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Arkansas vs. Auburn Preview: Q&A with College and Magnolia

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Thanks to Walt at College and Magnolia for answering out questions this week.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

AF: How is the Gus Bus rolling these days? It seems like he has been on a steady downward slide since year one. How would you compare the expectations for him and Bielema going into this season?

C&M: There have been some flat tires, but I think things are rolling along. I'll hit on the Jeremy Johnson part in an answer to a question below, but that's a big part of what slowed things down. Losing Carl Lawson hurt, too. Overall, though, while I'm disappointed with how things have gone this season to date, I'm not too upset about the direction of things. Gus didn't suddenly forget how to coach offense. Even during the collapse at the end of last season, the team was scoring 30+ points. I still believe Will Muschamp will improve the defense, but after being under multiple defensive coordinators in the past few years, and with some athletes who just never really progressed, there have still been a lot of issues.

As far as expectations, I think Gus had a bit more leeway. He's been successful at Auburn with the offense and people were thrilled with the Muschamp hire. I haven't followed Arkansas fans' opinions of Bielema, but his outspoken nature without the consistent on-field success has to (at least it would seem to me) have put him in a much more tenuous position

AF: Auburn was the favorite to win the West. Arkansas was the trendy dark horse. Predictions in sports will make fools of us all at some point. Which team has been the bigger surprise?

C&M: I would again have to say Auburn, but that's just because of the offense's performance. No one expected Auburn's offense to struggle as it has. Perhaps we should have with only 4 returning starters, but the QB play really threw us all for a loop. I expected Arkansas to be much more of a contender. Love him or hate him, Bielema has a history of running successful teams, but given the performance over the last few years, I think it's more shocking that Auburn fell apart than it is that Arkansas is still building. Arkansas has had to deal with some pretty serious injuries, too, though. For all the predictions we make, one injury can be enough to derail a season.

AF: I don't care what anyone says based on this year, Will Muschamp is one of the great defensive minds in college football. He has had so many successful stints as a d-coordinator all over the country. Was the cupboard so bare this year that not even he could save them?

C&M: Partially, yes. Injuries have played their part. Carl Lawson being out for so long has been a big hit again this season. Losing Josh Holsey - one of our best DBs - was a big blow, too. I think part of it is a product of recruiting for the 4-2-5. Auburn was left without a lot of quality depth in the linebacking corps. Then we had a number of DBs who left the team in the spring and summer. That's why we've been left with starting a true freshman cornerback. Carlton Davis has been quite the surprise, though. I really think he'll turn into one of the best cornerbacks to play at Auburn in a long time. It may not happen this season, but Will Muschamp will get the defense on track.

AF: What happened to Jeremy Johnson? That guy was suppose to be the truth.

C&M: I have no idea. I don't think any of us were prepared for what happened to Johnson. After starting 8 for 8 with 200+ yards against Arkansas last year - on top of his other performances - we expected him to fully live up to all of the hype that surrounded him. I don't know if it's mental concentration issues, inability to read defenses, or what. I really think some of the pressure of all the hype got to him. He was comfortable last year because he know that the job was Marshall's no matter what he did. I don't know that we'll ever know what caused his issues, though.

AF: Obviously, these two coaches don't like each other, but do these two fanbases dislike each other? I feel like it's another case of Arkansas trying to find a rival, because the whole Mizzou thing they are forcing on them isn't working. You guys have Georgia and Alabama as rivals, where do the Hogs rank on your "rivals" list?

C&M: I've never really considered Arkansas a big rival or disliked their fans. Auburn fans always joke about the Hawg Hex, where Arkansas beats us at the worst possible times when we least expect it, but I don't think Auburn fans particularly dislike the Hogs. I have a soft spot from having deployed to Iraq with an Arkansas flight company along with us in 2006, and then I deployed with some of the same guys again in Kosovo. We lost an aircraft in Iraq that had an Arkansas flight crew (and one Texan), so I've always had a soft spot for them. Plus, there's just not that much history. I can see why Bielema would push this as a big rivalry, though, given Gus' ties to Arkansas, Tommy Tuberville being from there, and Auburn fighting the Razorbacks (and winning a good bit of the time) over the years.

AF:  Prediction?

C&M: I really have no idea how this one is going to go, especially with weather being an issue. I don't know that Auburn has a chance of stopping Arkansas' running attack. We haven't really stopped any decent running back this season, yet. I also think you'll see Sean White throw more. He looked good throwing against Kentucky, and there have been teams who've had success throwing against the Razorback secondary. This game may turn into a slugfest relying on field goals. Or one team's defense may completely collapse. I'm not even going to try to predict the score. I think - and yes this is a weak answer - the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.