SEC West foes will clash in a crucial game on Saturday afternoon when the Auburn Tigers visit the No. 17 Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville. Auburn enters the weekend at 4-2 (1-1 SEC) after getting demolished 34-10 by the rival No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs as a 14.5-point home underdog last Saturday. Arkansas will look to recover from a heartbreaking 52-51 road loss to the No. 13 Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday as a five-point road underdog that dropped the Razorbacks to 4-2 (1-2 SEC) on the season.
The Tigers lead the all-time series 18-11-1 and have won five straight over Arkansas, including a 30-28 home victory last season.
Auburn has no chance against top-ranked rivalThe Tigers knew they faced a tough assignment last weekend against a Georgia team that looks to have one of the best defenses in modern history, and indeed couldn't get much going offensively in a blowout loss. Auburn did manage a short Anders Carlson field goal to cap off an impressive 17-play, 68-yard opening drive, but wouldn't score again until a six-yard run from tank Tank Bigsby late in the third as Georgia was comfortably in control from the second quarter on.
Bo Nix finished 21 of 38 passing for 217 yards and an interception while being chased by the imposing Georgia front seven all afternoon. Demetrius Robertson had a standout performance with four catches for 59 yards, while a normally prolific ground game managed just 46 yards on 29 attempts as a whole. Auburn was outgained 432-318, as it put together a few nice drives but struggled badly in the red zone.
"We were being aggressive, going for it on fourth down, you’ve got to do that against good team,” Harsin said. “I think you have to be aggressive. You’ve got to let guys go out there and have a chance to make plays. Whether it goes our way in that play, that’s what we have to fight for," first-year head coach Bryan Harsin said to AL.com. "But you’ve got to score touchdowns, period, when you get in the red zone, and we haven’t done that well enough."
Auburn is now an even 3-3 against the spread, and has failed to cover in three of its last four games including a close call against the Georgia State Panthers as a huge favorite back on September 25. Overs are also 3-3 for the Tigers with each of their last two games going under the betting total.
Even with the rough showing last Saturday, Auburn's offense has good numbers overall with an average of 34 points and 451.4 yards per game. Auburn's defense is also having a strong year at 19.2 points and 324.5 yards per game allowed to rank just outside the top 25 nationally.
Nix has made some progress as a junior, completing 107 of his 185 pass attempts for 1,196 yards, six touchdowns and one interception while adding 35 carries for 117 yards and a score. Jarquez Hunter is having an excellent freshman year with 47 carries for 465 yards and touchdowns, forming a strong tandem with Bigsby who has 458 yards and five touchdowns on 94 rush attempts. Colby Wooten is a standout on the Auburn defense with 28 tackles including five for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Starting linebacker Owen Pappoe has missed the last three games with a leg injury and is questionable to return for Saturday's matchup. Senior defensive end T.D. Moultry, an important player for the Auburn defense with six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this year, has been sidelined for two weeks due to a compliance issue and it's unclear when he will be available. Wide receivers Elijah Canion and Tar'varish Dawson are both out indefinitely for undisclosed reasons, while defensive tackle Jeremiah Wright is sidelined by a knee injury.
Arkansas falls one point short in wild shootoutFollowing an unexpected 4-0 start to vault into the top 10, the Razorbacks have now lost two straight including a heartbreaker last weekend at Ole Miss in arguably the most exciting game of the year across college football. The Razorbacks trailed 21-14 at the break despite rushing touchdowns from K.J. Jefferson and Trelon Smith before things really went off the rails in the second half with Jefferson adding two more scores in addition to touchdown catches by Trey Knox and Treylon Burks that led to the score being tied four different times. Down seven with the last possession, Arkansas drove 75 yards in 1:07 as Warren Thompson scored on a nine-yard catch as time expired, but Jefferson's pass on the potential game-winning two-point conversion didn't connect.
WHAT A FINISH IN OXFORD!— ESPN (@espn) October 9, 2021
Arkansas went for the win, but fell just short on the 2-point conversion at Ole Miss.
52-51 final. Wow. pic.twitter.com/2hAn3rGRvU
Jefferson had a monster game in a losing effort, completing 25 of 35 pass attempts for 326 yards and three touchdowns with one interception while carrying the ball 20 times for 85 yards and three more scores. Raheim Sanders racked up 139 yards on 17 carries, while Burks had another bit outing with seven catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. Arkansas finished with a 676-611 advantage in total yards, but committing two turnovers while allowing Ole Miss to convert on four different fourth downs was the difference in a game where neither team could generate many stops.
"They just played great coverage on the back end," Jefferson said to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the game-deciding two-point play. "I tried to get one of my guys a play. Just throw it and let them make a play. They just muddied the play for the pitch so I just brought it outside and tried to make a play."
The Razorbacks have been a great team to bet on so far this season at 5-1 against the spread, with the only loss coming in blowout fashion to top-ranked Georgia. Overs are 4-2 for the Razorbacks after last Saturday's contest breezed by the betting total of 67 points to snap a run of two straight unders.
Following the wild shootout, Arkansas' offense is now putting up an average of 32.3 points and 459.6 yards per game overall this season. Arkansas' defensive numbers took a big hit on Saturday, but are still solid overall with opponents managing 24.5 points and 337.5 yards per game.
Jefferson is having a huge sophomore season under center, having completed 79 of 126 pass attempts for 1,235 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions while adding 60 carries for 320 yards and five scores. Burks is emerging as one of the best receivers in college football with 29 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns. Jalen Catalon is having an excellent year at safety for the Arkansas defense with 46 tackles including 1.5 for a loss, two interceptions and four pass breakups.
Starting right tackle Dalton Wagner missed last weekend's game with a finger injury and won't be ready to return for this matchup against Auburn. Defensive end Tre' Williams left in the third quarter with an arm injury and did not return, a potential huge blow as he's been one of the team's best players with 4.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Senior defensive lineman Dorian Gerald suffered a season-ending leg injury in the first game of the year.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Even though Arkansas is far better than anyone could have expected in year two under Sam Pittman, this is still a tough matchup against an Auburn team that is talented enough to pull off the upset on the road. Auburn's only losses this year are to a Georgia team that is in a league of its own and No. 7 Penn State on the road in the always-imposing whiteout game, and the Tigers have playmakers on both sides of the ball that can keep this margin within a field goal.
The running back duo of Bigsby and Hunter is averaging over seven yards per carry this season even with last weekend's awful showing, which makes for a dangerous Auburn offense when coupled with the improved play across the board from Nix. That presents a matchup problem for Arkansas, which is 85th nationally in yards allowed per rush after getting shredded on the ground by Ole Miss.
Arkansas' injury report is a concern here, as the defense totally collapsed last weekend when Williams went out, while being down a senior right tackle isn't ideal against an Auburn defense that has a strong 7.93% sack rate. Expect another tight game that comes down to the wire, with a more well-rounded Auburn team keeping it close on the road.
Full-Game Total Pick
Both teams are pretty strong on each side of the ball, but ultimately there are too many playmakers at the skill positions in this game for the under to hold. Few quarterbacks in all of college football have been more efficient than Jefferson while Burks looks uncoverable downfield with his combination of size and skill, resulting in an offense that ranks just outside the top 10 nationally with 6.8 yards per play.
A huge key for Nix this season has been cutting down on turnovers as he's tossed just one interception which came last week against the unbeatable Georgia defense, and while his backfield scrambling can lead to some dangerous throws, it also provides an element that is very difficult to plan for. Auburn will be ultra-efficient in the run game and also operates at a fast tempo with 74 plays per game, and with Arkansas at an about average pace, there will be plenty of possessions for both dangerous offenses.