Alabama followed up their 2013 regular season loss with an atrocious performance in the Sugar Bowl. Can the Arkansas Razorbacks make 2014 equally miserable when the Crimson Tide step foot in Fayetteville this Saturday?
If the Razorbacks hope to win…line up and punch the Crimson Tide right in the mouth
Date: Saturday, October 11
Time: 5:00 p.m. CT
Place: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, IMG Razorback Sports Network
What Arkansas must do to win-
While most of the SEC has gone spread, no huddle/hurry up, the Arkansas Razorbacks bring a smash-mouth style of offense that couldn’t look anymore transplanted from the Big 10 than if Melvin Gordon was wearing a Hogs’ helmet. Bret Bilema’s style has the Arkansas’ ground game atop of the SEC in rushing touchdowns and top six in the nation for yardage. If the Razorbacks hope to win it’s going to be much of the same; line up and punch the Crimson Tide right in the mouth. It’ll be a next-to-impossible task to keep Lane Kiffin’s offense grounded but a strong rushing attack allows the Hogs to control the clock and keep Alabama’s potent offense off the field.
What Alabama will try to do to win-
Nick Saban boasts the top rushing defense in the country and will go head-to-head with a Razorbacks’ rushing attack that put up 438 yards against Texas Tech. Alabama doesn’t utilize too many stunts or disguised blitzes but they will continue to put “more guys in the box than [opponents] can block.” The strategy sounds simple enough and it is. The Crimson Tide feature some of the best athletes in the country and as we know, Nick Saban has no problem going right at an opponent’s strength. Alabama has struggled to defend against the pass this season so they will need to be wary of the Razorbacks play-action game.
The Arkansas Razorbacks motivation-
Still looking for their first SEC win in two years, an upset on Saturday would send Fayetteville into a state of national emergency; we’re talking goalposts being carried to the moon. Currently in the middle of the SEC West standings, a win versus the Crimson Tide has the Razorbacks on the upward trend and eyeing bowl eligibility. There’s still a plethora of top opponents remaining on the schedule but taking down the proverbial ‘Goliath’ of college football would make any program feel capable of beating anybody.
The Alabama Crimson Tide motivation-
As much as the Razorbacks need an SEC win, they don’t have nearly as much to lose as Alabama. Suffering defeat in Fayetteville would all but end Alabama’s College Football Playoff dream and there’s still half a regular season left to play. When was the last time Alabama was counted out of the National Championship picture this early in a season?
Arkansas Razorbacks player to watch-
Brandon Allen. He took the blame for botched center-to-quarterback exchanges during the Texas A&M game and vowed to fix the issue. If Allen could emulate any performance on Saturday it would hopefully be that of Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace of last Saturday. Despite being down by two scores at the half, Wallace remained cool and collective, ultimately leading the Rebels back to victory. Allen will have to remain equally grounded in order for the Razorbacks to steal an upset.
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Alabama Crimson Tide player to watch-
Blake Sims. The Alabama quarterback emerged as one of the SEC’s best in the first handful of games but was out of rhythm last Saturday. Ole Miss forced Sims to get rid of the ball faster than he wanted and the Rebels’ secondary did the rest. Fresh off a game where he failed to pass for more than 230 yards and was shutout in the endzone, it’ll be interesting to see how the first year starter bounces back.
Arkansas Razorbacks Wildcard-
Razorback Stadium. Nick Saban admitted the Ole Miss crowd “really got to [them]” last weekend and if luck would have it, there will be 70,000 of Whooo Pig Nation’s finest ready for October 11th. Tickets have already been sold out.
Alabama Crimson Tide Wildcard-
Adam Griffith. Its good news for Arkansas if the Crimson Tide kicker is attempting multiple field goals come Saturday. Alabama lost out on six points last Saturday because of Griffith’s struggles that date back to the final play of the 2013 Iron Bowl.
Of all the match-ups this weekend, the Arkansas Razorbacks rushing attack versus the Alabama Crimson Tide rush defense is arguably the most interesting. Solid, early-season performances have the Razorbacks on the rise while Alabama has to be pretty sour following their trip to Mississippi. Regardless, the Crimson Tide’s ability to mix the run with the pass so well poses a lot of problems for the young Razorbacks defense and if they aren’t ready to play, things get ugly for Arkansas early. On the other hand, Arkansas needs to simply finish the 4th quarter. Both Razorback losses were the result of sloppy final quarters; something Arkansas certainly spent their bye week working on.
We’re realistically looking at another nail-biter for Arkansas or a complete blowout at the hands of the Crimson Tide.