Smoked Hog Week.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Smoked Hog Week.

How do the Razorbacks match up?

     War Eagle, everybody! Saturday evening, the Auburn Tigers will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the friendly confines of Jordan Hare Stadium. Most pundits are picking a tremendous Auburn blowout win in this game. Auburn is coming off the sting of a last second home loss to LSU last week, 22-21. Folks, Arkansas has it worse. They blew a big lead and lost at Colorado State, and then got soundly thumped at home, 44-17 by North Texas. And then, the Razorbacks were involved in the most embarrassing play of the week during that rout by the Mean Green.

     As usual, I try to look at numbers, and formulate my own opinion. It’s a given that Auburn wants to work on a shaky offensive line, and to get better running the ball this week. That might be a problem. While Arkansas has given up torrents of points, they’ve been more than solid against the run, thus far. The Razorbacks allowed just 40 rushing yards against Colorado State, and 95 against North Texas. CSU managed just 1.7 yards per carry, and the North Texas team managed just 3.3.

     Should Auburn need to pass against Arkansas, the Razorback passing defense hasn’t been bad, either. Not great, but not bad, either. In the games mentioned above, the Razorbacks have allowed 56 completions on 96 attempts, for 6.9 yards per pass. That’s actually a decent yards per pass average. Arkansas has allowed just 3 touchdowns on those 96 attempts, and have picked one ball off.

     So, with a decent to good defense, how is Arkansas losing these games? Turnovers. Arkansas has thrown 8 interceptions in the past couple of games. For this game against Auburn, the Razorbacks have benched Cole Kelly, who tossed up 4 of those picks last week. Ty Storey will start against Auburn, but it’s important to note that Storey also has thrown 3 picks in the past couple of weeks. There will be opportunities for a young Auburn secondary, but Auburn must stop blindly grabbing receivers, and look for the ball. Arkansas’ running game was slowed some by CSU, and stopped cold by North Texas. I expect Auburn to severely limit the Hog ground game, as well. Look for Arkansas to chunk some balls up the sideline, just like Washington and LSU did, earlier this year.

     I look for Auburn to again start slow, but should wear a thinner Arkansas team down during a warm, muggy evening. For Auburn to do that, though, the bad passes and balls hitting the ground must stop. And Auburn must get a handle on the penalties.

Thoughts around the SEC, after the jump!

     This week across the SEC, conference matchups begin in earnest, as head to head competition becomes the norm, rather than the outlier. The day begins at 11:00 AM Central Time, as Georgia heads to Columbia for the second week in a row, this time to Columbia, Missouri. Georgia shut down the Gamecock offense, last week. This week, we will see what star Missouri quarterback Drew Lock can do against a great defense. Also, does the Missouri defense have a chance to slow a prolific Bulldog offense down? In the other early game, Ole Miss hosts Kent State, which should allow them to get over their last week mauling by the Crimson Tide.

     The CBS game of the week at 2:30 PM is Texas A&M at Alabama. Some folks expect this to be a close game, after Texas A&M played Clemson close. I have my doubts. Clemson is not playing that great thus far, this season. Alabama totally shut down a potent Ole Miss offense, last week. Something tells me that a less talented Aggie bunch will find the going very tough. And no one has held Alabama under 50 points on offense, yet.

     At 3:00 PM, South Carolina travels to Vanderbilt. This might be an entertaining game. If nothing else, we’ll get to see whether either of these teams has the potential to finish in the top half of the SEC Eastern Division.

     The 6:00 PM slot is busy. LSU hosts Louisiana Tech, Kentucky hosts Mississippi State, and Florida is at Tennessee. The home field advantage should help Kentucky, but they have not yet played a team as good on both lines of scrimmage as Mississippi State is. Can Kentucky match up? They will need to lean on their running game, and keep a dangerous Bulldog offense on the bench. I don’t know what to make of the UF-UT tilt. I expected Tennessee to have troubles, this year. I did not expect Florida to struggle as they have. Right now, this looks like a race to stay out of the SEC cellar.

     The Auburn vs. Arkansas will be the final SEC game to kick off this week, at 6:30 PM on the SEC Network. We will have our usual Open Thread up and running. I might be a little slower, and spotty this week. I’ll be at a social event, and operating remotely with my laptop, but I will still try to keep a play by play going.

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