to be seen.
If the Tigers come out and show effects from last week’s loss, the Razorbacks will put Auburn on upset alert.
If Auburn is able to come out and build an early lead, they should cruise to a bounce-back SEC road win.
I think Auburn comes out and puts a couple scores on the board early Saturday night in Fayetteville, and ultimately earns an underwhelming conference victory. Kerryon Johnson will continue his torrid touchdown streak inside the red zone and Auburn’s defense will prove up to the challenge of playing the physical Arkansas offense.
Score prediction: Auburn 31, Arkansas 13
Nathan King, assistant sports editor
The last time Auburn was coming off a crushing road loss in which the offense proved anemic in the second half, the Tigers almost fell at home to Mercer.
Auburn escaped Jordan-Hare with a 24-10 victory over the FCS Bears on homecoming, revealing that Gus Malzahn's team didn't have much of a fire lit under them after losing in Week 2 at Clemson. Last week's loss to LSU is a much different situation. Auburn was favored in that contest and losing came in a meltdown fashion, as opposed to the methodical win by Clemson.
Last season, it was injury after injury that stalled out the Auburn offense after they ripped off a six-game winning streak. When at full power (notably with a healthy QB under center) Auburn terrorized opponents. This year's offense hit a brick wall after the opening quarter-and-a-half of play against LSU, and needs to turn it around fast before they get stunned by an Arkansas ballclub desperate for a season-altering win.
The Razorbacks are 2-4 (0-3 SEC) and will be playing their first conference home game of the year. Fresh off a beating at the hands of No. 1 Alabama, the Arkansas offense will rely on redshirt freshman QB Cole Kelley, who is still heading the squad after an injury to starter Austin Allen. Kelley's performance against the Crimson Tide was modest at best, however some home cooking may be just the spark that Arkansas needs to play a competitive in-conference game.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham should be able to get back on track against a lowly Razorbacks secondary, but don't count on the Tigers to run away with this one. After losses in the Malzahn era, Auburn is outscoring their opponents 453-316 -- an average victory of 30-21. Toss out a few bounce-back games against Alabama A&M, Idaho and Arkansas State, and Auburn is barely batting .500 coming off losses.
Expect Kerryon Johnson to have another solid performance, even if Kamryn Pettway again inexplicably touches the ball five more times than backups Kam Martin and Devan Barrett combined. If Johnson is spelled by the talented youngsters, he could run wild.
Arkansas will stay in the game until the fourth, when the Tigers defense should be able to wear down the Razorbacks' offense line and start beating up on Kelley. However, if Arkansas is able to grab a few turnovers early, keep the crowd in the game and expose Auburn's offense again, we could be looking at the upset of the week.
Score prediction: Auburn 24, Arkansas 16
Bennett Page, sports writer
The crushing defeat against LSU put a damper on what looked like a hopeful season for Auburn. After making it into the top ten for the first time this season, Auburn's offensive collapse leaves them with no room for mistakes the rest of the season.
Looking forward, Arkansas is the easiest game left on Auburn's schedule other than Louisiana Monroe. Austin Allen is still questionable for the game, but Cole Kelley will most likely be the quarterback for the Razorbacks. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, Auburn's defensive front seven should be able to break through Arkansas' offensive line fairly easily and put pressure on the quarterback. Cole Kelley performed well against Alabama, but not well enough to win a game against an SEC power like Auburn.
The Tiger offense should be able to bounce back against Arkansas after the embarrassing performance against LSU. After the loss to Clemson earlier this season, the offense coughed up five turnovers against Mercer and only won by two touchdowns. As long as Auburn doesn't give the ball up to much, which they have gotten much better at recently, the Tiger offense should be able to put plenty of points on the board.
Auburn's ability to penetrate the offensive line should keep Arkansas from scoring too many points, while Kerryon Johnson and Jarrett Stidham will find the end zone a few times. I don't expect this too be too close of a matchup.
Score Prediction: Auburn 35, Arkansas 17
Tyler Roush, sports reporter
With Gus Malzahn returning home, it should be time for the Auburn Tigers to return to normality as well.
Auburn’s offense is going to rely on quarterback Jarrett Stidham and running back Kerryon Johnson amidst Kyle Davis’ dismissal from the team. Though Davis did not contribute stellar numbers this season or last, the persistent unknown with a routinely dynamic offense is providing more questions than answers.
Fayetteville, Arkansas will provide Stidham a platform to return to a SEC leading sort of efficiency. Johnson will continue his campaign as Auburn’s “Mr. Touchdown” with the reliance of an ever-changing offensive line.
Anything outside the box is territory for Malzahn to avoid.
Arkansas is without quarterback Austin Allen, who already contributed aided in their “bottom-feeding” standing in the SEC, and will rely again on redshirt freshman Cole Kelly. Throwing Kelly against Alabama and the ensuing Auburn Tigers won’t be too kind.
As for rushing, Arkansas doesn’t have anyone ranking in the top 20 in the SEC. Against Auburn’s rush defense, running the ball won’t be too kind, either.
If Auburn makes adjustments at halftime, with the assumption that Arkansas will do the same, then Malzahn should complete the first step in his goal to win out.
Score prediction: Auburn 28, Arkansas 14
Sumner Martin, sports writer
Both Gus Malzahn and Bret Bielema are now on the hot seat, making for an intriguing matchup in Fayetteville.
After a heartbreaking loss in Death Valley, a loss for Auburn will more than likely mean the end of Gus Malzahn and take them completely out of SEC West title contention. I expect the Tigers to come out and play like their season is on the line.
Arkansas upset Auburn in Fayetteville in 2015 winning 54-46 in four overtimes. Last year the Tigers returned the favor, blowing out Arkansas 56-3 in Jordan Hare. Expect a desperate Auburn team to get a win on the road before a bye week ahead of Texas A&M.
Arkansas may be the home team, but they will be without their starting quarterback Austin Allen and will be facing an angry Auburn defense with something to prove after giving up 27 points to LSU. Auburn's offensive line should be able to dominate up front, giving Kerryon Johnson plenty of room to run, and giving quarterback Jarrett Stidham plenty of time to throw against a weak Razorback secondary. Expect Auburn to pull away early.
Score Prediction: Auburn 38, Arkansas 17
Peter Santo, sports writer
Coming off one of the most heartbreaking losses in Gus Malzahn's tenure at Auburn, the Tigers will come out angry and with a lot to prove. Jarrett Stidham and the offense will be looking to bounce back after failing to record a first down in the second half against LSU.
The coaching staff took a lot of heat for their play-calling last week, and should look to call a more balanced game against the Razorbacks. The Tigers will head to Fayetteville looking to improve on the last time they came off a loss, when Auburn turned the ball over five times in a win over Mercer.
Needing a win to steady the ship, Auburn gets a bit of a break in the schedule with Arkansas coming in at just 2-4. The Razorbacks are coming off a 41-9 loss against Alabama and will likely be without their starting quarterback as Austin Allen is listed as questionable.
Just like last year's game against Arkansas, Auburn will look to control the line of scrimmage early and run the football effectively. Auburn has the talent advantage on both sides of the ball, and should cruise to an easy win on the road.
Score Prediction: Auburn 31, Arkansas 13