When and where: October 19, 2019, Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR, 12:00 PM ET
A disappointing loss on the road to Florida will undoubtedly propel the Auburn Tigers towards trying to make an example of a lesser opponent in Saturday’s game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The first loss of the season for the Tigers came in the form of their offense being completely shut down and held to only 13 points. Quarterback Bo Nix played his worst game so far this season in a loss that might end up destroying the Tigers’ playoff hopes.
The Razorbacks, on the other hand, have lost their last three straight games to Kentucky, Texas A&M and San Jose State. Their defense gave up a whopping 330 yards on the ground in their recent loss to Kentucky.
Auburn takes their first loss of the seasonAuburn has had an entire week to stew over their 24-13 road loss to Florida, which should only add to their motivation when coming into Fayetteville on Saturday to take on the Razorbacks.
The biggest question mark is how the Tigers plan on replacing the dynamic production of Jatarvious Whitlow. The sophomore running back recently underwent surgery for a knee injury and is expected to sidelined for up to four weeks at a minimum.
There isn’t a plug-and-play replacement that can suddenly replicate 110 carries for 544 yards and seven touchdowns. That could mean a greater emphasis on the passing game from freshman quarterback Bo Nix. Although he’s shown the ability to scramble, he hasn’t demonstrated the accuracy when throwing the ball downfield. There are nuances to the game that he’s still developing and hasn’t quite picked up yet. He can also easily be fooled by a defense, hence his eight-to-five touchdown ratio.
Arkansas quarterback Nick Starkel has similar problems, despite being a junior. He has thrown seven touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season. The Auburn defense will be called upon to come up with big stops, including takeaways, to help take some of the pressure off their young quarterback. Jeremiah Dinson is the only player on the defense with an interception this season. Their players will have to be more opportunistic to keep the ship from sinking.
Last season, in Auburn's 34-3 win over Arkansas, the Tigers managed just 225 total yards of offense and averaged just 3.88 yards per play. The Tigers won the game with ease due to their specials teams and defense.
“They did a great job, I thought, defensively last year,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “Got after us pretty good. We scored points but they got after us. We had some short fields too that helped with that. We know we’re going to get their best and we know we need to play good, clean football. Anytime you’re on the road in this league, you’ve got to play good football. You’ve got to protect the football, you’ve got to play good offensively, defensively, special teams. It’s a challenge anytime you go on the road in this league.”
Injury bug biting the RazorbacksNix isn’t the only quarterback that will be without his star running back. There is a good chance Starkel could be forced to step on the field without junior ground daemon Rakeem Boyd, who was reportedly still in pain with a shoulder injury when practicing in a green jersey on Tuesday. In only five games this season, he has already piled up 617 rushing yards and five touchdowns with a 5.8 ground average.
That type of production isn’t easily replaced, and his potential unavailability would put the Razorbacks offense in a serious bind. Yet, Starkel is experienced enough at the quarterback position to generate some passing offense, even against a tough Auburn defense. He is also expected to have senior left tackle Colton Jackson back on the field after he missed the last game with a leg injury.
“He was out there yesterday at practice last night,” Razorbacks coach Chad Morris said, via KNWA News. “I anticipate him playing this week and being a part of our rotation, back into that starting rotation. But it was something that’s been carrying on for a few weeks with him and we wanted to make sure he’s back fully healthy before he’s ready to go.”
At least the porous Razorbacks’ rushing defense won’t have to worry about the headache of figuring out a way to stop Whitlow. So they can shift their focus on keeping Nix in the pocket. They currently have the fourth-most sacks in the SEC conference. If there was ever a time to bring the heat up front, Saturday will be the perfect time to put some pressure on the freshman to see if they can get him tap-dancing.
- Tigers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Tigers are 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 games after scoring less than 20 points in their previous game.
- Razorbacks are 16-6 ATS in their last 22 home games against a team with a winning road record.
- Razorbacks are 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Razorbacks are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games following a straight up loss.