Early Game in the Ozarks!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Early Game in the Ozarks!

Auburn must wake up ready to play!
Photo by James D. Smith.)

     War Eagle, everybody! This week, the Auburn Tigers will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas for a morning tilt against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks come into this game at 2-4, and are looking for their first SEC against the Auburn Tigers. After the game against Auburn, Arkansas will close out October with a trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. Arkansas opened the season with a shaky 20-13 win over Portland State, followed by a 31-17 defeat at Ole Miss. The biggest win of the year followed, as the Razorbacks outlasted Colorado State 55-34. Then San Jose State came to town, and Arkansas just could not catch up, falling 31-24. In recent weeks, Arkansas has kept it close in SEC action, but lost 31-27 to Texas A&M and 24-20 at Kentucky.

     When Auburn has the ball, it is a strength vs. strength matchup in this game. Arkansas has a tough, active front seven on defense, and Auburn likes to run the ball first. Defensive tackle McTelvin Agim will be a serious test for Auburn’s interior line. While Arkansas is giving up 27.3 points per game, much of the damage done against the Razorbacks is through the air. Cornerback Montaric Brown is a good one, and a team must be able to throw to more than one receiver to have success in the passing game.

     Arkansas runs an offense similar to Auburn’s, in that they like to set up play action passes with the run. Unfortunately, the Arkansas running game has been shaky, with star tailback Rakeem Boyd banged up for much of the year. Boyd and Devwah Whaley have accounted for 807 rushing yards out of 892 for the Razorbacks this season. That works out to 148.6 yards per game over the first 6 games. That’s not great, against defenses like Portland State, Colorado State and San Jose State.

     Defensively, Auburn has to do a better job of rushing the passer, this week. Arkansas has a surprisingly good receiving corps, with 5 players in double figures in catches. The real Razorback issue has been getting the ball to them consistently. Arkansas has alternated this season with former Texas A&M starting quarterback Nick Starkel, and Ben Hicks pulling the trigger on the offense. Both are capable of getting the job done, but need some help from an inconsistent offensive line.

     For the first time this season, the heat has been shut off for the Tigers. Saturday’s weather in the Ozarks should be in the mid 60s for this game. Experts were calling for a good chance of showers early in this one, with a tropical system headed up the western gulf coast and into the mainland this weekend. The latest weather runs I’ve seen indicate that the storm is now expected to hit the Florida panhandle, curve through southern Georgia and exit into the Atlantic. There won’t be any impact from this one in Arkansas. I’d expect partly cloudy skies, with maybe a peek at a morning half-moon. In short, pretty much a perfect day for football! We will have our usual Open Thread up and running for this one, and I will be at the keyboard, for the play-by-play. This game will kick off a little after 11:00 AM, Central Daylight Time, and will be televised on the SEC Network.

A look at other SEC games this weekend, after the jump!

     Auburn/Arkansas headlines the early SEC matchups, but Florida at South Carolina is one to watch, as well. The Gamecocks are coming off a big win at Georgia, while Florida is stinging after falling short against LSU. I think Florida will rebound, thanks to a tough defense and South Carolina’s quarterback issues.

     LSU visits Mississippi State in the CBS game, this week, at 2:30 PM Central. MSU was stunned at Tennessee last week, and a shaky Bulldog defense may be in for a long day against the buzzsaw that the LSU offense has become.

     Missouri visits Vanderbilt at 3:00 PM. The Commodores pretty much have to win this game, to have any chance at a bowl trip this season, but I doubt that they’ll have a chance.

     Also at 3:00 PM, Kentucky visits Georgia. I suspect that there will be some bad-tempered Bulldogs on the field, after the debacle last week against South Carolina.

     At 6:30 PM, Texas A&M visits Ole Miss. Having fallen to 3-3, the Aggies desperately need a win to keep bowl hopes in good shape. Ole Miss is in similar straits after a 3-4 start to the season.

     Pushed way back to an 8:00 PM kickoff is Tennessee at Alabama. Tennessee has not even been competitive in this series for the past decade, and I expect that the Tide will be able to score as much as they want this week.

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