FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 17 Arkansas will look to keep its momentum from last week with a trip to face No. 21 Auburn on Saturday.
The Razorbacks (5-2, 1-2 SEC) defeated the Tigers 54-46 last season in a 4-overtime thriller in Fayetteville. Auburn enters 4-2 and 2-1 in SEC play.
Here is a look at 5 key things for Arkansas fans to watch Saturday night:
5. Response to adversity
No matter how well Arkansas played in its win against Ole Miss last week, the Hogs undoubtedly will face some adversity Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Whether it’s a big touchdown, a sack on Austin Allen or a turnover, something surely will happen that causes the home crowd to go nuts and steal momentum from the Hogs.
Arkansas has a mixed record this year when it comes to responding to adversity. The Hogs responded well to it in wins against Louisiana Tech, TCU and Ole Miss. Arkansas handled shifting momentum terribly against Texas A&M and Alabama.
This is Arkansas’ first true SEC road game of the year, making it an entirely new test in this regard.
4. Rawleigh Williams III
Williams’ inclusion on this list has absolutely nothing to do with the horrific neck injury he suffered in the Auburn game last season.
Rather, Williams’ individual success has seemed to have a direct impact on the team’s overall success this season. It’s no coincidence that his two lowest-yardage games this season were in the team’s losses to Texas A&M and Alabama.
Williams leads the SEC with 785 rushing yards this season. Auburn has a tough defensive front, so this will be a real test for the sophomore from Dallas.
It also will be interesting to see how Williams and true freshman Devwah Whaley — who slowly has seen his playing time increase this season — split carries.
3. Austin Allen
Allen has been tremendous this season. He has shown toughness and resolve rarely seen in new starting quarterbacks. His performance in overtime at TCU and in the Ole Miss win have shown that he is more than capable of filling his brother’s big shoes.
Allen leads the SEC in passing yardage (1,861) and touchdown passes (18).
But this will be his first true SEC road start. How will he handle that atmosphere when something goes wrong?
2. The offensive line
The Arkansas offensive line played much better against Ole Miss than it has for most of the season. But Auburn’s defensive line and linebackers present a tougher challenge than the Rebels.
Against Ole Miss, Allen was sacked 3 times.
The performances of Allen and Williams largely will depend on how the offensive line plays in a tough environment against a deep, talented defensive front.
1. Santos Ramirez and Josh Liddell
Ramirez and Liddell — Arkansas’ starting safeties — have struggled throughout much of the season. They missed a tackle each on 2 of Ole Miss’ touchdowns last weekend.
Safety will be a little thinner in the first half at Auburn because of De’Andre Coley’s first-half suspension for a targeting call against Ole Miss.
The Hogs defense also has struggled some this season against tempo. Under coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn will try to play fast and exploit that weakness. Will Ramirez and Liddell be caught out of position?
For his part, Ramirez might have had a breakthrough in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss. He made many of Arkansas’ biggest defensive plays, including knocking the ball out of Chad Kelly’s hands on a critical fourth down.