May 24, 2018

Auburn Preview: Smoke and Mirrors

After a stunning, 18-point come from behind victory in Arlington, the Razorbacks get back into SEC play Saturday as they host the Auburn Tigers (4-1, 2-0).  The 6:00 kickoff will be televised by ESPN.

While the miracle second half comeback against Texas A&M was fun to watch, the painful remnants of the lopsided first half linger in the back of all Hogs fans minds.  The wild affair saw over 1,200 yards in total offense.

Give the Hogs credit, they could have folded down 35-17 at the half.  But they fought back, and when the momentum swung, the Aggies had to be saying to themselves, ‘Here we go again.’

Tyler Wilson (510 passing yards) and Jarius Wright (13 catches for 281 yards) had record-setting days working the middle of the A&M defense.  But the thing we are having a hard time getting past is the fact that defensive coordinator Willy Robinson’s squad gave up a staggering 628 total yards, including 381 rushing yards.

And we thought giving up 470 yards — 330 of it on the ground — to Cam Newton and Auburn last year was unforgivable.

Auburn knows a thing or two about poor defense this year.  The Tigers have been porous so far in 2011, giving up 439.8 yards per game (106th nationally) and 27.4 points per game (74th).  They did play their best defensive game of the season though last week — a 16-13 upset win over South Carolina in Columbia.

“My hat’s off to our defensive coaches and players,” said head coach Gene Chizik.  “What an incredible night for those guys.  I could not be more proud of them.  They needed this, especially against a great running back and a great team.  This is a great start.  We are 2-0 in conference play.  It’s huge for us.”

A 2-0 mark in SEC play is a great start, especially for a team picked to finish last by some preseason publications.  With only six starters returning from their 2010 National Championship team, you can tell Chizik and the Tigers are starting over.

On offense, our old friend Gus Malzahn is doing it with ‘smoke and mirrors’ this season…trying to make some offense with only one real playmaker.  Auburn currently ranks 79th nationally in total offense (370.6 yards per game) – unfamiliar territory for a Malzahn-led offense.

Gus is doing everything he can to mask talent deficiencies at the quarterback spot.  Junior Barrett Trotter (895 yards, 9 TDs, 5 Ints) is pedestrian at best.  That’s why true freshman Kiehl Frazier (Shiloh Christian) has been seeing more and more playing time each week.  Frazier has carried the ball 12 times for 78 yards in the last two weeks, while only attempting one pass.

Sophomore running Michael Dyer (Little Rock Christian) is certainly doing his part.  Dyer (584 yards, 7 TDs in 2011) is fresh off a school record-tying 41 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown versus South Carolina.  Wide receiver Emory Blake (19 catches, 333 yards, 4 TDs) is really the only receiving threat.  Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (6 catches, 3 TDs) is a threat when the Tigers get in the red zone.

It’s usually a bad thing when members of the secondary lead your defense in tackling.  After five weeks, Auburn’s top three tacklers are defensive backs.  Free Safety Neiko Thorpe (41 tackles in 2011) leads the way.

After a big win last week, the Hogs jumped back up in the national polls (10th in AP, 12th in USA Today).  A win against the Tigers would taste pretty good going into the bye week.  The key will be stopping Dyer, and forcing Trotter to make plays.

Repairing the Hog defense (both physically and mentally) has to be the top priority this week, though.  The sellout crowd at Razorback Stadium should help.  The Hogs open as a 10-point favorite.

  • GolfHog

    Love that spread.

    Do we live up to expectations? Does Auburn? Let’s hope so.

    Do they have a big screen in the Garden?

  • Gus will pull all the stops out in this one. The Hogs really need to slow down M. Dyer so Gus will be forced to use his bag of tricks.

    Trotter is definately pedestrian. (Casey Dick like) We need to get pressure on him late in the game if it’ close, but I don’t think it will be.

    The Tigers might score 14 to 21, but I don’t see them holding us under 35. No way, not at home.

  • soupdhog

    This one should be interesting, since we’re basically playing with our second and third team defense. Pretty proud of that group despite all of the yards they gave up….when they had to hold A&M, they were able to.

    If we can get Jake back that will be a big help in getting some pressure. I hear AU’s top receivers are out on Saturday, so you wonder if Willy will send 7-8 every play like A&M and Bama did to us.

    Not worried at all on offense – we should be able to light Auburn up. I am hopeful that Wilson only gets hit 10 times instead of 30. He’s taken more hits than our running backs this year.

    And you have to wonder that if given the chance Bobby will run up the score. In order to get Arkansas back in the national discussion, a blowout win helps a bunch as a follow up to A&M. But now I’m getting ahead of myself….a win is a win.

    • If there’s one team I would really looooove to blow out of Razorback stadium,…..yep, you guessed it.

      As much respect as I have for Gus Malzahn, I really, really hate Auburn!!!

  • Looks like Aubie will be without WRs Emory Blake and super frosh Trovon Reed. Not good for War Eagle.