Ahead of Auburn's matchup with Arkansas, The Auburn Plainsman reached out to The Arkansas Traveler's sports editor, Robert Stewart, for a Q&A previewing this year’s Razorback team. Here’s what he had to say about the Hogs.
Q: How do you expect Arkansas’ offense to do against Auburn’s defense?
The Razorback offense should obviously be energized by the win against Mississippi State, but I’m not expecting much. They have only scored three touchdowns on offense so far, they have yet to score in a goal-to-go opportunity and Rakeem Boyd’s injury is a big question mark. If Boyd is healthy, he could put up numbers like Zamir White did last week, but the Hogs will have to establish their running game if they want to score often against the Auburn defense.
Q: How do you expect Arkansas’ defense to do against Auburn’s offense?
I have watched Razorback football since the Bobby Petrino days and I’m not kidding when I tell you this could be the best defensive unit Arkansas has fielded in the last 12 years. Against Georgia, Arkansas yielded only three points in the first half. Against, Mississippi State, the Hogs picked off K.J. Costello three times, once for a touchdown, and stopped the Bulldogs on 4th-and-1 in the red zone on two different occasions in the fourth quarter. Bumper Pool and Joe Foucha were just named SEC Co-Defensive Players of the Week with 20 tackles and two interceptions, respectively. I certainly expect Auburn to find the end zone this week, but the Tigers will have to earn it.
Q: How much of an effect do you think the weather will have on the game?
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A rainy day would likely create a low-scoring affair, but even on a perfect day, I wouldn’t expect this matchup to be a shootout.
Q: Are the Arkansas players treating this game any differently?
I don’t think anyone at Arkansas is looking at this game differently. If anything, Arkansas has a monkey off its back after snapping a 20-game SEC losing streak, but Pittman made clear in the postgame presser that the Hogs would be back to work as usual this week.
Q: What is the biggest change from last season to this year for Arkansas?
The biggest change, quite bluntly, is having a competent coaching staff. Chad Morris and his staff were clueless. Sam Pittman does not have prior head coaching experience, but it took him two games to deliver an SEC win. Morris never made that happen. He wasn’t outstanding as a head coach, but as Mizzou’s defensive coordinator, Barry Odom was brilliant. He’s coached the Hogs for two games in the same role and he already looks brilliant again.
Q: Now that they have an SEC win, what are the expectations for this team?
Pittman repeated in the postgame presser that “you’re supposed to win at the University of Arkansas.” That is true and that has always been true, but you have to put things in perspective. The Razorbacks still have six preseason Top 25 teams left to play including Auburn. Razorback fans tend to be easily lulled into optimism, but it is still unlikely that this team finishes in the top half of the SEC West this year.
Q: Who are some players to look out for on both sides of the ball for Arkansas?
Though the offense only put up 14 points last week, Feleipe Franks had the fourth-highest passer rating in the league with 117.0. Rakeem Boyd is a second-team All-SEC running back. Any of the pass catchers could go for 100 yards receiving if Franks makes an early connection. Defensively, linebackers Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan are the top two tacklers in the SEC. Defensive backs Montaric Brown, Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks, Jr. all have interceptions this year and have Arkansas tied atop in the SEC in turnovers.
Q: Score prediction?
I wouldn’t be surprised if this is another low-scoring contest for Arkansas. Just in case Auburn’s offensive problems linger, I’ll take the upset, 20-17 Arkansas.
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