Arkansas at Auburn Betting Odds & Pick: Tigers Offense Matches Up Well (Saturday, Oct. 10)
Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Auburn quarterback Bo Nix.
- The past two seasons have seen Auburn lose a low-scoring affair to a ranked team ahead of its annual meeting with Arkansas.
- Both times the Tigers rebounded to beat the Hogs.Can they make it three in a row?
- Michael Calabrese breaks things down and gives his top play.
Arkansas at Auburn Odds
|Arkansas Odds||+14 [BET NOW]|
|Auburn Odds||-14 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+450/-620 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||45.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 4 p.m. ET|
It takes a lot of discipline to avoid the kind of recency bias casual observers are being subjected to in this game.
Arkansas just knocked off a ranked opponent for the first time since November of 2016, while Auburn was humiliated on national television, gaining just 216 yards between the hedges against Georgia.
Even with a general understanding of the principles surrounding letdown and bounce-back performances, it’s difficult to avoid a line of thinking that would count on another strong Arkansas performance and mediocre Auburn offensive showing.
However, if you’re embracing the latest information for this SEC West tilt, you also have to consider the historical data on the Razorbacks and Tigers. The latter indicates Auburn should be favored by nearly three touchdowns in this game and head coach Gus Malzahn excels when expectations are low.
Since taking the top job on The Plains, Malzahn has been a sure bet coming off a loss. Under Malzahn, Auburn is 19-7 SU since 2013 and 5-2 ATS in its last seven bounce-back spots. This includes two blowouts of Arkansas following low-scoring losses to ranked opponents in 2018 and 2019. We’ll have a nearly identical scenario in this latest meeting.
Phil Steele, one of the forefathers of advanced data analysis in the world of college football, has long placed an emphasis on what he refers to as “turnover luck.” In his opinion, teams that benefit from lucky bounces or unforced errors are likely to return to the mean over time.
Arkansas has generated six turnovers in two games, but it’s not due to a particularly disruptive front seven. The Razorbacks have just seven tackles for loss in two games, relying more on unforced errors than anything else. Take for example this pick six in the clip below from a win against Mississippi State:
ᵇᵃˡˡ ᵈᵒⁿᵗ ˡᶦᵉ pic.twitter.com/XiU40mLXNN
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) October 3, 2020
Whether that was a miscommunication on a route or a misread from K.J. Costello, the play itself had the same level of pressure a quarterback would face in a 7-on-7 practice drill.
Auburn, despite facing two of the top-ranked defenses in the SEC from a year ago, has just a single giveaway to its name. They’ve allowed just two sacks per game (32nd nationally) and five TFLs per game (22nd). This gives me confidence that we’re likely looking at a turnover-neutral game for Auburn.
Solidifying my take is the work conducted by The Action Network’s Collin Wilson. He provides a weekly visualization of where teams rank in terms of defensive havoc generated and havoc allowed when teams have the football.
As you can see, Arkansas is in the bottom third of defensive havoc, despite its six takeaways. Meanwhile, Auburn has avoided the kind of negative plays that can make it difficult to cover as a favorite.
The Razorbacks’ rebuild is ahead of schedule, particularly on defense. The Hogs were an absolute sieve last season (36.8 ppg, 450.7 ypg) and struggled to generate turnovers (16, 80th).
Despite a bit of good fortune in the turnover department, the one sustainable metric highlighting Arkansas’ defensive reinvention is its unwillingness to give up the big play. Barry Odom’s defense has allowed just one 30+ yard play from scrimmage in their two games against ranked opponents.
That forces a team to sustain drives, as Auburn did in its opener against Kentucky (two 8-plus play touchdown drives). I think we’ll see a positive regression from Auburn’s offense and a slight negative regression from an Arkansas unit that has been turnover-dependent thus far.
While reasonable minds can differ about how far the Arkansas defense has progressed year after year, its offense is decidedly still a liability. Through two games, the Razorbacks are averaging just 277.5 total yards (70th out of 74 teams) and 15.5 points per game (68th). They’ve also struggled to generate the kind of big plays that have become the calling card of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
Arkansas only has six plays of 20 yards or more and fifth-year senior Feleipe Franks is averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt. That is going to create a lot of third-and-long situations for an offense already horrific when its punt team is waiting in the wings (8-for-28 on 3rd Downs, last in SEC).
Betting Analysis & Pick
Auburn is often a difficult team to peg, exceeding expectations when public confidence is low and flaming out when football pundits and fans believe it’s an elite team.
What we know for sure is that there’s a talent discrepancy in this spot. The talent composite ratings compiled by 247Sports indicate Auburn has the 13th-most talented roster in the country, while Arkansas checks in at 26th. Keep in mind, Arkansas may be without its Rakeem Boyd, its Doak Walker watchlist running back, who is dealing with a foot injury.
For all these reasons, I’m buying low in this spot and love the fact this number has fallen from Auburn at -18 at the open to -13.5 in recent days.
Hurricane Delta’s impact on this game will be moderate, with rain and winds forecast in the 10 to 15 mph range. Wind actually plays in favor of Auburn, mainly because Bo Nix’s average target depth is only 8.46 yards downfield.
I expect to see a lot of RPOs, bubble screens, short passes, and ultimately more offensive success from the Tigers.
Pick: Auburn -13.5.