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45


Arkansas (0-0) at (6) Auburn (0-0)



Saturday, August 30, 4 p.m. (ET)

The Sports Network

By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: The Arkansas Razorbacks and the sixth-ranked Auburn Tigers will be put to the test right out of the gate with a season-opening SEC bout at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Arkansas was able to drum up hope in Fayetteville early on in the 2013 campaign. The team opened the schedule with three straight victories at home, but it would not win another game, finishing up a mere 3-9, including 0-8 in the SEC.

The nine losses for the Razorbacks, six of which came against ranked teams, were the most in school history, and they failed to make a bowl game for the second straight year after qualifying for the postseason in 11 of the previous 14 seasons.

Meanwhile, Auburn (12-2, 7-1 SEC) experienced one of the most improbable worst-to-first turnarounds in college football history.

After a Sept. 21 loss to LSU (35-21), the squad responded to rip off nine straight victories, a few of them coming in miraculous fashion. Its 43-38 triumph over Georgia on Nov. 16 came thanks to a fourth-down Hail-Mary heave from Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis with under a minute to play. The Tigers kept up with the theatrics in the Iron Bowl the following week, upending Alabama, 34-28, after the Crimson Tide's last-second field goal attempt was fielded by Chris Davis and returned the other way for the game-winning 100- yard touchdown.

Auburn's momentum carried right over into the SEC Championship Game, where it steamrolled Missouri, 59-42, but its magic ran out in the BCS National Championship Game with a 34-31 loss at the hands of Florida State.

Auburn leads the all-time series with Arkansas by a 12-10-1 count, which includes a 35-17 triumph in Fayetteville last November.

Unsurprisingly, the Razorbacks' offense failed to generate much success against its tough SEC competition, finishing the 2013 season averaging only 20.7 ppg and 357.2 ypg. There's some hope for improvement this season, however, as the squad returns seven starters on that side of the ball.

Brandon Allen's sophomore season under center was a struggle from start to finish. In 11 games, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes for 1,552 yards, throwing just 13 touchdowns paired with 10 interceptions. Despite Allen's uninspiring play, with three freshmen behind him on the depth chart, his status as QB1 is safe for the time being.

Undoubtedly Arkansas' biggest strength comes in the backfield. Alex Collins (1,026 yards, four TDs) and Jonathan Williams (900 yards, four TDs) split the load last season to outstanding results, especially considering the poor quarterback play.

There's not much to rely on in terms of receiving options, with Keon Hatcher (27 receptions, 346 yards, two TDs) the most experienced of the bunch. Demetrius Wilson (6-3, 186), a senior, is expected to step into the starting lineup after using a medical redshirt last season, and sophomores Cody Hollister, Drew Morgan, Chris Saunders and Scotty Thurman will also get their chances to break out.

The stagnant offense clearly didn't do many favors for the defense a season ago, but the unit still failed to hold up its end of the bargain after allowing 30.8 ppg and 413.4 ypg.

One of the few bright spots for the unit was defensive end Trey Flowers, who racked up 13.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. As one of the best defensive lineman in the SEC, Flowers could have headed for greener pastures in the NFL last spring but opted to return for his senior season.

"I knew under Coach Bielema and the guys he put around him as far as the staff, we're taking this program to a winning season," Flowers said. "I understand what we've been through the last two years. From my freshman year having an 11-win season, I understand what it takes to win. (I wanted to) come back to be a leader and help my team win."

The Razorbacks also return their top two tacklers in safety Alan Turner (97 tackles, two INTs) and linebacker Braylon Mitchell (77 tackles). Add cornerback Tevin Mitchel (47 tackles, INT) and defensive tackle Darius Philon (9.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) to the mix and the veteran unit should see a marked improvement in 2014.

The majority of Auburn's rousing offensive success last season (39.5 ppg, 501.3 ypg) came thanks to its top-ranked rushing offense, which racked up 328.3 ypg. In the absence of the NFL-bound Tre Mason, a Heisman finalist who rushed for a school-record 1,816 yards and an SEC-record 23 touchdowns a season ago, that number is sure to take a hit, but there's still plenty of talent in place moving forward.

In limited reps playing behind Mason, both Corey Grant (647 yards, 9.8 ypc, six TDs) and Cameron Artis-Payne (610 yards, 6.7 ypc, six TDs) displayed excellent explosion. It remains to be seen if either can be the bell cow that Mason was, but a split workload between the two could just as easily match what was lost.

At quarterback, Marshall returns looking to expound upon an outstanding 2013 season (59.4 completion percentage, 1,976 passing yards, 14 TDs, six INTs, 1,068 rushing yards, 12 TDs), but after being cited for marijuana possession in July, he will not start the opener. When, or if, he sees the field against Arkansas remains to be seen.

