FAYETTEVILLE – This week we continue our look at a team-by-team opponent analysis of the Arkansas football schedule. Today is Week 7.

FAYETTEVILLE – This week we continue our look at a team-by-team opponent analysis of the Arkansas football schedule. Today is Week 7.


As long as Gus Malzahn is the coach at Auburn, Razorbacks-Tigers will be a fun game. And as long as Malzahn is there and Bret Bielema is at Arkansas, it should even be a testy game.


The two have traded barbs – sometimes obviously, sometimes indirectly – since Bielema’s arrival in the Southeastern Conference. And that’s independent Malzahn’s ties to the Natural State, Auburn’s ability to enter Arkansas and poach its high schoolers and all other factors.


As much as LSU was for the Golden Boot and Missouri is for the Battle Lines, the top rivalry for Arkansas football right now is Auburn.


That said, it’s a pretty one-sided rivalry lately.


But this could be the Hogs’ year. Arkansas opens as a preseason favorite by a touchdown as Auburn heads to Fayetteville. The Tigers are replacing their best quarterback, running back and wide receiver. And they haven’t exactly been anything special on defense lately, either, despite having solid personnel.


It’s the fourth straight difficult game for the Razorbacks. By this point of the season, a general idea on how the Hogs season will finish will be in mind. But a win over Auburn, no matter what’s happened before, will be something Arkansas players, coaches and fans would cherish.


Auburn Tigers


Southeastern Conference


Last Year: 8-5 (4-4 in SEC), lost to Wisconsin in Outback Bowl


Plays Arkansas: October 17, at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium in Fayetteville


By the Numbers


Scoring Offense: 35.5 points per game (27th in FBS, 4th in SEC)


Rushing Offense: 255.46 yards per game (15th, 2nd)


Passing Offense: 229.5 yards per game (67th, 7th)


Scoring Defense: 26.7 points per game (63rd, 10th


Rushing Defense: 168.77 yards per game (69th, 10th)


Passing Defense: 230.1 yards per game (70th, 12th)


Offense


A Malzahn-coached team is going to have tricks up its sleeve. Plays may be unconventional or not. But yards will be gained. Jeremy Johnson is the primary man to lead the charge in getting those yards as he takes over Nick Marshall. Johnson played a lot in last year’s 35-21 win over Arkansas last year and looks to be the part of SEC starter. Junior-college transfer Jovon Robinson has only to beat out a pair of sophomores with a combined 53 career carries to be the chief running back and that’s likely to happen given his pedigree and expectations. Avery Young and Alex Kozan are two of the best offensive linemen in the SEC, too, so they’ll provide plenty of time for Robinson and Johnson. This team will score points, though maybe not quite enough to be top 30 in FBS again.


Defense


The defense, however, is another story all together. It wasn’t good last year. It was downright mediocre. Scoring, rushing and passing defense all ranked between 60th and 70th in the country last year. It was the biggest reason for the team’s 8-5 record. It must improve if Auburn wants to leap back up. Kris Frost and Casanova McKinzy are a pair of sure tacklers at linebacker and Jonathan Jones’ six interceptions last year were tied for second in the conference. But the Tigers were just 11th in the league in sacks while managing 22 interceptions overall. Those numbers don’t correlate long-term.


This is part seven of 12 looks at each of the Arkansas football team opponents this fall. The series continues Monday with Tennessee-Martin