During the 2019 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short.
Here are the panel's comments for the Tigers' road showdown against Arkansas on Saturday:
With the disappointing loss at Florida and the loss of Boobee Whitlow to injury, Auburn’s chances of winning a championship took a big hit in Gainesville.
But the Tigers will still be in control of their destiny when they hit the road to take on Arkansas (2-4, 0-2 SEC) in an 11 a.m. game Saturday.
Bo Nix, whose true freshman status was finally exposed by the Gator defense, will have to gather himself for another SEC road game, but this time in an environment not nearly as hostile as The Swamp.
It’s true that Arkansas’ Reynolds Razorback Stadium won’t quite be as imposing as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but Auburn coaches should have used their two-week break to sort out problems that arose in the Tigers’ first loss two weeks ago.
Going forward, Nix will need to resume the quarterback play Auburn saw in his first five games, a running back or two will have to step up in place of Whitlow and some weaknesses in the offensive line will have to be resolved.
Arkansas, which opened as a near 17-point underdog, is on a three-game losing skid, but the Hogs have pulled some surprises against the favored Tigers over the years — especially in Fayetteville.
However, Coach Gus Malzahn owns a 5-1 record over his home state team, and this version of the Razorbacks doesn’t appear capable of taking down this Auburn team — at least on paper.
Malzahn has traditionally done well coming off a loss with a two-week break.
Look for Auburn’s magnificent defense, which played winning football at Florida, to assert itself again behind the nation’s top defensive lineman, Derrick Brown.
And look for a newly-composed Nix to resume his confident play with wide receiver targets Seth Williams, Eli Stove, Will Hastings and Anthony Schwartz.
Among the backup running backs, Kam Martin is the most experienced, but any of the others could have a breakout game against the Hog defense.
In Malzahn’s six years on the Plains, his Tiger teams have averaged 44.6 points against Arkansas. Don’t see quite that offensive explosion Saturday as Auburn secures a bowl bid, but make it:
Auburn 34, Arkansas 13.
Bob Lowry, retired political reporter for United Press International, and three daily newspapers
The hangover from the Florida game should be over by now. The week off should have been a time to re-look at everything we are doing or not doing. A time for coaches to re-evaluate themselves. We are not as bad as we looked in Gainesville, and the Gators are not as good as many thought. I know Gus had a good game plan going into the game but when it didn’t work, it didn’t seem he had an alternate plan to go with.
I have always enjoyed going to Razorback Stadium. Next to Jordan-Hare, it’s the nicest stadium in the SEC. Hog fans know how to tailgate and they set up very close to stadium. Fans don’t like 11 a.m. kickoffs, but most coaches like it when playing on the road. Players wake up, eat and play the game. Did you know Gus has an outstanding record the game after an open date?
In the past, especially during the Tuberville-Nutt era, Arkansas has given us problems at home and at Fayetteville. Houston Nutt had Tubb's number. Coach Morris in his second year and has not had a lot of talent. He will do well if given time. They are getting better each week. The Razorbacks should have beaten Texas A&M and Kentucky. Coach Morris needs a signature win, but it doesn’t need to be the Auburn Tigers. We can’t be looking ahead to LSU.
With Whitlow out, other players have to step up. All offensive skilled players need to be utilized, find what will work and stick with it. We need to get Joey Gatewood in on more plays and get the ball to our speedster receivers in space. All this will not happen if we don’t have good offensive line play. I’m not worried about the performance of our defense. I am concerned about them staying on the field too long.
This will be homecoming for Gus. He has many friends and relatives in Arkansas. If we can’t beat the Razorbacks, he needs to stay in Arkansas. Gus won’t lose to Arkansas, he loves his job and Auburn too much.
Auburn 31, Arkansas 10.
Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard
With three successive away games in three different states in the month of October, Auburn’s trip to Fayetteville should be, by far, the easiest of this trio of SEC opponents. The trip to The Swamp two Saturdays ago (aka “The Turnover Bowl”) definitely didn’t end the way we’d hoped, and the game against undefeated LSU in Death Valley on Oct. 26, where we haven’t won in two decades, will be a major challenge. While no SEC game is a sure thing, Arkansas should be one that we can put in the W column.
The Razorbacks have been at or near the bottom of the SEC for a while and this year should be no different. Despite a near upset of Texas A&M in Arlington and a close game against Kentucky in Lexington after leading 13-0, Arkansas has not shown the ability to seal the deal in an important game thus far. Currently, Arkansas has 14 straight SEC conference losses since getting a one-point win over Ole Miss in 2017, but one of these Saturdays they will get the break they’ve been searching for the past two years. Hopefully, Saturday won’t be the day when the Hogs finally put it all together and snag the signature win that has eluded Chad Morris thus far.
The Florida game inevitably took away a lot of swagger from our guys who’d been marching through the season, picking off one target after another since the season-opener in Dallas against the Ducks. Not only did the Gators defeat us despite an incredible defensive performance by Derrick Brown, we also learned three days later that the heart of our running game, Boobee Whitlow, had sustained a knee injury and will be out of action for 4-6 weeks.
