In a day and age where spread offenses are the norm, Arkansas and No. 8 Alabama instead will battle in an old-school style that should feature a lot of downhill running and ultimately come down to the war in the trenches.
The Razorbacks will have their hands full against a dominant Crimson Tide front seven, but Arkansas nearly pulled off the upset in last year’s 14-13 thriller.
Arkansas (2-3, 1-1 SEC) at No. 8 Alabama (4-1, 1-1 SEC)
Kickoff time: Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Weather: 69 degrees, 0 percent chance of rain
Line: Alabama is favored by 16.5 points
Series record: 7-18
By the numbers
158 – Arkansas running back Alex Collins has rushed for an average of 158 yards overin the past three games. After a sluggish start, Collins has been in midseason form as of late. He has rushed for 656 yards and six touchdowns this season, but 475 of those, and four touchdowns, have come in the last three weeks. Collins will need a monster game for the Razorbacks to have a shot, and that’s a tall task against the Crimson Tide’s front seven.
84 – Alabama has given up 84 rushing yards on average per game. Everyone knows the Razorbacks are going to run the ball, but the question is how well will they run it. The Crimson Tide ranks first in the SEC and ninth nationally in run defense. It will be best on best between Arkansas and Alabama, but something has to give.
Storylines to watch
There’s no denying this season has not gone as Arkansas had hoped. However, last week’s win at Tennessee was huge for this program. Leaving Neyland Stadium last Saturday with a loss could’ve been a back-breaker for the Razorbacks, but now, they have a chance to make something of this season. The task at hand is extremely difficult, but if Arkansas can find a way to be competitive and get out of Tuscaloosa with some positives, that will go along way for the future of Bret Bielema’s program.
Alabama certainly looked like a national title contender last week against Georgia. But if the Crimson Tide want to get back to the College Football Playoff, they may need quarterback Jake Coker to play better. Coker’s play has been analyzed ad nauseam this year, but if he can go from being a game manager to a playmaker, the Alabama offense might become unstoppable.
Third downs could play a huge role in Saturday’s contest between the Razorbacks and Crimson Tide. Arkansas ranks first in the SEC and 20th nationally in third-down conversions, successfully moving the chains 46.67 percent of the time. but Alabama, however, is first in the SEC and 13th nationally in third-down defense, allowing opponents’ conversions just 26.19 percent of the time. In a game that was decided by one point a year ago, a pivotal third down could decide the outcome of Saturday’s contest.
My prediction: Alabama 34, Arkansas 13