Arkansas has lost five consecutive games and seven of its last eight games vs. SEC West opponent Auburn, but the No. 17 Razorbacks have a solid chance to reverse the losing trend Saturday against the Tigers. The two are set to square off at noon ET in the first game of an SEC on CBS doubleheader before No. 11 Kentucky and No. 1 Georgia clash in the afternoon window.
Both teams are in need of victories as the Tigers enter off a 34-10 loss to Georgia and the Razorbacks off a crushing 52-51 loss to Ole Miss. Despite those losses, there is still plenty of reason for optimism with both squads. Arkansas is on track for its first bowl bid since 2016, while Auburn is proving to be a tough team to beat under first-year coach Bryan Harsin.
After dropping the four meetings in this series between 2016 and 2019 by an average of 39.25 points, Arkansas closed the gap on Auburn last season in Sam Pittman's first year as coach with a 30-28 loss. But there were no moral victories to be had in a contest that was marred by the controversy of a late officiating decision that allowed Auburn to kick a game-winning field goal in the final seconds. You can bet the memory of that game will be fresh with the Razorbacks in the rematch.
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Auburn vs. Arkansas: Need to know
The ground battle: Auburn ranks 14th nationally in yards allowed per carry as the Tigers are giving up just 2.87 yards per rush to their opponents. The Tigers have successfully stifled the rushing attacks of quality foes such as Penn State and LSU but have also proven susceptible to the rushing attacks of Georgia State and Georgia. So which version of the Tigers run defense will show up on Saturday? It's an important question because Arkansas ranks ninth nationally in rushing yards per game at 244.8 while averaging an impressive 5.34 yards per carry as a team. Auburn's rushing attack is pretty stout, too, as the Tigers average 206.2 yards per game on the ground and are fourth nationally in yards per rush at 6.06. Whoever wins the ground battle will probably win the game.
Brutal stretches: Arkansas' slate came in first in CBS Sports' 2021 SEC strength of schedule rankings, while Auburn's came in third. A big reason why both team's schedules are considered so challenging is because of the stretches they are in now. This will be Auburn's second game in a stretch of four straight against opponents currently ranked in the AP Top 25. It's also the team's second SEC West road trip in three weeks (sandwiched around a home game against No. 2 Georgia). The Tigers will be glad to have a bye next week. Arkansas could use a break, too, as this marks its fourth straight game against a quality conference foe. The Razorbacks get a downgrade in competition next week against Arkansas-Pine Bluff before their bye arrives.
Last season's controversy: As noted above, last year's meeting ended in a cloud of controversy. In the final minute of the game, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix tried to spike the football and stop the clock for a go-ahead field goal try. Nix did not field the snap cleanly, however, and got turned around in the process. He ended up appearing to throw the football backwards, which would be a fumble and not a spike, and the officials ruled the play an incomplete pass. The controversial call allowed the Tigers to retain possession and kick what turned out to be the game-winner. The way last season's game ended might make a victory especially sweet for Arkansas this time.
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Auburn vs. Arkansas prediction, picks
Auburn's marquee victory is against an LSU team that might be really bad. It won't be able to bottle up the Arkansas rushing attack like it did with LSU, and the Razorbacks should be mega-motivated by last year's controversial loss to Auburn and also by last week's dramatic defeat against Ole Miss. Prediction: Arkansas (-3.5)
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