It’s obvious that our other backs will now be forced to step up and that our coaches must devise more plays utilizing the world class speed of Anthony Schwartz and the running ability of the biggest back on the squad, Joey Gatewood. (Though Joey is clearly not listed as a running back, we could definitely use his size to plow through some holes that the offensive line must make for our guys.) The off week should have given the coaches and the team time to reassess our strengths and weaknesses and to make appropriate adjustments. As the old song goes, we’ve got to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”
Hopefully, the trip to Arkansas will give our No. 11 Tigers an opportunity to try out some new things before they have to face the No. 2 Bengal Tigers in Death Valley on Oct. 26. I’m counting on a celebration at Toomer’s Corner Saturday afternoon to the tune of Auburn 31, Arkansas 14.
Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan
What a week in SEC football. Georgia lost to unranked South Carolina and UGA drops to 10th in the polls. And Alabama hammered Texas A&M 47-28. Auburn is 11th, Florida 9th and LSU moves up to 2nd. Pretty impressive for SEC to have 5 of its teams ranked so high. Auburn’s problem is that we still have to play LSU in Baton Rouge, Georgia and Alabama. Few, if any, teams have an end-of-the season schedule like that. Unless we improve dramatically, we could easily get beaten by two of the three.
Arkansas does not appear to be as good this year as they have been in the past. They only beat small schools Colorado State and Portland State.
They have lost to Texas A&M 31-27, Ole Miss 31- 17, San Jose 31-24 and Kentucky 24-20. I think we should easily score 21 to 30 points against Arkansas.
But fans should not worry about the score. They should be looking to see if Auburn is going to make dramatic improvements in their total game and game plan.
I predict that Auburn’s defense can hold its own with all the teams remaining on the schedule. Auburn cannot be caught off-guard like we were at Florida. This is especially true for the offense. We cannot afford to put freshman Bo Nix in situations where he is overwhelmed by the defensive rush or where the crowd noise prevents him from changing plays or formations. It must be more than 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Coaching and blocking can make any quarterback look good. Some, like Alabama, make their quarterback look great.
Auburn needs to run a wide open, fast pace offense. If we do, we win 31 to 10.
James Sprayberry, local attorney and longtime Auburn season ticket holder
Auburn comes off a much needed bye-week to face the hapless Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas is riding a 14 game conference losing streak and head coach Chad Morris is still looking for his first career SEC victory; however, last season Tennessee came into Jordan-Hare having lost 11 SEC games in a row and we all know how that went.
Auburn’s defense continues to play at an elite level and should feast on this anemic offense. This Razorback team is averaging only 114 rush yards per game in SEC play, so look for them to take to the air to try and move the ball. Florida TE Kyle Pitts gave the Auburn defense fits, so I expect Arkansas to try and do the same with TE Cheyenne O’Grady. The Razorbacks have a paucity of offensive weapons, but O’Grady may be their best.
As for the offense, I expect we will see the multiple schemes and complex passing game we saw in wins against Texas A&M and Miss. State as opposed to the head-scratching play calls that did little to protect a freshman QB playing in the Swamp. Auburn will be without its leading rusher, so unless one of the heralded freshmen step up, running the ball may be a tough proposition. I like Kam Martin as a change of pace, but I’m not sold he can be the bell cow at the position.
Arkansas jumped out to a 13-0 lead against Kentucky last week only to lose to a team playing a wide receiver at QB. The Razorbacks will play inspired early, but weather that and the Tigers shouldn’t be threatened. Auburn is on a three-game win streak versus the Hawgs, winning by an average of 38 points per game. Auburn has never beaten Arkansas four times in a row … until now. The Tigers walk away with this one 34-16.
Brandon Hughes, Lee County
After a needed rest, the DDC heads west to visit the hog pen in Fayettville for a SEC West division contest.
Our Tigers got chomped on a bit by the lizard folks the last time out, and having a week off should help to get things back on track.
The AU defense continues to play solid and if it weren’t for two big plays in the Swamp the other week things might have gotten real interesting.
Our Razorback friends have had a rough go of it so far this season as evidenced by a 2 -4 record. A bright spot (sorta) was giving Texas A&M all it could handle, losing by just four points in the phone people stadium.
Arkansas Boar Hog running back Rakeem Boyd is a load but the Hogs like to throw more than they run. I’m guessing that trend will continue Saturday courtesy of AU’s defense being non-user friendly to opponent’s run games.
I suspect we’ll see QB Starkel chunkin’ the ball with some possible help from QB2 Hicks. Don’t be surprised to see a trick play with RB Boyd throwing as well. He’s got a 108.4 pass rating ... Ok, he’s thrown only one pass but it was complete. Regardless, our secondary will most likely see some action.
Coach Morris will do all he can to fire up his charges and the Pig Nation is probably looking forward to a home game, hoping to catch our guys looking ahead to the throw down next week in Baton Rouge.
In recent years, it seems like the Tigers play flat in 11 a.m. games. Arkansas hopes we will continue the trend. I doubt it. Auburn 31, Arkansas 19.
Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff
The collapse at Gainesville seems like a distant memory now . An open date was fortuitous for Auburn to clear the mechanism and figure everything out.
Much has been said about Bo Nix’s shortcomings in that game but he was put in some hard spots because of the game plan .
As for the game at Arkansas this weekend, I look for Auburn to score often. Let’s face it — they are not very good at all. Our defense will be nasty as usual and cause the Hogs all kinds of problems.
This is a tune-up for the trip next week to Baton Rouge . I see it — Auburn 42, Arkansas 13.
Barry Mask, Auburn's first "Friend of Aubie," director of marketing for River Bank & Trust