Where: Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark.
Line: Auburn by 7.5
Radio: 1070 AM, 100.5 FM
1. Turnaround Tigers: Through eight games, no team in the country has improved its year-over-year record more than Auburn. At this point last season, the Tigers were 1-7. They have inverted that mark this year. The next-best turnaround belongs to Buffalo, which was also 1-7 at this juncture last season. The Bulls now boast a 6-2 overall record.
2. Rough stretch for Razorbacks: Arkansas is in the middle of a historic stretch of tough competition, as Auburn represents its fifth ranked foe in as many games. That’s tied for the longest string of ranked opponents for an SEC school since 1992, alongside two streaks by LSU (2001-02, 2012).
3. Coates making catches count: To say that sophomore receiver Sammie Coates is a “big-play threat” is a bit of an understatement. Hr leads the nation in yards per catch at 25.5, with 10 receptions of more than 30 yards, which is tied for fourth in FBS. He also has five catches of 40 or more yards this year (12th nationally).
4. Bielema looking to avoid unwanted “record”: Bret Bielema never won fewer than seven games in his seven years as Wisconsin’s head coach from 2006-12. The Razorbacks are on the verge of “setting” a career-low for the Iowa alum. Arkansas needs to win at four more games this year (either the last four in the regular season or three in the regular season plus a bowl victory).
Auburn offensive line vs. Arkansas defensive line: Just call this strength-on-strength. In Auburn’s starting five, the Tigers have a unit that ranks second in the SEC (and 13th in the country) in fewest sacks allowed (0.88 a game) and has paved the way for eight 100-yard rushers this season. They’ll square off against an Arkansas defensive line that owns two of the best ends anywhere. Chris Smith is fourth in the SEC in both sacks (six) and tackles for loss (eight). On the other side is Trey Flowers, who is just ahead of his teammate in tackles for loss (8.5) as well as forcing two fumbles this season. Nearly every game is won and lost by the players up front. Saturday’s contest won’t be any different.
Arkansas has had a week off to rest since its last outing, a 52-0 loss at the hands of top-ranked Alabama. More importantly, it has given the Razorbacks an extra week to prepare for the Tigers’ rushing attack. Knowing a win is the first step to salvaging its season — as well as putting a damper on what has been a remarkable year for Auburn up to this point — Arkansas will play impassioned for at least a quarter and a half. But there’s a reason the Razorbacks have lost five straight games and are winless in conference play: they’re too one-dimensional.
Stacking the box and forcing Arkansas to pass plays right into Auburn’s hands, as the Razorbacks will have numerous three-and-outs and fleeting, unfruitful possessions. Meanwhile, Auburn’s tailbacks won’t have a problem finding success against one of the SEC’s worst rush defenses. Though Auburn backers want to see Malzahn run it up, the Arkansas native won’t do so. ... Auburn 49, Arkansas 20.