FIVE KEYS TO TONIGHT’S GAME
1. Slow Auburn’s Run
Gus Malzahn’s offense is rolling with a ground game ranked fifth in the nation (315.4 yards a game). The Tigers have rushed for 379 yards or more in each of their past three games. Arkansas must find a way to keep the ground game under control.
2. Build Brandon’s Confidence
QB Brandon Allen hasn’t enjoyed any success lately, but Arkansas has put in two weeks of work determined to improve the passing offense. The Razorbacks need to help Allen have early success against a defense allowing 267 passing yards a game.
3. Win Battles Up Front
Arkansas’ power run game will be key to its upset hopes, leading the way for a power run game that must set the tone against the Tigers. The defensive front must perform against a no-huddle offense that will put Arkansas under constant pressure.
4. Reverse Turnover Trend
Arkansas is last in the SEC in turnover margin during conference games (minus-9) and it has played a big role in the struggles. The offense has turned the ball over 10 times. The defense has one takeaway. The trend must change for Arkansas to win.
5. Make Special Plays
A struggling offense could use some help and special teams is an area that could provide a lift. The problem: Arkansas hasn’t done much in the return game this season. Expect D’Arthur Cowan to get a shot to make an impact as a returner.
TODAY’S KEY MATCHUP
Arkansas LB Jarrett Lake (6-3, 235, Sr.)
Key Statistics: 52 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Lake and the Arkansas defense face a big test against the SEC’s top-ranked rushing offense, which is led by junior Tre Mason. Lake — who manned the middle linebacker spot the past three games after starting the season on the weak side — is coming off a disappointing performance at Alabama (one tackle). He and the rest of Arkansas’ maligned unit must be much more engaged today against Auburn, which is more than capable of piling up yards and points behind its powerful ground game.
Auburn RB Tre Mason (5-10, 205, Jr.)
Key Statistics: 753 rushing yards, 9 touchdowns
Mason doesn’t have to shoulder the load alone for a rushing offense that has four players over the 400-yard mark. He has been the key weapon, though, leading the team in rushing yards and touchdowns. Mason is ranked fifth in the SEC in rushing yards a game (94.1) and has topped the 100-yard mark three times this season. It included 132- and 178-yard performances against top 10 opponents LSU and Texas A&M, respectively. Mason also has scored a touchdown in five straight games.
EDGE: Auburn RB Tre Mason
Passing Yds (NCAA Rank)
Arkansas 146.6 (113th)
Auburn 195.6 (96th)
Arkansas 209.9 (28th)
Auburn 315.4 (5th)
Arkansas 356.5 (99th)
Auburn 511.0 (13th)
Passing Yds (NCAA Rank)
Arkansas 216.2 (40th)
Auburn 267.0 (104th)
Arkansas 172.0 (71st)
Auburn 138.5 (34th)
Arkansas 388.2 (55th)
Auburn 405.5 (75th)
UA’s Brandon Allen hasn’t thrown a TD pass in 13 quarters. The Hogs are 121st in the NCAA in passing efficiency (.464 rating); AU QB Nick Marshall (shoulder) is a game time decision according to Gus Malzahn. Jeremy Johnson is a capable backup.
UA’s Alex Collins (99.6 yards) and Jonathan Williams (76.5 yards) remain the SEC’s top tandem, averaging 176.1 yards a game; Tre Mason (753 yards, 9 TDs) has a rushing TD in 5 straight games and 12 of Auburn’s past 15 dating back to 2012.
UA may get sophomore D’Arthur Cowan and freshman Drew Morgan more involved to help a struggling passing game. Senior Javontee Herndon has a team-high 20 catches; AU’s Sammie Coates (21 catches) leads the NCAA in yards per catch (25.52).
UA’s Travis Swanson will start his 47th straight game. UA and UCLA are the only two teams in the country to start at least 2 true freshman on the O-Line; AU’s improved line — which surrendered 8 sacks vs. UA in 2012 — has allowed 7 this season.
UA junior Trey Flowers enjoyed a career day vs. AU last season with 3 ½ sacks. He and senior Chris Smith have combined for 10 this season; AU has 11 defensive linemen with at least one sack in 2013. Senior Dee Ford leads the way with 6 sacks.
UA desperately needs better play from a unit led by Jarrett Lake and Braylon Mitchell. Freshman Brooks Ellis could see more action tonight; Robinson Therezie has thrived as a linebacker-safety hybrid in a 4-2-5 defense with 35 tackles, 3 INTs.
UA’s secondary has surrendered 15 TD passes without an interception in 4 conference games. S Alan Turner leads team with 54 tackles; AU is 104th in the nation in passing yards allowed (267.0). CB Jonathan Mincy has a team-high 9 PBUs.
OVERALL: Auburn 35, Arkansas 24
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau