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July 14, 2013

Auburn Season Preview: Scouting Arkansas

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra

With the 2013 season drawing closer by the minute, it’s never too early to begin taking a look at Auburn’s opponents in the coming campaign. On Day 5, we start off with the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Tigers will make the trip to Fayetteville, Ark., to square off against the Razorbacks in Game No. 9 this season.

Who: Arkansas

When: Saturday, Nov. 2arkansas-wp-2-1920

Where: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000) | Fayetteville, Ark.

All-time series: Auburn leads 11-10-1

When last they met: Though there were other games with a larger margin of victory for the opponent, Auburn’s 24-7 loss to Arkansas may have been its worst defeat in 2012. How so? The Razorbacks entered that contest dead-last in the nation in total defense, allowing 510.2 yards per game. They had lost by a combined score of 110-10 in their first two SEC games, against Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively. And Arkansas did not get a sack or force a turnover in either of those two losses. (This isn’t even mentioning the fact Arkansas had tumbled from a preseason No. 8 ranking to four straight losses after winning its opener.) After those defeats to the Crimson Tide and Aggies, the Razorbacks followed it up with another one, this one at home versus Rutgers the week before they arrived in Auburn. So of course, Arkansas’ defense came into Jordan-Hare Stadium and looked like world-beaters, coming up with five takeaways and eight sacks. The Tigers were so pitiful then-coach Gene Chizik made it a point to issue an apology to everyone invested in the program in his postgame presser. “The bottom line is,” Chizik said, “the Auburn fans and the Auburn family did not deserve this today, and I apologize to anybody who came to the game to watch it.” Need I say more?

The coach: Bret Bielema (First year as Arkansas’ head coach; 68-24 record overall in seven seasons at Wisconsin from 2006-12)

2012 record: 4-8, 2-6 in SEC; finished in sixth place in SEC West

Total offense: 420.17 ypg (49th in Division I, 6th in SEC)

Scoring offense: 23.50 ppg (89th, 12th)

Total defense: 409.92 ypg (73rd, 12th)

Scoring defense: 30.42 ppg (81st, 12th)

2012 Year-in-Review: Last year was over before it really began for the Razorbacks. The day former coach Bobby Petrino crashed his motorcycle on April 2, 2012, about 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville, Arkansas’ hopes and dreams of a storybook season went down with it. Petrino was let go, of course, but not before lying about what had happened and bringing further embarrassment upon the program. (A certain bowl-cut hairstyled student journalist from The Red & Black even penned a column on the stupidity and extreme arrogance of Petrino’s actions.) Enter John L. Smith. The eccentric coach was in over his head from the beginning, as he deserted his alma mater, Weber State, for the chance to take the helm of the sinking ship that was the S.S. Arkansas. Smith ended up making more headlines for off-the-field matters (declaring bankruptcy in the middle of the year) and bizarre press conferences — remember to “smile!”  — than he did for his coaching. (My predecessor, Aaron Brenner, even wrote a great “7 at 7″ about Smith, the coach he dubbed “The Most Interesting Man in the SEC.”) As for the season itself, Arkansas won its opener against Jacksonville State before losing to Louisiana-Monroe the following week in overtime, a defeat which sent the rest of the season into a tailspin. The only solace the Razorbacks could take out of the 2012 campaign was beating Auburn and Kentucky in league play to avoid being labeled “the worst team in the SEC.”

Biggest area of concern: Quarterbacks like Tyler Wilson don’t grow on trees. Expecting redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen to try to replicate Wilson’s production would be ludicrous. Wilson left Fayetteville holding 29 school records and was the first Razorback signal-caller to earn first-team All-SEC honors. A few of those school records he owns are career passing yards (7,765), career completions (593) and career completion percentage (63.3). I could keep listing Wilson’s numbers all day, but for the sake of you, the reader, I’ll digress. One thing in Allen’s favor is that he had the chance to start two games last year while Wilson was hurt. Another is that he won’t be asked to put the ball in the air as much in Bielema’s run-heavy scheme. In Bielema’s seven years at Wisconsin, only one Badger quarterback topped 3,000 yards passing in a season: Russell Wilson in 2011, totaling 3,175. In the six other seasons, Wisconsin’s starting quarterbacks averaged just over 2,000 passing yards per year at 2,075. And in the situations when Arkansas elects to throw, Allen will have to find a reliable go-to option to fill the shoes of receiver Cobi Hamilton, who caught 90 passes for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Key returning player/unit: One could easily pick defensive end Chris Smith here. The senior will be in the running for multiple postseason honors and awards as one the top players in the country at his position at the end of the year. But in an offense where being able to pound the ball on the ground is integral, center Travis Swanson will be a nigh-irreplaceable part of the Razorbacks’ offensive line this fall. The senior, who has already been named a preseason All-American second teamer by Athlon Sports, has been a constant presence up front during his Arkansas career. He has started all 38 games he has played in as a Razorback and blocked for a 3,000-yard passer each season. He also was part of the line in 2010 that was the first in school history to have both a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. Having a veteran like Swanson to ease the transition into the Bielema era is a luxury for the Razorbacks.

