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Your latest Crimson TIde news and notes.
Happy Friday, everyone. Alabama rolls into Fayetteville tomorrow, fully prepared to fry up some bacon. Your previews:
Part of the reason Alabama has not been good on the road is that its offensive line has not been up to the typical standard. This year’s Alabama offense has not been nearly as explosive in the passing game as we’ve seen in recent years. There is no true alpha receiver — at least, not one that has taken the reins from the outstanding receivers Alabama has had in recent years. All of that combined with Arkansas dropping into coverage and forcing teams to put together long drives to beat it suggests this will be a lower-scoring, closer affair than anticipated. I don’t have a high level of confidence in it, but if I’m betting anything here, I’d rather be on the Razorbacks. Prediction: Arkansas +17
BET ARKANSAS +16.5 (-107).
Alabama has won by more than 3 points in just 1 of its last 5 road games. This is a team that has been grinding out wins on the road and should not be trusted to cover such a large spread outside of Tuscaloosa. Take the points.
Few schools have run the ball more than Arkansas this season. The Razorbacks have done so on 69.4% of their plays this year, the highest rate in the Power Five. And it’s been for good reason, too: They have the highest run-blocking grade in the Power Five thus far.
Meanwhile, Alabama has the highest run-defense grade in the country (93.9). The Crimson Tide have made 32 tackles for loss or no gain this season, tied for the second-most in the Power Five. Edge defender Will Anderson Jr. sports a 91.2 run-defense grade since last season, the highest among active Power Five defenders.
The war in the trenches should determine how close this game is.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Arkansas 21
Furthermore, the Razorbacks have a potent offense. KJ Jefferson surpassed 300 passing yards in the meeting against Alabama last season. The Hogs also have a stellar running game that will shine. Raheim Sanders is one of the best RBs in the FBS. He already has 508 rushing yards. Moreover, Alabama will run quite a bit and Arkansas has a stifling rush defense that is limiting foes to 100 rushing yards per game, good for 29th in the FBS. Arkansas only lost by a touchdown against Alabama last year and now has an experienced, better squad than last year ready to take on the conference foes.
Prediction: Arkansas Razorbacks +17.5
Is the offensive front really fixed after all of the issues last year? Probably not 100%.
Can the team really handle life on the road after the first time around didn’t go so well? Sure, it’s Alabama.
Arkansas will play well enough to make this interesting. The defensive front really will get to Young, Jefferson really will hit a few big shots, and …
Bama will come through, the offensive line will pound away with the ground game when it has to, and the team will get out with a very tough, very good win.
Alabama 34, Arkansas 20
Alabama’s Heisman Trophy quarterback set a new passing record for the Crimson Tide last season against Arkansas when he passed for 559 yards in the 42-35 win. He’s back and the Razorbacks’ pass coverage has been average so far. The Hogs will try to keep Bama’s offense off the field as it is their best shot at an upset. Speaking of which, the Razorbacks should be upset and ready to play their best after last week’s loss to Texas A&M. Still, it is Alabama and Nick Saban is 15-0 against the Hogs since arriving at Alabama. Guarantee it won’t be 52-0, even though the Tide have the No. 2-ranked defense in the nation, allowing only 201.2 yards per game. Alabama 42-32
That last one is from longtime Arkansas sports columnist Wally Hall, who is about the only one predicting a shootout similar to last year.
This will be an interesting game. Arkansas has been stellar running the ball with Sanders and Jefferson. Alabama’s run defense has looked elite thus far, but they haven’t faced a runner at the QB position like KJ. The good news is that Treylon Burks is in the NFL and to date nobody on the roster has been the type of downfield threat that he was against Alabama last year.
On the other side, Arkansas has a relatively poor secondary that they will undoubtedly want to protect. If they stay in shell coverage and run games up front, similar to the way Texas played the Tide, will Young take what he is given or will he fall into the trap of impatience again, holding the football too long trying for the big strikes? Those strikes were there last week against Vanderbilt and hopefully will be again, but if they aren’t then the Tide will have to settle for chunks as they methodically move the ball.
Arkansas leads the nation in sacks and Alabama’s offensive line has been inconsistent. That should be enough to hold the scoring down a bit. I think Alabama’s defense will likely handle Arkansas relatively easily this time, however. The over/under seems ludicrously high to me at 60. Look for Will Reichard to have a big day along with the defense as the Tide rolls, 33-13.
Of course, that is merely my opinion. Vote and give us yours in the comments.
Saban is looking for his team to finally play to its standard on the road.
—Saban said some of the great teams in the past had to lose a game to rid of the “bad decisions.” The undefeated Alabama squads had “character.”
—”This is the best team we’ve played so far. … When you play on the road you got 100,000 people trying to disrespect you. So why get mad when one guy disrespects you in practice and wants to get in a fight over it? That’s nothing.”
We haven’t heard much from JC Latham yet, but he had some things to say about this matchup.
“Just whatever it is, make sure we handle it, knowing defensive schemes, the stunts that they run, what the tendencies of the players that they like to do and do with. Yeah, they’ve got a really good defensive front seven. They’re really physical. They do a lot of different things up front. But honestly, I think if we just bang out our fundamentals and handle business, I think we’ll be OK.”
On road game energy: “I love playing away. It just gives me juice knowing this is their territory and we’re coming to take over. Just being over there, especially after having my first away game at Texas, I know what to expect now. I know really I’ve gotta lock in more personally on the cadence and understanding what to do.”
Last, Tua never wanted to be the poster child for the NFL’s poor handling of head injuries, but he unfortunately has become just that. Thankfully, he walked out of the hospital.
That’s a huge relief, given the troubling images from the aftermath of the head injury he suffered earlier this evening.
Again, given the events from Sunday, there are many questions to be answered. The fact that Tua apparently is and will be fine does not alleviate or diminish those questions. They must be answered. Objectively, dispassionately, and accurately.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel predictably defended the team’s process.
“Like every single NFL game that is played, there’s an independent specialist that specializes in the specialty of brain matter,” McDaniel said after Thursday’s game. “For me, as long as I’m coaching here, I’m not going to fudge that whole situation. If there’s any sort of inclination that someone has a concussion, they go into the concussion protocol, and it’s very strict. People don’t vary or stray. We don’t mess with that. Never have, and as long as I’m the head coach that will never be an issue that you guys have to worry about.”
There will be much debate and consternation over this situation in the months ahead. Hopefully he is able to heal up this time.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.