Week three of SEC play is underway as Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris will take on his former employer and the Tigers will try to right the ship after a demoralizing loss to Georgia.
The No. 13 Tigers return home to face the unranked Arkansas Razorbacks. Auburn is 17-11-1 all-time against Arkansas, having won its most recent matchup, 51-10, last year.
Auburn comes in 1-1 with a 29-13 win over Kentucky and a 27-6 loss to Georgia. The Tigers struggled mightily to get any offensive production last week as the Bulldogs held the Tigers to just 177 passing yards and 39 rushing yards. Auburn has yet to rush for over 100 yards in a game this season.
Arkansas comes in 1-1 as well with a 37-10 loss to Georgia and a 21-14 win over Mississippi State. The Razorbacks seemed to find some rhythm under new head coach Sam Pittman, as they held a Mississippi State team that passed for over 600 yards against LSU to just 313 yards.
Find the offense’s bread and butter; protect Bo Nix
It is not an unusual sight to see an Auburn team take a few weeks to find its rhythm, especially with no spring practice and a consistently interrupted fall camp.
However, with an all-SEC schedule this season, the Tigers cannot afford to wait a few more weeks to continue developing. As last week’s loss showed, the time is now to push forward and find an identity.
It is becoming clearer each week that Auburn will not be a run-first football team unless a major change occurs. If the Tigers will not run, then the offense needs to pass and figure out how to pass consistently and efficiently. To do so, Auburn needs to give Bo nix more time. He was running for his life against Georgia, and he cannot afford to do the same the rest of the season. The most important battle it seems, week in and week out, will be whether Auburn’s offensive line learns how to dominate the defensive line and give Nix time to settle in.
Strengthen interior and force
Both the offensive and defensive keys echo last week’s and the defense’s is verbatim. Auburn didn't meet any of the keys last week as Georgia established a run game, especially through the interior, which opened up the passing game and ultimately the entire defense paid the price for it.
Auburn’s interior has been vulnerable through the first two games of the season, and while Arkansas hasn’t proven that they are good, any team that can have success running up the middle will have the greater chance of winning because it opens up the offense so much more.
Smoke Monday will return after sitting out the majority of the Georgia game due to a targeting call, which should improve the communication of the defense, but if the interior remains weak against Arkansas it may make no difference.
Be Aggressive and play with passion
Auburn played with what felt like very little passion against Georgia, and if they continue to do the same they will lose what should be an easy win over an improved, but still not good Arkansas team. That not only goes for the players but the coaches as well.
Auburn cannot be conservative on offense and expect to put up very many points. This is the perfect game to let Bo Nix settle in and air out the ball.
Meanwhile, the defense cannot allow Feleipe Franks to settle in and the Arkansas offense to get any big plays. Keep the running game minimal, and force the often uncomfortable Franks into a passing situation.
With Morris having been the head coach and Malzahn having extensive history with Arkansas as well, expect the coaches to not hold back and try to run up the score as much as possible against the Razorbacks.
Auburn will host Arkansas in Jordan-Hare Stadium, with kickoff set for 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.