Nov. 2, 2013
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, both first-year Southeastern Conference head coaches, really don’t know each other. So why has Bielema been taking verbal shots at Malzahn since the summer?
I don’t have an answer, but if nothing else, Bielema has gotten the attention of Auburn coaches, players and fans. If there was ever any chance of Auburn sleep-walking against the Razorbacks and their five consecutive losses, Bielema made certain it wouldn’t happen.
I’m not sure why he would want to do that, but maybe we’ll find out when the two teams square off at 5 p.m. today at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Breaking it down:
Who will start at quarterback for Auburn?
Junior Nick Marshall has been on the field for every practice this week and certainly does not have an injury that will keep him out long term. But will he be ready to play today? That is the question.
Marshall suffered an apparent bruised shoulder last Saturday against Florida Atlantic. The expectation is that he will start today, but Malzahn hasn’t said and won’t likely say until close to game time.
Climbing toward the top five
Auburn, with four consecutive wins, has moved to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. That has propelled the Tigers into the No. 8 spot in the Associated Press poll. With a victory today, they could move into the top five if the right teams get beat.
Who would have thought it?
104 points and counting
Since taking a 7-0 lead on South Carolina, Arkansas has surrendered 104 unanswered points in its last two games, falling 52-7 to the Gamecocks and 52-0 at Alabama. Does that mean a cakewalk for Auburn? Probably not.
The Razorbacks have had a week off. They are in desperation mode and they historically play well against Auburn. Perhaps that’s why the Tigers are only favored by a little more than a touchdown.
Running games in the spotlight
Auburn has been, by far, the most productive running team in the SEC, leading the league with an average of 315.4 yards per game. Arkansas is fourth, averaging 209.9 yards per game.
Auburn also throws the ball effectively and is second in the league in total offense with 511 yards per game. Arkansas is 12th with 356.5 yards per game.
The Razorbacks also struggle to stop the run. They are 11th in the league, giving up 172 yards per game.
The bottom line
Auburn has better players than Arkansas and has been a much more consistent team. But that doesn’t mean the Tigers are assured of anything. The Razorbacks will come out believing they can win. The longer the hang in the game, the more they will believe.
This Auburn team has shown no tendency to overlook anyone. The mission will be to put the Razorbacks down early. If that doesn’t happen, things could get interesting.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: