Published January 13, 2015
Tuscaloosa, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off yet another lopsided victory, the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide return home to play host to the Arkansas Razorbacks in SEC West action at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The two-time defending champions rolled over another foe this last weekend, blowing out Kentucky in Lexington, 48-7. Nick Saban's squad holds the second- longest active win streak in the nation, now standing at 10 games and trails only Ohio State (18) in that regard. The 6-0 Tide are already 3-0 in conference play and will play each of the next three games in-conference and at home.
Bret Bielema's first season in Fayetteville has come with mixed reviews thus far. This will mark the eighth straight week that the Razorbacks will suit up and they are 3-4 overall. However, the team has dropped four straight games since opening the season with three wins and is currently buried in the SEC standings at 0-3, all against ranked foes, including last weekend's humbling loss at home to South Carolina (52-7).
The tough stretch of games has Bielema trying to motivate his team.
That's the same team that has done some pretty positive things," Coach Bielema said. "Last week, that was our number one emphasis, adversity. When adversity strikes, you don't try to fight it alone, you try to fight it together. I think that's the part that we've got to rally around."
Alabama holds a 13-8 advantage all-time in the series with Arkansas, thanks to wins in six straight meetings. The Crimson Tide shut out the Razorbacks last season on the road, 52-0.
The Razorbacks will be fighting an uphill battle in this contest, as they may lack the offensive balance to keep things close in Tuscaloosa. Arkansas is averaging 370.9 yards of total offense in 2013, but only 154.6 yards comes via the pass. The ground game is sturdy (216.3 ypg, 5.5 ypc), but will be facing its toughest challenge to date.
The Razorbacks use a potent one-two punch in the backfield in young tailbacks Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Just a freshman, Collins is averaging 102.9 yards per game on 5.9 yards per carry and leads the team with 720 yards, with four TDs. A sophomore, Williams is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 80.6 yards per game and also has four TDs to his credit.
Saban is aware of Arkansas' strength on offense.
"I think Arkansas is one of the most challenging teams we play this year, especially in their ability to run the ball. Their offensive line does a great job. They've got two really good running backs that are very, very productive."
The Arkansas ground game has had to produce because sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen has struggled under center, completing a miserable 48.1 percent of his passes, for just 864 yards, with eight TDs against five INTs. Javontee Herndon is the top target down the field, with 18 catches, for 288 yards (41.1 ypg), with four TDs.
Despite running through an SEC gauntlet over the last few weeks, the defensive numbers are still decent overall, with Arkansas coming in allowing 367.7 yards per game. The Razorbacks have collected 42 TFL on the year, with 20 sacks in the first seven games.
Linebacker Jarrett Lake leads the team in total tackles with 51 stops. Defensive ends Chris Smith (23 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) and Trey Flowers (25 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) are strong off the edges.
The Crimson Tide have had little trouble moving the football this season, with a great mix of the run (188.3 ypg) and the pass (260.2 ypg). It certainly helps to have one of the top veteran signal callers in the country in quarterback AJ McCarron running the show.
A Heisman candidate, McCarron has completed just under 70 percent of his passes this season, for 1,407 yards, with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Despite using tailback T.J. Yeldon (569 yards, 6.5 ypc, six TDs) to keep defenses honest, McCarron has a deep and talented receiving corps at his disposal, highlighted by Christion Jones (23 catches, 255 yards, two TDs), DeAndrew White (19 catches, 292 yards, three TDs), Kevin Norwood (16 catches, 226 yards, two TDs) and Amari Cooper (12 catches, 164 yards).
The Alabama defense is once again one of the top units in the country, ranking second nationally in scoring defense (11.3 ppg), seventh in rush defense (87.2 ypg), 21st in pass defense (191.0 ypg) and eighth in total defense (278.2 ypg). In addition, Alabama ranks fourth nationally in first downs allowed this season (84).
The undeniable leader of the 'Bama defense in All-American linebacker C.J. Mosley, who paces the team with 48 total tackles. The unit is at less than full strength with the indefinite suspension of All-American candidate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but others have stepped up and filled the void as playmakers, including fellow safety Vinnie Sunseri (20 tackles, two INTs). Freshman A'Shawn Robinson (17 tackles, 5.0 TFL) has made an immediate impact and is the team's top pass rusher thus far, with four sacks.