Sitting at 3-0, now is when the real season begins for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Earlier this week I reviewed how the Hogs are doing heading into conference play. And they’re starting out SEC play with a toughie — the No. 3 team in the country, as ranked by USA Today and the AP, Alabama. Oh, and the game is IN Alabama.
Yeah. Yikes is right.
Since arriving in Fayetteville, Coach Bobby Petrino has yet to beat the Crimson Tide. He’s 0-3 against Saban and that includes last year’s heartbreaker of a loss at home after being up 20-7 at halftime. But we all know that this year’s team is a different Hogs team than last year. Right?
Last year Arkansas entered the ‘Bama game with a great passing offense, a suspect running attack and a serviceable defense. This year they come in with a great passing offense, a suspect running attack and a defense that should be much improved over last year’s group. Petrino knows that this is an important game for the Hogs, not only to be seen as a serious contender in the SEC West, but also if they want to keep their BCS aspirations high.
It will be a tough game, no matter how you slice it.
Offensively, the key to victory will start up front with the offensive line. Can the Hogs run the ball 3+ yards per carry? Will Tyler Wilson get enough time to go through his progressions? If they’re unable to run the ball or prevent sacks/scrambles, the Hogs won’t have much of a chance to win. The Tide has already said they’re coming after Mitch Smothers, so there’s that. I think the key to running the ball effectively will be to use Alabama’s speed against them with draw plays, screens or even some quick slant passes. TE Chris Gragg showed us what he could do last week, I would expect to see him in the game plan a bit more, too. We still haven’t seen much of the long ball from Wilson and the stable of awesome receivers. Both Greg Childs and Jarius Wright will be back. And Dennis Johnson should be stronger than last week. Don’t be surprised if Brandon Mitchell makes an extended appearance, either. I don’t expect Petrino to hold back here. Being that this is the fourth game of the season, the offense should be in a good place. ‘Bama’s defense is always good, but can they hang with Arkansas?
Defensively, the Razorbacks need to step up their game. Unfortunately, DE Jake Bequette is out after injuring his hamstring two weeks ago. ‘Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron won’t necessarily torch the Hogs with their passing attack, but their running backs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey (both averaging 100+ yards a game with 11 TDs between the two) might make Arkansas stack the box and would allow some passing to happen. The Hogs have been stingy against the run this season and will definitely need to do so again Saturday if they’re going to have a shot at winning. I definitely don’t want to see Alabama put on a clinic of how to break arm tackles like last year. Here’s hoping Coach Willy Robinson comes in with a good game plan — sometimes they’re spot on, sometimes not.
Special teams will need to be ready to take advantage where/when they can. Zach Hocker would do them wonders if he had a few more touchbacks on kickoffs. Marquel Wade and Joe Adams need to play smart when fielding punts and protect the ball. For a game that will be won on the lines, special teams can, and probably will, play a role.
It’ll be a beautiful day in Tuscaloosa when the Hogs and Crimson Tide tee off. Not many pundits are giving Arkansas a chance at the upset with their picks (but they do talk an awful lot about how there could be an upset). The current line has Alabama as a 12 point favorite, which is too much if you ask me.
This is a winnable game for Arkansas, but as much as I hate to say it, I don’t think they will win. My guess, Alabama Crimson Tide 21, Arkansas Razorbacks 20.
Let us know what you think the final score will be. If you’re the closest (see rules below), you’ll get a free t-shirt from Bearstate Supply.
How to enter
Leave a comment with your game prediction. If you want to add anything else, please feel free.
What you’ll win
One t-shirt of your choice (design, color, size) from the Bearstate Supply online store. (Hoodies, ringers and tri-blend AA’s not included)
- You only may enter this specific contest once.
- Contests are open to anyone anywhere except staff of Fayetteville Flyer and their immediate family members.
- The winning entry must pick the winning team and have the smallest combined difference from each team’s final score. Example: If the Razorbacks win by a score of 21-7, and your prediction was Razorbacks 20-10, your difference would be 1 + 3 = 4. In the event of a tie, a winner will be selected by a random drawing.
- You must pick the score by 15 minutes before kickoff for each game.
- Make sure you leave a valid e-mail address when filling out the comment form since that’s how we’ll contact you if you’ve won.