Auburn and Arkansas: Mistaken Identities

Gus Malzahn and Bret Bielema do not like each other. That's a given.

Malzahn's hurry-up offense and Bielema's smash-mouth strategy have led to debates, barbs and a lot of quotable comments. But, last weekend, something was wrong. Way, way wrong.

There was no real hurry-up on the plains. There was absolutely no smash-mouth in Little Rock.

Two coaches, smack in the middle of the war zone known as the SEC West, have suddenly lost their offensive identities. And it shows on the scoreboard, without question.

Auburn's offense was out-gained by FCS power Jacksonville State. Gamecock QB Eli Jenkins had little to no trouble carving up Will Muschamp's defense and for the majority of the game, JSU looked and acted the part of the better offense ... and better team.

It took some fortunate breaks for the Tigers to escape, notably a horrible 17-yard punt that gave the Tigers a very short field to tie the game, coupled with JSU's decision to send the game to OT rather than take their chances with half a minute to go in regulation to try and win it. You'd rather be lucky than good but there's a lot of problems that Auburn has a week to fix.

Jeremy Johnson has struggled mightily. Malzahn's offense runs best with a duel threat quarterback. Nick Marshall created mass havoc because he was shifty quick and could throw the ball well on the run while being a fantastic running threat at any time. Johnson's not that, putting the pressure on him to be an accurate pocket passer. He's thrown 5 interceptions in two games. Johnson's inaccuracy, coupled with the fact that defenses can relax a little, knowing that Johnson lacks Nick Marshall's running chops, leaves the Auburn offense with some work to do. The Tigers have a good tailback in Peyton Barber. However, with no other threat to run the ball, he's targeted more in the backfield and has the pressure that his predecessors a year ago never had.

Everyone knew the defense would be, and still is, a work in progress. Chad Kelly and Ole Miss are probably drooling at the sight of the Auburn secondary. It's the offense, though, that needs a quick fix immediately to salvage the Tigers season.

Meanwhile, up in Arkansas, the Hogs managed to churn over 500 yards of offense ... for 10 points. They ended with 12, as Toledo's punter ran out of the end zone with under a minute to go. But that many yards for 10 points? The key was the inability for the Hogs to run the ball, the ultimate staple of a Bielema offense. Brandon Allen threw for 412 yards. The Razorbacks ran for 103 yards. Does that sound, at any point, like a Bielema team?

There is major concern here because the yardage doesn't stem from Toledo stacking the box. Arkansas passed 53 times, well enough to make the Rockets play honest on defense. The puzzling part is the play of the lines. The Arkansas DL, highlighted this season because of its depth, never hurried or sacked Phillip Ely all game. The once celebrated Arkansas OL, who sits on the cover of their media guide and shoved LSU, Ole Miss and Texas around, couldn't do a thing with Toledo's line.


When Arkansas has three drives inside the Toledo 5-yard line and comes away with three points, that's a major, major concern. The OL, which seems to have been working on the pass protection for most of the summer, needs to run block at practice. Every practice.

Penalties were also a major concern. When does a Bielema team have so many holding penalties and look so undisciplined?

It's only two weeks into the SEC season. But it seems as though Auburn and Arkansas have yet to show up. The real ones, that is. The ones fans have come to know and love and teams had come to fear. It's time to find their true identities.

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