"I've decided that (he) will not start game one," Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn said of his signal callers's punishment. "Jeremy Johnson was going to have a bigger role regardless this year. We've talked about him and his ability and how we feel about him, (but) I will say this: Nick Marshall is still our quarterback."

Auburn doesn't rely too heavily on production out wide, but it still has the good fortune of welcoming back big-play receiver Sammie Coates (902 yards, seven TDs), who's 21.5 yards-per-catch last season was tops in the nation among players with at least 40 receptions.

Clearly overshadowed by the offense's production, Auburn's defense ranked in the middle of the pack in the SEC in terms of points allowed (24.7 ppg), and its total defense (420.7 ypg) was the conference's third worst. Still, the unit was good enough when it needed to be and returns seven starters this season.

Cassanova McKinzy returns as the leading tackler after tallying 75 stops and 8.0 TFL, while starting all 14 games. Also returning to the linebacking corps is Kris Frost (59 tackles, 6.0 TFL, two FF).

The secondary remains largely intact as well, led by playmaking safety Robenson Therezie (57 tackles, four INTs). Jonathan Mincy (56 tackles, INT) broke up 14 passes a year ago, and Jermaine Whitehead (65 tackles, two INTs) gives the team three senior leaders to rely on in the defensive backfield.

The pass rush could take a hit without Dee Ford (14.5 TFL, 10.5 sacks), as Gabe Wright (8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and LaDarius Owens (5.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks) are the only experienced defensive linemen remaining.

After such a disastrous campaign in 2013, Arkansas must see considerable improvement this year if Brett Bielema hopes to keep his job, but the team still appears to be well behind the curve in the potent SEC Western Division. Auburn's quest as repeat conference championship should get off to an easy start in this one, even with Marshall starting the game on the bench.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Auburn 41, Arkansas 21

08/29 16:28:30 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UCF 66
ECU 71
Final
BC 79
NCSU 63
Final
MIAMI 64
UNC 73
Final
NCCU 72
COOK 49
 
2nd
NYI 2
CAR 4
 
7:00pm Tonight
DUKE
SYR
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
DET
7:30pm Tonight
MIA
ATL
7:30pm Tonight
NYK
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
MEM
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
BRK
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
MIL
9:00pm Tonight
PHO
SAN
Final
LIP 94
KNST 75
 
Final
GHND 47
NAVY 57
 
Final
LAF 74
ARMY 64
 
Final
AMER 69
BUCK 71
 
Final
UCF 66
ECU 71
Final
STJ 81
GEOR 70
Final
CLEM 70
GT 63
Final
COL 61
LEH 55
 
Final
FSU 59
LOU 81
Final
MD 66
MICH 56
Final
UGA 68
MIZZ 44
Final
BC 79
NCSU 63
Final
LAS 56
RIU 59
Final
UNH 65
MAINE 56
 
