Auburn vs. Arkansas: Running back Tale of the Tape

Saturday’s game between the Auburn Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks will not only feature two SEC West teams with similar season trajectories, but it will also provide a battle of two of the conference’s best running backs.

Auburn’s Tank Bigsby had high expectations this season, some even say that he had the potential to be a player in the Heisman Trophy race. However, it appears as if his projected carries and yards traveled 700 miles west to the University of Arkansas and appeared in the hands of Raheim Sanders.

Despite the gap in production, there are plenty of similarities between Sanders and Bigsby. Auburn Wire takes a look at both backs who not only dominate the football field but also have epic nicknames.

Sanders vs. Bigsby

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking Down the running backs

ROCKET SANDERS

CATEGORY

TANK BIGSBY

140

CARRIES

99

870

YARDS

524

7

TOUCHDOWNS

6

6.2

YARDS PER CARRY

5.3

460

YARDS AFTER CONTACT

467

79.7

PFF GRADE

78.4

6-2

HEIGHT

6-0

221

WEIGHT

213

Soph.

CLASS

Jr.

Sanders is in his first season as Arkansas’ premier running back stepping for Trelon Smith, who transferred to UTSA following the 2021 season. Sanders, who goes by the fitting nickname of “Rocket”, made an impact early by rushing for 439 yards through Arkansas’ first three games. That stretch includes two 150-plus yard games against South Carolina and Missouri State. His 870 yards rushing is the best in the SEC, and he has held the top spot in that category for most of the season.

Sanders has rushed for 100-plus yards in all but one game this season when he was held to just 68 yards against Texas A&M in week four. His best overall game to date came on Oct. 15 at BYU, where he received a PFF grade of 81.0 after rushing for a season-high 175 yards and two scores.

It would be easy, and understandable, to assume that Sanders is playing at the level that Bigsby should be. However, a few questionable playcalling choices as well as a below-tier offensive line have limited Bigsby’s production. Both Sanders and Bigsby share similar builds, yards after contact, yards per carry, and touchdowns. The main difference is that Sanders has received far more touches, thus creating more opportunities for yards.

Despite the difference in yards, both backs are very similar when it comes to numbers. So both teams will be relying heavily on their prized running backs to help them earn the win. Expect an old-school, hard-nosed game from both Sanders and Bigsby on Saturday morning.

Comparing the backs in SEC Play

BIGSBY

STATS

SANDERS

61

CARRIES

83

303

YARDS

423

4.7

YARDS/CARRY

5.0

3

TDS

4

Bigsby at home vs Sanders on the road

BIGSBY

STATS

SANDERS

69

CARRIES

35

345

YARDS

261

4.7

YARDS/CARRY

7.5

4

TDS

3

Red Zone Comparison

BIGSBY

STATS

SANDERS

12

CARRIES

23

42

YARDS

84

3.3

YARDS/CARRY

3.6

4

TDS

6

Goal Line Comparison

BIGSBY

STATS

SANDERS

6

CARRIES

14

15

YARDS

22

2.3

YARDS/CARRY

1.5

4

TDS

4

Story originally appeared on Auburn Wire