Extra point: Bielema ended his tenure at Wisconsin taking the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls, though they lost all three games. The last Big Ten coach to pull off that feat was the legendary Woody Hayes of Ohio State, who led the Buckeyes to four consecutive Rose Bowl appearances from 1973-76. The Buckeyes came away victorious just once during that span.

PREVIOUS ENTRIES

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Arkansas State

Mississippi State

19 Comments

  1. It is a shame yoiu have to follow previous Auburn writers who for all we alumni knew were die hard Bama fans.

    The Ledger’s reputation for having about a dozen only Auburn readers will be one hard row for you to hoe to overcome.

    Then they hire a Georgia grad to write? Kiddin me? Why are you not writing for your school?

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

  2. We all know that the Ledger circulation stops at the Phenix City WalMart, but the editor could not care less.

    Columbus has a majot college 35 miles away and no relationship with that school. only Georgia 3.5 hours away. Smart business decision? lol

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  3. WT: A couple of questions: One, since you’ve mentioned “only dog and Bama” fans are commenting on the blog, how do you know which team Stan and others root for? (Did you not see a commenter called “AubTigeman” responded to my first article? Am I supposed to assume he cheers for, say, Clemson?) Two, why are you so interested in where the readers from the Ledger-Enquirer are coming from and what local advertisers in the greater Columbus metropolitan will decide to run ads? Four, why do you care whether Auburn students can locate where Columbus (Ga.) is on a map? And five (and most importantly), which school do you back? In all of your comments, you have yet to identify which team you support, while downing Auburn, Georgia and Alabama. –RB

    Comment by Ryan Black — July 14, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

  4. WT: This is also why, with a major college 35 miles away, the Ledger-Enquirer staffs an Auburn beat writer and not a Georgia one. The L-E receives its Georgia coverage from The Macon Telegraph. So is it a smart business decision? Given your grammar thus far, I’m not sure you could tell me. –RB

    Comment by Ryan Black — July 14, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

  5. The beat writer for Aubuirn has always been someone who has zero affiliation with Auburn. They wriote like ESPN with a grudge. Georgia grad? Wisconsin grad?

    Why not get an Auburn person to write about Auburn?

    As far as I am concerned the Ledger can keep getting antagonistic writers for the paper and not having readers from the AU area. That is their businesss model to see if Auburn fans like to be trashed yearly whyen they do bad or when they do good.

    I remember on ewrioter talking about the “gaudy national championship” swimming banners.

    Clegg has regularly talked aboiut his personal disdain for Auburn and look and see the soundoff….not mine.

    The Ledger can do what it wants, just so the advertosers know that the Ledger’s circulation and readership is not part of most Auburn fans.

    I never see any negative things from writers about Bama or Georgia.

    I even talk with one reader from Smith Station who says she gets her info elsewhere, and she , like me is a grad,

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

  6. I will bet the Georgia writer is not an Auburn grad.

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

  7. WT: I can’t comment on the L-E’s hiring practices, since I’m obviously not in that kind of position. However, do you also go to AL.com’s website and ask why its two Auburn beat writers — Joel Erickson (a Missouri grad and former Ledger-Enquirer writer) and Brandon Marcello (an Arkansas grad) — aren’t “Auburn” alums? Those are just two examples. There are writers on the Auburn beat from myriad SEC schools, but I don’t see you calling them out. It appears it is you who is holding the grudge here, WT. –RB

    Comment by Ryan Black — July 14, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

  8. I said it is a shame you have to follow such bad writers for Auburn.

    It is your choice to carry our pom poms .

