Arkansas Razorbacks (2-5) @ #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0)
The Arkansas Razorbacks travel to Tuscaloosa Saturday night to face the Crimson Tide of Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Hogs are riding a 4-game losing streak and their last 16 SEC games. This has the possibility for the upset of the century. The Hogs will have by far the toughest game this year. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Alabama a 98.9% chance to win, even without starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Tua Tagovalioa. The Hogs are 31.5-point underdogs, and many have suggested that if Tua was under center they would be favored by as many as 45. This Saturday will be the “super bowl” for the Razorbacks with the possibility to put Arkansas on the map and wash away the bad taste that has been circling this team all season long. Expect the Hogs to come out with a whole new fight and game plan this weekend as well as a chip on their shoulders. ESPN give the spread in favor of Alabama -31.5 with an over/under of 55.5.
Alabama will honor the 2009 National Championship team before the game Saturday night. It remains the only unbeaten season for Saban as a head coach. Four of the teams start will be serving as honorary captains: Javier Arenas, Mark Ingram, Mike Johnson, and Rolando McClain.
Alabama will start backup quarterback, 6’2” Sophomore Mac Jones against the Hogs. On the season, Jones is 20-32 with 237 yards with 1 interception. “He’s obviously at Alabama for a reason,” says Arkansas LB Grant Morgan. With this to worry about, Coach Nick Saban should lean heavily on his rushing game behind Najee Harris. Harris only has 556 yards on the ground with 3 touchdowns on the season. The Tide has been obviously leaning heavily on their passing game through the season to get their #1 overall ranking. Expect them to try to not stray away from what has had them winning all season, but with the possibility of rain in the forecast, do not be surprised to see more running with Harris than usual. The Arkansas secondary is going to get their biggest challenge having to try to keep up with Smith, Jeudy, Ruggs, and Waddle. These four wide receivers have been the overall heartbeat for the Tide with Tua under center. All season long we have been preaching the Hogs to play more bump and run and get in the face of the receivers. This might be a game where they need to play off and keep the ball in front of them. Bama will double team Sosa Agim in the middle trying to keep him out of most plays, which should allow Bumper Pool and Scoota Harris some extra space to stuff the run game. Arkansas will need Bama to get one dimensional in running in the rain to have a chance. With a young secondary, lead by Kam Curl, the Hogs will need to show something new under Coach Chavis to keep them in this game early.
The Razorback’s offensive line has been struggling throughout the season so far, and they will be without two starters when they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Tide. Starting left tackle Colton Jackson and starting left guard Austin Capps both left the game Saturday against Auburn in the first half, neither returned for the remainder of the contest. Capps, a senior, suffered a concussion and Jackson, also a senior, hurt his back during the last contest in Fayetteville. Junior Myron Cunningham will replace Jackson at left tackle and Kirby Adcock will man the left guard position. The projected starting O-line will be RT- Dalton Wagner, RG- Ricky Stromberg, C-Ty Clary, LG- Kirby Adcock, and LT- Myron Cummingham. With these injuries on the line, the Arkansas offense will not have any leeway to have anything go wrong with calls or under center against the #1 Crimson Tide.
Game Plan for the Hogs
Arkansas will need to be in the “left lane and hammer down.” They say they are together as a team through this process and will need to come out as one in the truly tough road matchup. No matter what happens in the game, the Hogs will need to keep to their game plan and do not stray from it. You need to have faith in what you have practiced and keep at what you are good at. Keep Hicks upright and keep the Bama defense off balanced with staying true to the run game with Boyd. Arkansas has the receivers in Burks, Knox, Woods, and O’Grady to give them a chance to open the field a little more than Bama will be ready for.
Alabama, without Tua, will struggle at times but should be able to handle the struggling Arkansas Razorbacks. Most hog fans, as I, are hoping for the Game of the Century with the #1 Tide falling, ending the Hogs winless streak in the SEC at 16, but Bama should Roll in the end behind Mac Jones in his first start of his young career. Woo Pig until the day I die, but the Tide will roll.
Arkansas 20, Alabama 45
Football Sports Writer for Natural State Sports
Co-Host of Thursday night live show “The Sports Junkies” along side Steve Hinson