TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The next three weeks will decide Alabama’s season.
As it stands, No. 1 Alabama plays at No. 16 Arkansas, at No. 9 Tennessee and hosts No. 8 Texas A&M in consecutive weeks.
If Alabama makes it out of this three-game stretch, the Tide’s November slate sets up favorably after the bye week.
Top-ranked Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) opens the crucial slate of games with a top-20 matchup at Arkansas (4-1, 0-1 SEC). Kickoff at Razorback Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
“For sure, the next three weeks are going to be a grind,” Alabama said Bradley Bozeman said. “We have Arkansas this week, then Tennessee and Texas A&M. We have to take it game-by-game and bring our best every week.
“We have to bring our best every game, just come to play every play.”
Making this run even more difficult are the different styles of offense. Tennessee has a dual-threat quarterback in Joshua Dobbs who can make plays when things break down. Texas A&M has one of the best receiver groups in the country, and an experienced quarterback in Trevor Knight who can make plays with his feet.
Then there’s the test this week in Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ offense has become unique because the Hogs are one of the few teams still running a traditional offense. It’s smash-mouth football when Arkansas takes the field.
“This will be a challenge for us defensively because we haven’t played against a lot of regular people this year,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday. “When I say regular, I’m talking about a tight end and two backs, two wide receivers. They have a very good running game and a very good play-action game so to get our players to respond to that, we’re going to have to continue to get good work for the rest of the week.”
That means Alabama’s reserve defensive linemen may have to play more this week than they have all season. Guys like nose tackle Joshua Frazier, Dakota Ball, freshman Raekwon Davis and Johnny Dwight should play big roles when Alabama is in its base defense.
“We’re working hard with those guys. Josh has done a good job of playing nose guard,” Saban said. “We haven’t played a lot of regular people where the nose guard plays a lot, but he has played some in nickel and improved. Worked hard and got his weight down and moves a little better, the pass rush is a little better. I think in a game like this, he’s going to get a lot of opportunity to be in there. This is his kind of game. He’s done a really good job.
“Johnny Dwight, we’re trying to work with and develop him. Raekwon is still developing. I think Dakota Ball has done a good job all year long. We just have to keep working with these guys so that they can be more consistent in how they play, technique-wise as well as understanding assignments and being able to execute them on a consistent basis.”