The Tigers will travel to Fayetteville this weekend for a match-up with the No. 17 Arkansas Razorbacks. Here are some players to watch and keys to victory for the Tigers to get back on track and leave with a win.
Players to Watch
• The missing Auburn defensive starters: Auburn heavily missed its starters against Georgia last week, with linebacker Owen Pappoe missing his third-straight game and T.D. Moultry not dressing out once again. To add on top of that, safety Smoke Monday was ejected on a targeting call early in the first half against the Bulldogs. The Tigers had defensive issues throughout the rest of the game, allowing over 400 yards of offense and a season-high 34 points to the Bulldogs. Auburn will get Monday back against the Razorbacks, but look out for if Pappoe or Moultry will return.
• Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks: Over one-third of the completed passes by Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson have gone the way of Burks. The junior from Warren, Arkansas has 29 receptions for 519 yards and three scores, along with four carries for 15 yards. Burks highlighted his ability to run after the catch on a 91-yard touchdown, taking a screen pass to the end zone while evading Georgia Southern defenders on the way. Look for him to have a big game against a suspect Auburn secondary.
• Auburn running back Tank Bigsby: The 2020 SEC freshman of the year seems to do something exciting every time that he gets the ball, but hasn’t been able to run the ball well the last two games. Part of that is on the offensive line, but Bigsby doesn’t seem to be running with that same magic as he did in 2020. Look for him to bounce back in a big way against the Razorbacks on Saturday, who don’t play well against the run.
Keys to Victory
• Establish the run early: Center Nick Brahms and company had a rough outing against an aggressive Georgia defense last week, only averaging 1.6 yards per carry on the ground and allowing quarterback Bo Nix to be pressured throughout the game.
Arkansas ranks tenth in the SEC in rushing yards per game allowed, with teams averaging 181.5 yards against the Razorbacks per game.
On the other hand, the secondary is very good against the pass, so the Tigers will have to rely on their run game if they hope to leave Fayetteville with a win. Head coach Bryan Harsin talked about the importance of running the ball on Monday, and how the team will need to do that early against the Razorbacks.
• Don’t make Nix do too much: Bo Nix has a great talent at extending plays once the pocket breaks down, and that was highlighted by his two fourth-down plays against LSU two weeks ago. However, when he is forced to do too much you get results like him being sacked for a loss of 16 yards against the Bulldogs.
The sacks and pocket breakdowns can’t be solely put on the offensive line, after all football is a team sport. When the receivers can’t get open there is a butterfly effect, meaning Nix has to run around in the pocket and the offensive lineman has to block for longer.
If the whole team can play well, then Nix will look a lot better, and will have to do less to try and find success.
• Run defense has to show up: After being the strong suit of the team through five games, the Auburn run defense gave up 201 rushing yards to the Bulldogs last Saturday, easily the most allowed all season. This week against another top five team in terms of rushing in the SEC, the Tigers certainly have their work cut out for them. If the front seven can do a good job of shutting down the run game, then Auburn should have success on Saturday. It’ll be strength versus strength this weekend.