No. 11 Arkansas Razorbacks (4-1, 3-2 ATS) at No. 7 Auburn Tigers (6-0, 3-3 ATS), Week 7 NCAA Football, Saturday October 16th, 3:30PM Eastern Jordan-Hare Stadium Auburn, A.L.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Ark +3/Aub -3
Over/Under Total: OFF
The SEC West is officially a wide open race now that the Alabama Crimson Tide were taken down last week by South Carolina. Only LSU and Auburn remain undefeated in SEC action. The Western Division in the SEC is a 4 horse race that will feature two of those horses this Saturday when the no. 11 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks take on the no. 7 Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers kept the unblemished record alive last week with a late field goal that lifted them over the Kentucky Wildcats. It was the 4th games this season that was decided by just one score and amazingly enough it was Auburn’s 3rd win by a single field goal. Still, the Tigers’ relentlessness has been their strong point and their toughness will be tested again this Saturday.
No. 11 Arkansas sports the SEC’s top passing offense behind Heisman hopefull QB Ryan Mallett. Mallett has led the Razorbacks passing attack that ranks 3rd in the nation averaging 354 yards per game. Mallett in particular has been special completing 69% passing for 1,748 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 6 picks on the season. That potent passing offense is sure to give the young Auburn secondary troubles this Saturday in what could be a high scoring affair. Auburn actually ranks 1st in the SEC in total yards averaging 483 yards per contest. The Tigers have a superstar in QB Cam Newton who leads the nation’s 8th ranked rushing offense with 276 yards per game. Newton has also proved he can make big plays with his arm as he has completed 65% for 1,138 yards, 12 scores, and 5 picks on the season. Therefore, this game will highlight some of the best offensive stars from the SEC in what is nearly guaranteed to be a shootout.
This game is very interesting because the two teams are very similar. Both have good defenses with extremely talented offenses. The big difference is Auburn does most of their damage on the ground and Arkansas does most of their damage through the air. The Razorbacks lone loss this season came by then ranked no. 1 Alabama but they followed that up with a 24-17 victory over rival Texas A&M last week. Expect the Razorbacks to really attack down field against an Auburn secondary that has had questions lingering over their head all season. The Tigers pass defense is a miserable 91st in the nation allowing 239 yards per contest. Not only is Mallett the best throwing quarterback in the conference, but the offense is loaded with talent at the wide out positions.
Wide receivers Joe Adams, Greg Childs, Darius Wright, and D.J Williams can all make plays with the football. Adams and Childs have been the leaders over the past two seasons. Adams leads the team with 408 yards while Childs leads the team with 28 receptions. Both standouts have 3 scores to their resume this season as well. It will be very interesting to see if the Auburn corners can stand their ground this weekend considering that is their only true weakness on either side of the ball. The Auburn secondary must keep the ball in front and prevent any big plays to allow their big guys up front to get some pressure on Mallett. As Alabama proved, if you can get Mallett into some pressure situations he has been known to force throws at times which resulted in a few picks against the Crimson Tide. Auburn will need their defensive line to get that same type of pressure to help out their young secondary this Saturday.
On the Tigers offensive side of the football, Newton leads the team with 672 rushing yards this season. In fact, Newton is the leading rusher in the SEC and is on track to become just the 8th QB to ever join the 2,000 passing - 1,000 rushing category. Newton will be tough to defense just in his lonesome for the Arkansas defense. However, the Tigers have a pair of runners in Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb that are effective in the running game as well. Dyer has 396 yards on the season averaging 5 yards per carry. McCalebb has 345 yards on the season averaging 7.5 yards per pop.
Auburn loves running the quarterback option read where Newton will read the defense and either hand the ball off or keep it while turning up field. With so many dangerous runners in the backfield, it’s easy to see why that running style is so effective for the Tigers. Also as state before, Newton can also make throws when he has to so keep an eye on WR Darvin Adams. Adams has 21 receptions for 385 yards this season which is not bad considering Auburn has mainly been a rushing team. Still, Adams is an under rated wide out that deserves more attention than he gets so keep an eye on him especially if the Tigers need a big play in their passing game.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I really like Arkansas here. Auburn has been barely squeaking by some average teams although they did have a big win against South Carolina. However, in that game the Gamecocks also gave up 4 turnovers in the 2nd half alone which helped the Tigers overcome a two touchdown deficit. Arkansas on the other hand has been in the tight games before and they will not blink if this turns out to be another nail biter. The Razorbacks wide receiving core has a big advantage over the Auburn secondary and I do not see the Tigers stopping them through the air. Auburn will get their share of points, but the Razorbacks take home the win. Take Arkansas +3.