Auburn returns to Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday following a 27-6 loss to rival Georgia. The Tigers will now turn their focus to a team that it has had recent success against in Arkansas, who is looking to upset the Tigers and win back-to-back conference games for the first time since 2015. Here are some players to watch and keys to victory for both teams.
Tank Bigsby (RB) - Coming off of his first collegiate start against Georgia, Bigsby showed early signs of his potential in the loss. He’s a head-down rusher who is not afraid of contact and is physical whenever he gets the ball. The freshman has power and can accelerate quickly in space.
Don’t forget about his catch-and-run ability, either. He not only led Auburn in rushing yards against Georgia but also in receiving yards.
Jamien Sherwood (S) - Sherwood finished last Saturday with 14 total tackles against the No. 4 Bulldogs. The junior used his quickness and ability to read the quarterback and broke up a couple of passes in the Georgia game. Look for Sherwood to carry that momentum into this weekend with a matchup against Arkansas’ receivers.
Bo Nix (QB) - Eyes will be on Nix and how he performs against Arkansas following the team's performance at Georgia. Nix was 21-of-40 for 177 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in the loss.
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The interception broke Nix's streak of 251 consecutive passes without an interception dating back to the LSU game of last season.
The Arkansas defense held Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello to 313 passing yards last week, which, compared to the SEC-record 623 passing yards he put up in Week 1 against LSU, is low for Mike Leach’s air raid attack.
Expect Nix to counter that pass defense with a few runs of his own, similar to what was seen from the sophomore in the Kentucky game.
Feleipe Franks (QB) - The transfer from Florida has created a spark in the Arkansas offense that has not been present in a long time. Franks led Arkansas to its first SEC win in three years in his second start as a Razorback. When given time in the pocket, Franks can deliver accurate passes and big plays on the long ball.
“He’s confident,” said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. “You can tell his offensive guys are confident around him. He’s a veteran guy that understands the league and understands what it's like to start in the league.”
Bumper Pool and Grant Morgan (LB) - The two Arkansas linebackers are the top two tacklers in the SEC, which is no easy feat. Pool leads the league with 31 tackles, while Morgan follows close behind with 28 tackles.
The duo is responsible for 69% of all 86 Arkansas tackles this season, which leads the conference. Look for the pair to disrupt the yards after catch category in the secondary and swat passes out of the air.
Joe Foucha (S) - Foucha leads the team and is tied for first in the SEC with two interceptions this season, both of which came in the Mississippi State game.
His two interceptions didn’t just land in his hands, either. The New Orleans native can toe-tap and reach up for footballs similar to a receiver, which is dangerous for opposing quarterbacks. Nix will need to be careful when throwing the ball in the direction of Foucha, who has hot hands after a career game last week.
Keys to Victory
To avoid an upset at Jordan-Hare, Auburn will need to find an offensive rhythm that it lacked in the Georgia game. Specifically, the Tigers will need to get the run game going with Bigsby while mixing in some designed quarterback runs by Nix.
Creating a two-dimensional offense will help create a less-predictable Auburn offense that can keep the Arkansas defense on its toes. The offense will also need to protect the ball against an Arkansas team that loves to turn the ball over. The Razorbacks defense has forced six turnovers this season, tied for first in the SEC along with LSU.
With a couple of injuries in the defensive secondary, the starters will need to step up and lock down the Razorback receivers. Franks does a good job of capitalizing on the long ball and will be looking for big chunks of yardage. Auburn will need to limit big plays and consistently pressure Franks, who has thrown two interceptions this season.
To win its second straight SEC game, Arkansas needs to ride its momentum from its win over Mississippi State to carry over into the Auburn game.
“Any time you win a road game in this league,” Malzahn said. “It’s extremely tough. Their head coach Sam Pittman is doing a great job. He’s got his team playing really well with great passion, so we’re expecting to get their best.”
The Razorbacks will need to rely on their aggressive defense to cause mistakes and turnovers, similar to what it did in the Mississippi State game. The longer Arkansas stays within striking distance, the longer the momentum remains with the Hogs.
Franks will also need to capitalize on the depleted Auburn secondary. Auburn will be without arguably its best defensive player in K.J. Britt, as he is undergoing thumb surgery on Friday.
The game kicks off at 3 p.m. CST on Saturday and will be aired on ESPN. Auburn leads the all-time series 17-11-1 and has won six of the last seven, including four straight. The Tigers have not lost to the Razorbacks in Jordan-Hare Stadium since 2012.
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