The 2-4 Arkansas Razorbacks will host the 4-2 Auburn Tigers on Saturday afternoon, as the Razorbacks look set to bounce back from a 27-14 loss at the hands of Alabama. The Tigers, meanwhile, swagger into Fayetteville with a bit more confidence after beating Kentucky last Thursday night in Lexington.
Arkansas has a tough schedule ahead of them, and getting the record to 6-6 is still the expectation of many. Auburn also a tough schedule ahead but it's 4 wins provide some padding.
Despite the early start time, this is an important game for both teams' futures, but even more so for Arkansas.
1Strength of Schedule. To date, Arkansas maintains the tougher strength of schedule. They faced Toledo, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, won at Tennessee, and traveled to Alabama. All of those teams have winning records. Auburn's resume can't really compare. The neutral site win over Louisville is their best win, while facing Mississippi State, LSU, and winning against plucky Kentucky. If one subscribes to the theory that "steel sharpens steel", then Arkansas is better positioned to win this game given their previous foes.
2Rushing Attack. Arkansas has one of the better rushing offenses in the country. Though not explosive, it's extremely efficient on standard downs with the team averaging 4.7 yards per carry this season. Auburn, meanwhile, has a below average rushing defense on standard downs. Auburn's front seven appears to be one that running back Alex Collins and his large offensive line could take advantage of gaining yards while keeping Gus Malzahn's offense off the field.
3Playmakers Apply Within. Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis had a big night against Kentucky, catching 11 balls for 137 yards. Presumably, the Razorbacks will look to take him away, and the Tigers will need another receiver to step up and make some big catches. Auburn doesn't seem to want to throw deep with quarterback Sean White, which places even more importance on Auburn's receivers creating yards after the catch. Arkansas has a below-average passing defense, so Auburn should find some opportunities.
Photo: Shanna Lockwood -- USA TODAY Sports
4Motivation. As hinted at the beginning, Arkansas is close to having a winning season become near-impossible. You never want to be 2-4 heading into mid-season, but especially if you still have to travel to Ole Miss, LSU, and host Mississippi State. Wins are in short supply.
5Attrition. This is the opposite side of the coin to the original point. Arkansas has played a tougher schedule than Auburn, but what kind of impact has that had on the team? College football writer Bruce Feldman has popularized his theory known as the "Body Blow Theory," which essentially states teams get banged up against physical opponents and those lasting effects carry over to future games. Arkansas may not have been serious injuries, but has the wear and tear of a tough schedule caught up to them?
THREE TO WATCH
Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas: Allen has had a good season throwing for 10 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and 256 yards per game this season. He'll face an Auburn defense that gave up 360 yards to Patrick Towles last week and those two quarterbacks have put up similar numbers this season.
Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn: Adams is expected to play Saturday despite suffering an injury last week. The former blue chip defensive tackle will be required to slow down Arkansas' rushing attack. The junior is not on pace to have as strong a junior season as he did in his sophomore season. He'll be needed Saturday.
Brooks Ellis, LB, Arkansas: Ellis is the Razorback's leading tackler and is on pace to finish the year with over 100 tackles and 9 tackles for loss. The Fayeteville native had 15 tackles alone last week against 'Bama. The defense's signal-caller will have his hands full against Auburn's offensive attack Saturday. He'll need to continue his hot playing streak while making sure his teammates don't get outsmarted by Malzahn's offensive formations.
This is a game where Arkansas would appear to have both the motivation edge, and looks set to run the ball regularly against Auburn. Auburn will likely require some big plays and defensive turnovers. Arkansas has coughed the ball up on average one time per game, but that probably won't be enough for the Tigers to win on the road.
Arkansas 24, Auburn 17