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Andy Hodges

Can Hogs pull off miracle win against Auburn?

Arkansas desperately needs a miracle against Auburn, but likely won’t get it.

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With more tickets available than willing buyers, you have to wonder exactly how many people will show up Saturday night at Razorback Stadium.

Oh, it will probably be announced at 72,000 or more because it will likely be counted as a sellout. That’s just the way things seem to work in Fayetteville these days.

After all, it is more about wins and losses and the UA is “not a win-at-all-cost” program. We know this because Boss Hog Jeff Long told us so. Good fans should understand this and truly accept that pronouncement from on high.

The number of no-shows right now should be of more interest to Long than how many tickets he sold, including the discounted prices or give-aways.

This season may not be in the ditch yet, but it is careening out of control.

Whether it lands there or not might just depend on what happens against Auburn, who is probably more than happy to be playing this game on the road after the faceplant they performed in Baton Rouge last week.

What else can you call blowing a 20-0 lead to a team that lost to Troy?

For his part, Bret Bielema is still pointing out positives, although that was, admittedly, a very small part of his press conference this week.

Let’s face it, the 41-9 loss to Alabama wasn’t that close. It could have been worse, much, much worse.

When you look at the metrics, Auburn’s offense has been like an experimental car engine. When it works right, it can really roll. When it doesn’t, well, it’s not very pretty to watch.

Longtimer Arkansas observers of Gus Malzahn are probably shaking their heads at the offensive inconsistency. For the last decade or so, he may be the most polarizing name in football in this state.

And there’s little middle ground. Folks either love Gus … or hate him. Nobody can understand why he’s got a team that’s struggling offensively.

As usual, it comes down to the players. When he had Nick Marshall at quarterback, Gus had an offense that scored points and kept them in games. Then he went with Jeremy Johnson who, quite frankly, may have struggled to spell ESPN.

In Bielema’s best season, 2015, the Hogs pulled off a four-overtime win over Auburn’s worst team in the last five years. The average margin as been 21 points in the Tigers’ favor.

Since everyone in Fayetteville looks at things like Olympic scoring (throw out the worst information), it’s still 42-23 in Auburn’s favor.

Malzahn has been one of the many thorns in the side for Bielema (along with, naturally, Alabama, but also Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Missouri). The Hogs are 1-3 against the Tigers over the last four years.

Now we come to a game where neither fan base is happy, although the Auburn side might be a tad more ticked off than the Arkansas group. There’s talk Gus may have to stay in Arkansas if he loses this game, which is probably an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Bielema sounds like a guy who is still trying to convince himself (or his team?) they are close to something that hasn’t been exactly made clear. That argument had some support in 2014, but not now.

All that could change Saturday night.

All Bielema needs is a win over the Tigers. I’m not certain just playing it close gets it done. The fans aren’t interested in any more discussion of being close.

They want wins. Now.

Instead, Bielema this week has started sounding like a coach in the first year of a rebuilding plan. No, seriously, he’s talked about not having the numbers in certain positions on the team and mistakes he’s made in recruiting numbers.

Sorry, Bret, but in year five in the SEC, saying those kinds of things is only giving reasons, not excuses.

To some, Bielema is actually giving reasons for their argument to have him fired. That’s why the powers that be are starting to leak out information that his buy-out may not be what everyone thought it was.

At this point, there really is only one way to quiet the noise after going 2-4 through the first half of the season.

Bielema is hoping to repeat what the Hogs did in three of the previous four years by what he claims are strong finishes.

In reality, though, he’s only 7-5 in November. That’s not exactly rolling at the end. October is worse, going just 5-5.

Maybe worse is, in my opinion, this is the worst team Bielema’s had at Arkansas. Yes, worse than the 2013 team.

Which is why the Hogs probably won’t win this game. As is usually the case in college football, the team with the best players wins the game.

In this case, Auburn has more players than Arkansas.

And, since Bielema likely isn’t going to be fired this year, he just WANTS to win this game.

Malzahn, on the other hand, HAS to win to have any hope of keeping his job and that’s not a certainty.

So, we’ll stick with the averages on this one and go with Auburn to win, 45-10.

Unless there’s that miracle we mentioned.

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