During Auburn’s Wednesday night press conference, Kevin Steele said he doesn’t have any concerns about his defense heading into the Tigers’ Week 8 matchup against Arkansas.
Steele’s statement wasn’t one of arrogance. He’s confident that his 11th-ranked defense will continue to dominate as long as it plays “the Auburn way”. However, against an Arkansas team that averages 34.9 points per game, there’s no room for even the slightest bit of complacency.
I like the Tigers’ chances at home Saturday against the Razorbacks, but I think this game will be a lot closer than people think.
Current Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Brandon Allen was one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC last year during his senior season Arkansas. His little brother Austin looks like he has all the tools to be just as good, if not better.
Look at the numbers. Statistically, Allen is the best pocket passer in the SEC with 18 touchdown passes to only 6 interceptions. Through seven games, he’s top-20 nationally in passing yards with 1,861, and has had some of his best games against the league’s top teams. Against Alabama, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, Allen completed 72-of-122 passes for 1,000 yards with a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio (8-4).
Because of Allen’s play, the Razorbacks have had a stellar passing attack to complement sophomore Rawleigh Williams (112.1 yards per game) on the ground in 2016. Williams — tragically underrated — leads the SEC with 785 rushing yards. Arkansas may give up around 400 yards per game, but they can score as well as any team in the country.
My point is, Auburn’s defense has played extremely well this year, but it’s only faced two above average quarterbacks this season — Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight.
The Tigers played somewhat solid against those guys, but both led balanced offenses that hurt Auburn when it mattered most. Both games — losses.
The LSU game was one-tenth of a second from being another loss on Auburn’s schedule. And no offense to Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State, but those team’s aren’t among college football’s elite.
Against programs like that, any above average defense is supposed to dominate. What separates Alabama from the rest of the field is that its defense dominates everyone on any given day.
For Auburn’s defense to take that next step, it has to come up big when it counts. The Razorbacks won’t be the best team the Tigers will see this year, but their offense will be one of the most explosive.
Kevin Steele said he isn’t concerned, and Auburn’s defense better back it up Saturday to be truly considered one of the nation’s premier units.