The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0) are headed to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (1-1) in a matchup that lost a lot of luster last week when the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks won a shocking overtime victory against the Hogs.
This was supposed to be a contest with national championship implications, but now looks more like a minor speed bump in the Tide’s schedule.
However, it still promises to be an excellent and exciting game, so keep reading to find out when to watch, who to bet on, a prediction for the final score and much more.
Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.
When: Saturday, Sept. 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: CBSSports.com
Spread: Alabama -20.5 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
Lean towards ‘Bama here, but shop around until you can find the Tide giving just 20.5 points.
Most books have the Crimson Tide between -20 and -21, so finding the line below a three-touchdown differential would be optimal.
When these teams last met in September of last year, the Tide rolled past the Razorbacks 38-14. That was with QB Tyler Wilson under center and head coach Bobby Petrino calling the plays.
There is a chance that Wilson will not suit up, as the senior is coming off a devastating head injury. Even if he’s on the field, he’s coming off almost no preparation time for the No. 1 team in the country.
Arkansas dismissed Petrino in the offseason after a scandal between the coach and a staff member, replacing him with John L. Smith.
If last year’s Razorbacks squad—which finished No. 5 in the nation after winning the Cotton Bowl—couldn’t cover a 20.5-point spread, there is no way this inferior version does on Saturday.
Over/Under: 54 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
This is a tough one, but the under seems to be the play.
Alabama shouldn’t have a problem piling up points, but Arkansas just might.
The Tide possess one of the best defenses in the nation—par for the course under coach Nick Saban—and should have no problem forcing Wilson (if he plays) or Brandon Mitchell (his inexperienced backup) into numerous mistakes and turnovers.
It’s doubtful that the Razorbacks are going to be able to get more than a single TD on the board.
Key Injuries (via CollegeInjuryReport.com)
ARK QB Tyler Wilson—QST—Head
ARK FB Kody Walker—OUT—Leg
ARK CB Tevin Mitchell—DBT—Head
ARK FB Kiero Small—OUT—Foot
ALA RB/FB Jalston Fowler—OUT—Knee
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
The Crimson Tide are currently ranked No. 1 and should be perched on that spot unless they flat out lose to Arkansas
USC is breathing down their necks, but play lesser opponents and the Pac-12 doesn’t quite have the prestige that the SEC does with voters.
Arkansas suffered a historic fall from No. 8 to unranked after losing to the Warhawks, but would certainly find itself back in the BCS hunt with a major upset victory on Saturday.
Keys to Alabama Win: Defense
It’s always about defense when talking Tide football.
This is a team that prides itself on shutting down opponents, but they’ll need to expect the unexpected during the game.
The secondary must be especially prepared for some new looks, as the Razorbacks will need to use deception and trickery to make big plays—and that couldn’t be more true if Wilson cannot suit up.
Keys to Arkansas Win: Knile Davis
The junior RB missed all of the 2011 season after his breakout sophomore campaign, in which he rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns on 204 carries.
He’s going to have to be brilliant on Saturday if Arkansas has any hopes of even keeping this one close.
Davis is only averaging 3.9 yards per carry this season, which is even more troubling when considering the two opponents the Razorbacks have faced are Jacksonville State and ULM.
That sort of production simply won’t cut it against the Tide, so Davis must step up or Arkansas will bow down.
Prediction: Alabama 34 – Arkansas 13
Which Team Will Win?
As mentioned earlier, getting ‘Bama at -20.5 is crucial for bettors.
This is going to be a relatively close game until the Crimson Tide pull away late. Razorback Stadium will be rocking and it’s a tough place to play, so expect ‘Bama to make some offensive mistakes in the early going.
However, Saban will have his boys roaring and ready to go when they come out in the second half and the Tide will roll.