Zero chance what happened to Arkansas last season happens to Arkansas in 2017.
Auburn pancaked the Razorbacks in what was arguably the most embarrassing loss Arkansas has had since joining the SEC 25 years ago. The 56-3 beatdown was the first clue something was legitimately awry with the season.
Never mind things like “revenge” or the like. Emotional reactions to past grievances don’t last that long. Maybe a play or two, but once the game starts, instinct takes over.
Arkansas has more instinct this season. Rather, it better have more instinct this season. Another result like that one and the problems with the program are serious and rooted.
It won’t happen. What could happen, though, is an Arkansas upset. Because Auburn is going to enter, almost assuredly, as the favorite in Fayetteville.
Here is the summertime preview of Arkansas vs. Auburn:
Coach: Gus Malzahn (fifth season, 35-18)
Last season: 8-5, 5-3 (tied for second in SEC West)
Plays Arkansas: Oct. 21 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
2016 by the numbers
- Scoring offense: 31.2 points per game (49th out of 128 teams in FBS)
- Passing offense: 169.5 yards per game (112th)
- Rushing offense: 271.3 yards per game (sixth)
- Scoring defense: 17.1 points per game (seventh)
- Passing defense: 229.2 yards allowed per game (67th)
- Rushing defense: 132.77 yards allowed per game (27th)
Arkansas knows the Auburn offense well. A little too well, frankly. The Tigers, with mediocre quarterback Sean White at the helm, carved up the Razorbacks defense last season. White won’t be the guy this season unless Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham fails to deliver the goods. But Stidham was quality in his time with the Bears (albeit just four real games, which has me, personally, not on the Stidham hype train).
More importantly, Auburn returns both of its running backs. Kamryn Pettway led the SEC in yards per game last season and Kerryon Johnson added 895 total yards and 11 touchdowns. The Tigers can run and will so with regularity behind Braden Smith and a very good offensive line. I do wonder about Stidham’s options out wide, but with everything else, no big deal.
Auburn’s “D” doesn’t have a whole bunch of game changers. Probably not a single player on it is going to make the All-SEC first team. What the Tigers do have, though, is depth and experience. Six of the team’s top seven tacklers are back from last season. Three of the Tigers’ seven returning starters are in the secondary. They’re not the biggest ball hawks in the world as evidenced by the passing defense numbers from last season. But they can hammer.
Deshaun Davis is a personal favorite at linebacker. He’s a playmaker and the best chance at some all-conference honors. Replacing Montravius Adams up front will be key in repeating a top-30 rushing defense. Not easily done.
Auburn vs. Arkansas positional edges
- Quarterback — Arkansas
- Running back — Auburn
- Receivers — Auburn
- Offensive line — Auburn
- Defensive line — Auburn
- Linebackers — Auburn
- Secondary — Arkansas
- Special teams — Auburn
What SEC Country says about Auburn vs. Arkansas
Eric Bolin: I am wholly in the “Jarrett Stidham is overrated” camp. When this game comes around, we’ll know whether that’s true or not. Regardless, Auburn has firepower galore. Don’t trust the Tigers defense, though, and if you’re asking me for the most likely upset the Razorbacks pull this year, I’m going with this. Only, I’m not going with this one.
Prediction: Auburn 34, Arkansas 27
Jason Kersey: If Arkansas can’t get fired up for this game after the debacle last October, then it won’t be able to get jacked for anything. This time, Arkansas gets Auburn at home. I’m not sold on Jarrett Stidham, but am less sold on the Razorbacks defense.
Prediction: Auburn 37, Arkansas 30
Trent Shadid: Auburn’s defense won’t be nearly as strong this season as in recent years. The problem is the offense could very well be much improved with new quarterback Jarrett Stidham. So, a unit that’s scored on Arkansas with relative ease the past two seasons has grown stronger. That doesn’t spell victory for the Hogs, but I expect it to be close.
Prediction: Auburn 42, Razorbacks 41
Projected average final score of Auburn vs. Arkansas
Auburn 38, Arkansas 33
Arkansas’ projected record so far
SEC Country: 3-4