Can Tyler Wilson get Arkansas back on track?
Arkansas and Auburn are the SEC's most disappointing teams through the first five weeks of the season. The Razorbacks had SEC title hopes in the preseason but have struggled to overcome the loss of head coach Bobby Petrino. Auburn wasn't expected to challenge LSU or Alabama in the SEC but this team was expected to show some improvement off of last season's 8-5 record. The Tigers head into Week 6 with a 1-3 record and could miss out on a bowl appearance if they don't turn things around.
Arkansas or Auburn: Which Team Can Turn Things Around in 2012?
Coach Pat Dye, former head coach of Auburn and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
I don't know how you can say you're going to turn it around against Auburn or turn it around against Arkansas. One of them is going to win this weekend ... but I don't know if that is going to turn it around for either team. You go back and take the Clemson game and the LSU game and just one play made by Auburn would've made a difference in the outcome of the ball game. That is not the case in the Arkansas play this year. Based on how both teams have played so far this year, I am not sure either team will turn it around.
Barrett Sallee, Lead SEC Blogger for Bleacher Report (@BarrettSallee):
Auburn is more likely to get things turned around this season primarily due to the small bit of momentum that the Tigers were able to generate vs. LSU two weeks ago. LSU was criticized mightily for it's sluggish performance vs. a "bad Auburn defense," but it wasn't a bad defense on that particular night. Auburn's strength—its pass rush—plays right into one of Arkansas' primary weaknesses, which is an inability to pass block. Plus, if Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier is ever going to get things headed in the right direction, it will be against the Arkansas pass defense which is ranked 121st out of 124 teams in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Plus, with games against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt following this weekend's matchup, there's a real opportunity for Auburn to build some momentum for the stretch run.
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
I look at both teams and think the chances are slim either can rebound and make a bowl game, but if one of the two is going to pull itself together and win six games, I’m going to pick Auburn. It’s really tough to bet against a team quarterbacked by Tyler Wilson for one quarterbacked by Kiehl Frazier, but the Tigers have at least been close to eking out an extra win or two this season. Meanwhile, Arkansas has been a mess since Day One this season. Auburn lost by seven to Clemson in a game Clemson took over late, and Auburn played LSU close in a 12-10 loss last week. We’re talking about two games where a break or two could have led to improbable Auburn wins. You can’t say the same of Arkansas against Alabama or Texas A&M. Although Arkansas has the new head coach, Auburn has the two new coordinators. I could see the Tigers executing game plans from Scot Loeffler and Brian Van Gorder a little better as the season goes along. A team that plays within one score of Clemson and LSU could certainly play well enough to defeat Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on the road, as Auburn will after this week.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
Neither. Arkansas players and coaches have completely packed it in so there is little chance the Hogs can turn around this season — even with Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tulsa coming up after Auburn. Optimistically, Arkansas will be 5-7 (with a win over Auburn). Auburn has a better chance to salvage the year after, if they can play the way they did against LSU and not like they have in every other game. Optimistically, Auburn will be 6-6 (with wins over Arkansas and Vanderbilt), so if six wins and a bowl game is saving the season, then I would guess the Tigers. But make no mistake, 2012 will be viewed as a failure by both programs.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
I have very low expectations for both teams the rest of the season, but I think Auburn ends up with a better record and maybe squeaks out a bowl appearance. Arkansas just has too many issues to address, starting with a defense that is allowing 40.6 points a game. The offense isn’t playing at a high level either, but there’s some potential as long as Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis remain in the lineup. Auburn’s offense ranks as the worst in the SEC, but the offensive line is young and should improve over the second half of the season. The defense has some nice pieces but has to tackle better and force a few more turnovers. The Tigers are no better than a 5-7 or 6-6 team this season. However, there’s more talent and potential for Auburn to turn things around in the second half of 2012.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
Neither. Arkansas has been the nation’s most disappointing team to date. The Razorbacks have yet to defeat an FBS opponent thanks in large part to a defense that is incapable of stopping the forward pass. Throw in the off-the-field issues — i.e. the John L. Smith sideshow — and it’s hard to envision this team winning more than three more games. There’s not as much drama at Auburn — though Gene Chizik isn’t on the firmest of ground — but this edition of the Tigers simply isn’t good enough to be much of a factor in the SEC West. Auburn might scratch and claw to get to six wins and reach bowl-eligibility, but that’s hardly a reason to celebrate for a program that won the national title two years ago.
Whichever team wins on Saturday would certainly get off to the right start towards that goal, but I'm not sure either team can truly salvage its season at this point. That's not to say that neither won't earn a postseason invitation, mind you. I just think it's fair to say that unless one is able to completely turn things around, neither team will be able to match preseason expectations, especially as far as Arkansas is concerned. Both teams have several winnable games on their remaining schedules, but both teams also have obvious question marks and weaknesses, so I think it's a stretch to call many of these, especially when it comes to SEC plays, "guaranteed" victories. Arkansas gets Kentucky and Ole Miss at home following Saturday's visit to Auburn, but faces a November slate of Tulsa and LSU along with road games at South Carolina and Mississippi State. The defense has to start playing better, and soon, and the offense needs to find a rhythm both passing and running the ball or I'm afraid it's going to be a long and dreary fall for Hog fans. On the other side, Auburn has to travel to Ole Miss and Vanderbilt following Saturday's game with Arkansas and still has Texas A&M, Georgia and the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa left on its conference slate. The Tigers also have home games against New Mexico State and Alabama A&M to break up the SEC dates. As good as the Tigers' defense has been at times, they will have to find a way to score more than 18 points a game if they want to win many of these. Preseason expectations have obviously been thrown out the window, but I am still very leery of either team being able to finish with any more than six wins. Using that as the new measuring stick, I give Auburn a slightly better chance to get there because of those two remaining non-conference games, But again even these so-called "cupcake" opponents are guaranteed walkovers, at least not based on how this Tigers team has played so far.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
The Tigers showed signs of life in the close LSU loss and could still make a bowl game, while I see the Arkansas season as a dumpster fire that will only be extinguished with new leadership. Auburn will probably continue to struggle at quarterback throughout the season, but the solid running tandem of Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb and a talented defense should allow the Tigers to win close games. If Gene Chizik’s crew plays well over the next month, there is a good possibility of Auburn winning four of its next five contests. As far as the Razorbacks, it’s difficult to see any positives when your defense allows over 40 points per game. That’s just scary bad. And how do you rank 111th nationally in rushing with Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson in the backfield? Maybe Tyler Wilson and company will find a way to turn it around, but I do not see the Arkansas program moving forward until a new coach is hired.
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