Final
IUPUI 80
NEOM 87
 
Final
WINT 80
PBY 53
 
Final
VMI 69
SAMF 80
 
Final
CITA 54
WCU 67
 
Final
DEP 53
BUT 67
Final
LONG 70
CAMP 65
 
Final
TULA 47
CIN 63
Final
VCU 55
DAY 59
Final
TOWS 60
DEL 65
 
Final
WMARY 66
DREX 80
 
Final
JVU 75
FLGC 67
 
Final
EVAN 67
ILLST 69
 
Final
BRAD 52
INDST 60
 
Final
MIAMI 64
UNC 73
Final
WICHS 74
NIOWA 60
Final
UWGB 83
OU 63
 
Final
LSU 73
MISS 63
Final
OKLA 67
TCU 60
Final
BING 76
UMBC 69
 
Final
AFA 60
UTST 74
Final
GTDNS 79
VERM 73
 
Final
XAV 66
VILL 78
Final
MNTER 74
WAGN 64
 
Final
ILLCH 61
WRST 46
 
Final
YALE 90
SARAHLAW 55
 
Final
UAB 100
MTST 95
 
Final
NDAK 65
SUTAH 71
 
Final
LIB 77
UNCA 95
 
Final
CHIST 65
WLVRN 44
 
Final
UMO 57
BGU 62
 
Final
SHU 84
LIU 73
 
Final
APP 66
LAMON 43
 
Final
VANDY 73
ALA 66
 
Final
KENT 84
ARK 67
Final
NCCU 72
COOK 49
 
2nd
MRGST 76
COPST 82
 
Final
SHU 67
CREI 66
 
Final
BONA 92
DUQ 75
 
Final
MERC 69
ETST 64
 
Final
UMASS 82
FORD 74
 
Final
RAD 72
GWEBB 62
 
Final
JMU 82
HOF 73
 
Final
BU 70
HC 77
 
Final
KYST 70
ISU 69
Final
DELST 65
MDES 69
 
Final
LOYC 65
MIZST 51
 
Final
IDAHO 80
MNTST 73
 
Final
MCNST 83
NICST 78
 
Final
TTU 63
OKST 62
 
Final
PORT 66
SDU 78
 
Final
BRY 61
Terriers 51
 
Final
RMU 71
RFLSH 70
 
Final
UVA 69
VT 57
Final
BAY 78
WVU 66
Final
FUR 60
WOFF 62
 
Final
SILL 63
DRAK 57
 
Final
FD 73
CCST 66
 
Final
WMICH 80
EMICH 72
 
1st OT
CSOU 69
HIGH 74
 
2nd
UNCG 45
CHAT 42
 
2nd
SD 60
SDKST 51
 
2nd
CARK 37
SELA 44
 
2nd
KU 42
TEX 48
 
2nd
EWASH 64
MONT 62
 
2nd
TROY 27
UGST 46
 
Half
TXST 34
ARKST 23
 
Half
UNT 33
ODU 27
 
1st
CORN 12
DART 11
 
1st
NCAT 11
FAM 13
 
1st
PSU 25
IOWA 20
 
1st
MORE 28
JVST 21
 
1st
PEPP 15
LMU 22
 
1st
SCAR 30
MSST 23
 
1st
BRO 21
PRIN 31
 
1st
NEV 17
SJST 21
 
1st
SCST 4
SAV 4
 
1st
BEL 25
TENST 19
 
1st
UF 25
TENN 18
 
6:00pm Tonight
ALAST
TXSOU
 
6:30pm Tonight
SOUTH
ALCOR
 
1st
JST 0
MVSU 0
 
7:00pm Tonight
SEMIZ
PEAY
 
7:00pm Tonight
TOL
BST
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
BUF
 
7:00pm Tonight
LBSU
CSFU
 
7:00pm Tonight
MARS
FATL
7:00pm Tonight
STLU
GMAS
7:00pm Tonight
DAVID
GWU
7:00pm Tonight
HOW
HAMP
 
7:00pm Tonight
CLMB
HARV
 
7:00pm Tonight
LAM
INCWORD
 
7:00pm Tonight
YOUNG
UWMIL
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENNM
MURST
 
7:00pm Tonight
ELON
UNCW
 
7:00pm Tonight
ILL
NW
7:00pm Tonight
YALE
PENN
 
7:00pm Tonight
ALAAM
PVU
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJOE
RICH
7:00pm Tonight
UNF
STET
 
7:00pm Tonight
HART
USB
 
7:00pm Tonight
DUKE
SYR
7:00pm Tonight
EKENT
TENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
LATU
TXSA
7:00pm Tonight
NKENTUCKY
USCU
 
7:00pm Tonight
MAST
WILL
 
7:05pm Tonight
UMKC
GRCN
 
7:15pm Tonight
NO
ABCHRIST
 
8:00pm Tonight
SDST
BSU
8:00pm Tonight
NILL
CMICH
 
8:00pm Tonight
RICE
CHAR
8:00pm Tonight
ORU
DEN
 
8:00pm Tonight
WKENT
FIU
8:00pm Tonight
TXPA
NMST
 
8:00pm Tonight
COC
NE
 
8:00pm Tonight
TAMCC
SHSU
 
8:00pm Tonight
SCU
GAELS
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOUB
STEPH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SMISS
UTEP
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
TULSA
8:00pm Tonight
UNLV
WYO
8:15pm Tonight
TXARL
ARKLR
 
8:15pm Tonight
LALAF
GSOUT
 
8:30pm Tonight
TEXAM
AUB
8:30pm Tonight
ARKPB
GRAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTAH
ARZ
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
NARZ
 
10:00pm Tonight
GONZ
BYU
10:00pm Tonight
WEBER
IDST
 
10:00pm Tonight
FRES
NMU
10:00pm Tonight
USF
PAC
 
10:00pm Tonight
CPSL 0
UCD 0
 
10:05pm Tonight
PORST
SACST
 
10:30pm Tonight
SEAT
CALST
 
10:30pm Tonight
CSNO
UCR
 
10:30pm Tonight
USC
WASH
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
UCI
 
Final
FLA 5
BUF 3
Final
NAS 3
DET 4
2nd
NYI 2
CAR 4
 
2nd Intermission
CLB 0
NJD 1
 
2nd
BOS 3
ARI 0
 
7:00pm Tonight
MON
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
PHI
NYR
10:00pm Tonight
COL
MIN
10:00pm Tonight
SJS
OTT
10:00pm Tonight
EDM
STL