One of the biggest indicators of how crazy this football season has been is in the third week of a delayed season Arkansas has hope and Auburn is scrambling.
And the Tigers are playing a game of musical chairs on the defensive side while the offense is getting exposed with the combination of Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris.
The result is about what you expect from a couple of high school coaches who have convinced themselves they know what they are doing.
Auburn bears a remarkable look of the Razorbacks on offense from 2018-19. Few in Arkansas are really surprised.
Meanwhile, Malzahn — the prodigal son who doesn’t love the Hogs the way some fans wish he did — has put together an SEC record remarkably similar to that of Houston Nutt’s time at Arkansas.
It’s okay if you didn’t see that coming … I didn’t, either. They both averaged between seven and eight wins a season. Remember, Auburn is supposed to be a place where you can recruit much better players.
Morris has done very little at the collegiate level unless he was working for Dabo Swinney at Clemson, which got better offensively (and winning) after he left. Yes, he helped recruit Deshaun Watson, but only coached him in a handful of games for one year due to injuries.
Since Malzahn has been at Auburn he has ridden a defense when he was winning and struggled when the defense wasn’t playing at a championship level.
Considering the way the Tigers struggled in the opener against Kentucky and were blown out by Georgia last week, the fact they are a 14-point favorite over the Hogs is a little mystifying.
The stats are remarkably similar against a common opponent (Georgia). They each won a game over an opponent in the middle of the pack in their own division.
Most people are betting on the recruiting rankings and the reputation of the coaches. That’s not a knock on Sam Pittman because he doesn’t have a reputation after just two games as a head coach.
Although that is skyrocketing up while Malzahn may be on the cusp of an extremely hot seat in the third week of the season. He’s got his buddy, Morris, right there with him.
With the excitement after the Hogs shut down Mississippi State last week, it would be impossible to ignore the chance of a letdown.
“A lot of expectations probably have been amped up a little bit,” Pittman said Thursday afternoon.
That’s not just fans, by the way. The coaches are turning it up, too.
“We’ve probably even been a little bit harder on them this week than maybe what we were the last two weeks,” Pittman said. “The expectations are the same, but we’ve probably been a little bit harder on strain, finish, transition.”
The only way Arkansas blows this game is by listening to the celebration after finally getting an SEC win. Pittman didn’t put it this way but you get the idea his opinion is that didn’t mean anything if you turn around and get blown up at Auburn.
Pittman, Kendal Briles and Barry Odom don’t have the same reputation among most observers as the Tigers’ coaching staff.
But they just might be better.
And it’s why I think Arkansas wins.
Hogs 24, Auburn 14
Okay, I took a shot two weeks ago and got behind. Peter Morgan then did the copycat thing last week so no ground to be made up with my upset pick of Ole Miss over Kentucky. I’m sitting at 11-3, one game back of Peter.
Florida (-6.5) at Texas A&M
Aggies still the most over-rated team in the league (Auburn may be passing them soon, however), but the Aggies are getting restless. They didn’t pay Jimbo Fisher $75 million to be 1-1 with a struggle win over Vanderbilt. Wonder what they’ll think at 1-2?
Florida 31, Texas A&M 17
LSU (-14.5) at Missouri
Moving the game to Columbia, Mo., really won’t have much impact on this one. If anything it will help LSU to stay focused being on the road.
LSU 41, Missouri 20
South Carolina (-13.5) at Vanderbilt
Somebody will finally get a win this year in this one and the guess is it will be the Gamecocks. Derek Mason is going backwards with the Commodores.
South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 17
Tennessee at Georgia (-12.5)
If there’s a crack in the Bulldogs it will start to show in this game. That’s allowing, of course, the Vols are for real this year as a lot of folks think. I’m still not convinced they are.
Georgia 31, Tennessee 10
Alabama (-23.5) at Ole Miss
Let’s be honest, a part of you would love for the Rebels to pull off another upset over Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. But you aren’t sure it will happen … because it won’t.
Alabama 49, Ole Miss 14
Mississippi State (+3) at Kentucky
Just when Mark Stoops thought he had it turned around and rolling in Lexington, 2020 happens and the Wildcats can’t figure out how to win. The Bulldogs had their eye-opener last week against Arkansas.
Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 21