Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - No. 21 Auburn will look to rebound this week, traveling to Arkansas for their second of the three road game series.
After last weeks disappointing loss at LSU, Auburn will have a challenge going into Fayetteville, a place they have also had trouble winning.
The Razorbacks, despite a 2-4 record, are a solid all-around team and could give the Tigers problems.
Here are my 5 keys for Auburn to win at Arkansas:
1) Force the pass
Arkansas is without, potentially, starting quarterback Austin Allen. Allen was sidelined in Arkansas last game against Alabama with a shoulder injury, putting freshman Cole Kelly under center.
The start against Alabama was Kelly's first of his career and he did a pretty solid job throwing for 200 yards and a touchdown.
"That new quarterback that they have is a big guy, and I think he did some good things," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. "But any time you’re going there, we’re going to get their best. It’s a tough place to play."
That Arkansas quarterback been training at IHOP. #ARKvsBAMA— Thomas Rooney (@TR_Rooney) October 15, 2017
However, like any true freshman, he struggled against the Crimson Tide defense, completing only 55% of his passing and throwing an interception.
The good thing for Auburn is that, whether Allen is ready to go or Cole gets his second nod, they will be facing a struggling quarterback.
Auburn's defensive secondary was torn apart last week at LSU and faced several key injuries, but overall they have been solid all season.
They allow about 180 pass yards a game, a relatively low number and have also had 4 interceptions this season.
On top of that the Tiger secondary has broken up 28 passes this season, that is a ton of break-ups.
With that in mind, Auburn should force the Razorbacks into throwing the ball more than rushing.
It also helps the Arkansas run game is not as effective as their passing game, but for Auburn to have a fighting chance of stopping the Arkansas offense, they have to force them to throw the ball.
2) Pick up the linebacker blitz
Arkansas's top defenseman, in my opinion, is senior linebacker Dwayne Eugene Jr. He leads the Razorbacks with 5.5 tackles for loss and has had at least one tackle for loss in 4 different games this season.
On top of the tackles for loss, Eugene has 2.5 sacks on the season (more than Auburn's Marlon Davidson).
What these stats mean is that the Arkansas defense uses a linebacker blitz, or they will send their linebackers in to pressure quarterbacks and make plays.
All kinds of love in Arkansas for a defense that attacks like that linebacker blitz - resulting in Dwayne Eugene's sack.— Kurt Voigt (@Kurt_Voigt_AP) September 1, 2017
For Auburn, the offensive line has to be able to recognize the linebacker blitz and pick it up.
If the Tigers want to get their run game established and later protect their aerial attack, they have to protect Jarrett Stidham and Kerryon Johnson.
And by protecting these players, I mean they have to be able to pick up the late blitz and prevent the plays for loss.
3) Pressure the QB
The fact Arkansas will be playing either a freshman quarterback or a quarterback off of injury is enough reason to add more pressure to their quarterback.
On top of that, Arkansas has not had any sort of consistency on the offensive line, constantly moving players around.
Despite OL Frank Ragnow, considered the best offensive lineman in the country, the Razorback line is considerably weak. They have started a total of 8 different linemen this season already.
For Auburn, their defensive strength is their pass rush and defensive line. The line has a total of 47 tackles for loss this season and 32 quarterback hurries.
That is a lot for playing just 7 games this season. Along with that, the Tigers have 19 sacks on the season, showing their strength at being able to pressure the quarterback a lot.
The Auburn defensive line will play a key role in stopping the Arkansas offense.
Jeff Holland has been the star of the Auburn defense this season, having 8.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Oh, and 10 quarterback hurries.
For Auburn to blow up their Razorback backfield, Holland and his teammates will have to put up similar stat lines they have all season.
4) Don't turnover the ball
This note is a theme week in and week out, but it is one of the most important things.
Auburn has done a decent job, minus the Mercer game, at not turning the ball over.
However, in the games Arkansas has played this season, they have had a lot of success with getting takeaways and turning those into points.
They have had 8 total takeaways and have scored 31 points off of those. What that means is that every time they take the ball away, Arkansas will at least get a field goal.
With Auburn being the road team, Fayetteville will be extra loud in favor of Arkansas. So if Auburn turns the ball over, Arkansas will keep getting momentum and fan support.
For Auburn to win the game, they cannot give Arkansas the chance to turn takeaways into points.
Auburn football is a lot like that ex who's told you they've changed so you give them another chance but then they just hurt you again— alison (@aliinicc) October 14, 2017
5) Run the ball
Auburn has to be able to run the ball efficiently to get their offense started. Arkansas has a pretty decent secondary, which will make it difficult to have a passing game.
The Arkansas secondary is anchored by Kevin Richardson II, Henre' Toliver and Santos Ramirez all who can break up passes, pick off the ball, and force fumbles.
The Tigers will have to establish their running game for their passing game to even have a chance.
In last weeks loss to LSU, the Auburn run game was a huge factor in the first half but was almost nonexistent in the second half.
The first half run game will have show up for the whole game at Arkansas. This means Kerryon Johnson will have to be ready to run wild all game.
Johnson comes into the game with 13 touchdowns and 660 rushing yards. He averages about 140 yards a game, something he must be able to do at Arkansas.
Malzahn will also have to be able to spread the wealth in the run game, something that he hasn't done since week 1.
Kerryon Johnson is gonna die soon, they don't even let him rest lol.— Chris Nano (@ChrisNano10) October 14, 2017
Backs Kam Martin and Kamryn Pettway must be given a chance to run in this game in order for Johnson to be more effective and for him to get a break.
If Auburn wants to win the game offensively, they must establish their powerful run game.