By: Ryan Mace
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0) will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (1-1) Saturday at 3:30, in a game that features two teams going in opposite directions this season.
After a statement win in their season opener against Michigan, the Crimson Tide rolled past Western Kentucky 35-0 last Saturday.
QB A.J. McCarron threw four touchdown passes as the defense created just as many turnovers in the shutout win. McCarron had two touchdown passes a piece to Christion Jones and Kevin Norwood, which matched his career high.
“AJ’s really stepped up,” Jones said. “He’s really picked up that weight left off from that national championship game a little bit from last year. He’s overall conquered a lot of things with the passing game.”
Alabama did lose tailback Jalston Fowler to a season-ending knee injury in the win.
Arkansas did not have the same luck, despite facing UL-Monroe.
The then-eighth ranked Razorbacks got all they could handle and more from the Warhawks, who pulled off the 34-31 overtime upset on the strength of QB Kolton Browning’s 481 total yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown run in overtime.
“He did a great job,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. “He made play after play after play after play after play. … We couldn’t tackle him, we couldn’t stop him.”
Arkansas also played the second half without All-SEC QB Tyler Wilson, who left the game with concussion-like symptoms after taking several big hits in the second half, and it appears as if he will be out for their match-up with Alabama. Despite Wilson’s status, Alabama will prepare for him to start.
“Nobody here should be feeling warm and cozy about the other team’s circumstance or situation,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We need to be thinking about what we need to do to be successful, regardless of who plays in the game.”
Senior linebacker Nico Johnson echoed Saban’s remarks.
“We’re going to practice like he’s playing or not playing, whatever,” Johnson said Monday. “They’ve got good enough backups, so we’re going to prepare the same way we prepare for any other team and keep rolling.”
If Tyler Wilson is able to go on Saturday, Arkansas brings in a passing attack that ranks 12th in the nation in yards per game with 340.5. The Razorbacks also rank in the Top 25 in points per game, averaging 40 per outing in their first two weeks. Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is expecting Arkansas to be as ready as ever, especially coming off of a devastating loss.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll be upset,” he said. “But like Coach said, I’m pretty sure I heard him before, it’s not about them, it’s about us. We’ve got to focus on the things we’ve got to do to stop them.”
I like Alabama’s chances in this game, despite being on the road at Arkansas’ War Memorial Stadium. Alabama’s ability to control the clock and use power running with great defense will wear down Arkansas’ ability to control the line of scrimmage and allow McCarron to throw the ball effectively, as he has shown in the last few weeks.
Alabama 31 Arkansas 17