By Tommy Deas
Judging from the opener, Alabama’s offense looks unstoppable with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. It will be even better when the running game gets cranked up. Arkansas State likes to run a fast tempo behind quarterback Justice Hansen, who can sling it.
This Alabama defense may not be as scary as some of the recent past, but the Crimson Tide has playmakers. Quinnen Williams has the look of yet another tough defender in the trenches. Arkansas State gave up 25.8 points per game last season.
The Crimson Tide has shown explosiveness in the return game from Josh Jacobs and Jaylen Waddle breaking punt returns. The kicking and punting games have room for improvement. Arkansas State ranks sixth in kickoff returns after one week of play.
Blake Anderson has brought stability to the Arkansas State coaching position after a series of one-and-done coaches that included Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze. Alabama has two new coordinators, with Mike Locksley coming off a fine debut running the offense.
Advantage: Arkansas State
Alabama is the clear favorite and the Red Wolves have nothing to lose, but they have shown the ability to hang tough with Power 5 opponents at times. The Crimson Tide usually doesn’t look ahead, but Ole Miss looms next week to start SEC play.
Alabama 49, Arkansas State 10
The Crimson Tide is just too much for Arkansas State, a fine mid-major program that has produced some good coaches. Alabama may not need its top effort to win this game, but will have to play well to completely put away the scrappy Red Wolves.
Alabama 55, Arkansas State 0
Alabama puts on a show in front of its home crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The defense records a shutout. The offense dominates.
Alabama 43, Arkansas State 10
Maybe the scoreboard at Bryant-Denny Stadium will lack the computing power to calculate Alabama’s final score but a hot afternoon and an Arkansas State team that can do good things on offense will keep it closer (but not so close that I could go with the 34-7 score from the 1982 meeting).
Alabama 44, Arkansas State 14
The Crimson Tide offense is a mismatch for the Red Wolves, which gave up 14 in the first half to an FCS program last week. But the young Alabama secondary is apt to give up a score or two late to a talented air attack. The defense is still growing.
Alabama 36, Arkansas State 18
The Crimson Tide had many penalties last week against Louisville. Alabama will not be able to make those mistakes against Arkansas State, a respectable team.
Alabama 49, Arkansas State 7
There is no mystery around the starting quarterback this week. This will be another learning experience for the Alabama secondary as the Red Wolves will test the young group early and often.
Alabama 59, Arkansas State 13
The last time Alabama lost to a non-power five opponent was when Louisiana Monroe upset the Crimson Tide in 2007. Since then, no current non-power five team has been able to come within two touchdowns of Alabama. Nick Saban has beaten such opponents by an average margin of 38 points. Expect Alabama to roll big on Saturday.
Alabama 45, Arkansas State 14
In case you didn’t know (or hear Nick Saban’s postgame comments) Alabama made too many mistakes last week. There will probably be some more today, but not enough to change the outcome. QB Justice Hansen will hit a few big plays for the Red Wolves, but it will come too late to make a difference.
Alabama 49, Arkansas State 10
The Crimson Tide has found its man, and his name is Tua Tagovailoa. There’s too much talent on offense for Alabama not to run up the score. Defense cited communication issues for last weekend’s mistakes, but surely that was cleaned up this week in practice and things will be fine.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Ben Stansell