    Examples: Words in past by Bitter about “announced attendance.” Versus “attendance” used by Georgia writers or Bama writers.

    Every sentence sarcastic and also running with unfounded rumors as fact.

    I think back when the Ledger basically ignored Bama’s book store thieves, over 100 athletes, involved while Bama was on probation.

    Auburn? We get constant Cam Newton and some silly female writer who can';t get her stroy tellers to back up what she writes

    By the waay, Oregon is on NCAA probation for 2010 actions and Miss State ..what about them and the NCAA? Not news worthy?

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  9. WT: You are correct that The Macon Telegraph’s Georgia beat writer is not an Auburn grad. Seth Emerson went to Maryland. But ESPN’s Georgia beat writer — Dawgnation’s David Ching — went to Auburn. He also used to cover Auburn for the L-E. –RB

    Comment by Ryan Black — July 14, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

  10. That “silly female writer” you’re referring to is also an Auburn grad. You don’t want Selena Roberts covering Auburn? — RB

    Comment by Ryan Black — July 14, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

  11. Just go back and read what the Ledger writers wrote and you will understand

    Look at the Georgia articles lately, daily about recruiting, all positive. You know anything about Tiger recruiting?

    The last writer said that Auburn will be wanting to get rid of Malzhan by the 4th game.

    Like I said you are coming into a job that your predecessors ruined.

    I will be getting my Auburn info elsewhere. Like we say All in and ignore the press.

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

  12. Hey, no sweat from me really. Three writers in a few years, how will you survive? Trust me very few Auburn fans read the Ledger. Go back and count the number of comments on line. Most have zero before you. And if they did it was a Bama fan or Dawg fan chining in.

    Oh an if you mention Bama Finebaum what he says you will lose all credibility.

    Leave it at I will watch and call you out ? Fair?

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

  13. WT: I’m glad it took until your umpteenth comment before you finally say “ignore the press.” It undoes all the hard work you put into those earlier comments, no? I have enjoyed our conversation, though. –RB

    Comment by Ryan Black — July 14, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

  14. WT: All anyone wants is a fair chance, really. But I’m aware any little thing I write you don’t deem “100 percent pro-Auburn” will put me in your doghouse — no pun intended. I guess I’ll have to find some way to survive should you choose not to read my articles. –RB

    Comment by Ryan Black — July 14, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

  15. Some questions to ponder:

    Why did pro baseball leave Columbus?

    Why are there no major softball tornaments? I attended the NAIA National Championship here, did you? Practically no other Columbus citizen did and the Ledger did not even cover the championship game. I called Channel 9 and they did.

    Why does Columbus not have college football? Montgomery has three schools playing, comparable size.

    The Cotton Mouths struggle and so does the Lions.

    High school football attendance is poor. Try Opelika to even get in the game.

    Shaw one year I sat on the 40 during a playoff game . Pretty deserted around me.

    Ledger full of Atlanta stuff….How will Atlanta pay for the new stadium? Atlanta’s outfielders, batting 170 and 205 run into each other. What a story.

    Comment by Wt — July 14, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

  16. [...] Arkansas [...]

    Pingback by Auburn Season Preview: Scouting Tennessee | War Eagle Extra — July 14, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

  17. …..At the risk of feeding the trolls, the LE has long had one of the top Auburn blogs out there, started by Christa Turner back around 2006 or so. There has been some pretty good talent come through this space, in this Auburn fan’s opinion over the past few years.

    …..And I think most of us welcome Mr. Black, Georgia degree and all. Heck, Auburn hired a Georgia guy to coach the football team back in the 1980s, if I remember right.

    …..All that matters is that we get good information here, and so far that’s been the case. I’ve enjoyed reading thus far, and keep up the good work!

    Comment by Acid Reign — July 15, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  18. [...] Arkansas [...]

    Pingback by Auburn Season Preview: Scouting Alabama | War Eagle Extra — July 15, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

  19. The MAJORITY of Columbus area residents ARE AUBURN people. I’m not sure what some of you mouth pieces are talking about.

    Comment by Brad — July 18, 2013 @ 10:40 am

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