Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Records: Alabama 7-0, 4-0 SEC; Arkansas 2-5, 0-4 SEC
Radio: 95.3 FM, 102.9 FM
By Edwin Stanton
Take away its starting QB and Alabama is still in good hands with Henry Ruggs and Co. Mac Jones will be better prepared after a full week knowing he’s the starter. Arkansas has its own QB issues and are not sure who will start.
More than halfway through the season the Tide is starting to grow an identity. There is still work to be done but with Terrell Lewis and Trevon Diggs stepping up, the Tide is poised for a big day against a struggling Arkansas team.
Ty Perine has one heck of a punting debut last week and will most likely get a chance for an encore performance today. Connor Limpert has made four field goals for Arkansas from 40-plus yards.
The Crimson Tide running game has looked strong of late under the direction of Charles Huff, which backs averaging 166 yards a game and 5.1 yards per carry. Arkansas just hasn’t been able to get it going under Chad Morris this year.
The new lights at Bryant-Denny Stadium were a big hit last week and fans will get to enjoy the show again against Arkansas. A night game in Tuscaloosa, with a light show to boot, will have the crowd raring to go.
Alabama 35, Arkansas 13
Arkansas has not won an SEC game since midway through the 2017 season. Times are tough in Fayetteville and it’s not going to magically get better simply because the starting quarterback for No. 1 team in the nation isn’t playing. There are too many other bullets in that offensive gun for Alabama.
It’s been a tough season for the Razorbacks, with their only two wins coming against Portland State and Colorado State. Just last week they were blown out 51-10 against Auburn. A Tua-less offense will be less explosive but it shouldn’t stop the Tide from covering the spread.
Time will tell us if Mac Jones is good enough to be a championship-level starting quarterback for Alabama in 2020, but no time is needed to tell us Jones is good enough to lead this year’s Alabama team past Arkansas. Then the waiting begins for Game of the Century Part II.
Rain is likely. The starting quarterback is out. Given these depressing events, who is the Homecoming entertainment? Morrissey? At least there is a walk-on punter to cheer until the Sun becomes a red giant and consumes the solar system.
Without Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama should rely heavily on the running game with Najee Harris and Brian Robinson. Look for Mac Jones to get the ball into the hands of the Crimson Tide’s elite receivers when he has to. No Tua, no problem for now.
Mac Jones has been patiently waiting behind two Heisman trophy candidates in the Alabama quarterback room over the last few years and will have his opportunity to shine this week. Arkansas is coming off a blowout loss to Auburn and could experience more of the same against the Tide on Saturday.
The absence of Tua will hamper the Alabama offense and slow things down. Expect a lot of Najee Harris on the ground and the game to be controlled by the Crimson Tide defense.
Alabama’s offense won’t get thrown back into the three yards and a cloud of dust era, but expect the Crimson Tide to lean more on Najee Harris and Brian Robinson. The new offensive line with Deonte Brown should provide enough strength up front to handle the underperforming Razorbacks.
Mac Jones has been patiently waiting behind two Heisman trophy candidates in the Alabama quarterback room over the last few years has his opportunity to shine. Arkansas is coming off a blowout loss to Auburn and could experience more of the same against the Tide.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Carey Reeder
Key Stat: Kicked two punts in the win over Tennessee; 42- and 51- yards, respectively
Buzz: The Alabama ranks second-to-last in the nation, averaging 35.94 yards per punt. The 575 total yards this season ranks dead-last in the nation. Alabama might have found its solution in Perine. The Prattville, native and preferred walk-on earned his first chance to punt against Tennessee and didn’t disappoint making the decision to come to Tuscaloosa.
Position: Offensive line
Key Stat: Started all 15 games for Alabama last season
Buzz: A mainstay in the offensive line, Leatherwood moved from right guard where he played last season back to his more natural position of left tackle this year. After starting the season shaky, the offensive line has gained more traction and Leatherwood and company will be important in protecting backup quarterback Mac Jones making his first career start.
Position: Defensive line
Key Stat: Eight tackles over his last three games, including three against Tennessee.
Buzz: Yet another impressive freshman defensive linemen is making his presence felt. Young has 13 tackles this season but has played his best during the last three games recording those eight tackles. Having this many effective linemen for defensive coordinator Pete Golding is a luxury. The best part is they’re mostly freshmen who will be on campus for the next few years.
Key Stat: Leads the Arkansas defense in tackles this season with 54
Buzz: Harris is playing his best football of the season recording double-digit tackles in back-to-back games for and added a forced fumble against No.11 Auburn last week. Harris has been one of the lone bright spots on a struggling Razorbacks defense. With the Alabama running game coming into its own, Harris will be key in stopping any advances on the ground.
Position: Running back
Key Stat: Led Arkansas in rushing last season with 734 yards
Buzz: Boyd is on pace to blow his rushing total from last season out of the water. With 656 yards through seven games Boyd is chasing his first 1,000-yard season. The Houston, native has added five touchdown runs to his tally but posted his worst performance against No. 11 Auburn with just 39 yards. If Arkansas is to stay with Alabama, Boyd will have to be effective.
Position: Defensive line
Key Stat: Leads the Razorback defense in sacks with 3.5
Buzz: Bell has played in four games, making the 3.5 sacks even more impressive. Bell has been battling a knee injury that has kept him sidelined, including last week against Auburn. Bell has had only one true season to contribute and that was last year where he recorded 20 tackles and forced one fumble. Pressure from the edge on new starter Mac Jones could give the Crimson Tide some problems upfront.