AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — This isn't what Arkansas and Auburn hoped to be playing for as October begins.
The Southeastern Conference's two biggest disappointments meet Saturday with one win apiece, trying to salvage postseason hopes and get a sorely needed pick-me-up in a game where a loss would further rile either discontented fan base.
There's no sugarcoating the teams' predicaments.
"We're in a desperate situation for a win and I think everybody knows that," Razorbacks receiver Cobi Hamilton said.
Arkansas (1-4, 0-2 SEC) is trying to stop a free-fall from the Top 10 after losing its first two league games by a combined 110-10, blowouts the Razorbacks had been more typically on the other side of in recent years. The Tigers (1-3, 0-2) haven't fallen quite so far because they didn't have as far to fall amid more modest expectations. They've also been more competitive in games.
Auburn had an open date following its best performance of the season when Gene Chizik's team took No. 4 LSU down to the wire in a 12-10 loss.
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford insists a loss in this game "wouldn't be the death of our season." It would leave the Tigers' season looking desperately ill, though.
They're two years removed from a national title and Arkansas was in the mix for one last season.
"There's a urgency around Auburn, without question, when you're 1-3," Chizik said. "There's an urgency to win. We expect our team to play with that energy and that passion every week. Our kids are hungry and they want to win."
He said the Razorbacks remain dangerous and talented despite their struggles. Arkansas coach John L. Smith offers a similar assessment of the Tigers.
"They've got guys that can fly down the field," Smith said. "So athletically you look at them as a very, very good football team. What they've done offensively to this point is, I'm sure, not what they want to do. But we look at it and say, 'Maybe that's a decent matchup for us this week.'"
Both teams are happily turning the page on a lost September and defiantly clinging to hopes of a turnaround. Arkansas tailback Knile Davis isn't giving up yet.
"I mean, because I know we're good," Davis said. "This is the same guys from last year. You don't go from Cotton Bowl to just the bottom of the rack, just like that. It's a lot of things internally that we've just got to fix. And I love all these guys, know all these guys can play. We all know these guys can play, including myself. I know that I can play the game. I just know that we're good and we're capable of winning and we've just got to get it done."
That starts for both teams with shoring up major deficiencies that just happen to coincide nicely.
The Tigers can't pass, the Razorbacks can't stop the pass.
Quarterback Kiehl Frazier and Auburn rank 114th nationally in passing offense, averaging 145 yards a game. Arkansas' defense is allowing 349 yards a game through the air, ranking 117th.
The Razorbacks have had injuries, and Auburn is without suspended wide receiver Quan Bray. That leaves Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen as the only reliable targets left unless someone from among a group of youngsters steps up.
Arkansas has struggled badly against dual-threat quarterbacks like Louisiana-Monroe's Kolton Browning and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who combined for 1,039 total yards against the Razorbacks. Frazier has barely run this season but that's all he was called upon to do as a freshman.
"He's a great athlete. Quarterbacks like that, you have to find a way to contain them," defensive tackle Alfred Davis said. "And the quarterback last week (Manziel) was a scrambler. And ULM, same situation where they had great a scrambling quarterback. That's something we'll have to deal with this week.
"We'll have to try to find ways to keep him in the pocket and check him on bootlegs and reverses and stuff like that. Things that he can get outside of the pocket and make plays with his feet on. We'll just have to find a way as a defense to control him."
That would be a nice start.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Ark., contributed to this report.