As the Arkansas Razorbacks look to pull off a home upset against the hated rival Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, it's likely the Hawgs will have to do so without star quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Arkansas head coach John L. Smith said Friday that the senior signal-caller is still a game-time decision (per CBS Sports' Tracy Wolfson). Nevertheless, sources have told ESPN's Chris Low that Wilson will not play, due to a head injury suffered in last week's 34-31 loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
There has been no official word on whether Wilson suffered a concussion, but the violence with which his head hit the ground and the way he's been treated in practice this week give credence to that theory.
If the reports are correct and Wilson does sit out on Saturday, what does this mean?
Quite frankly, the injury takes nearly all of the luster associated with the yearly Alabama-Arkansas tilt and tarnishes it.
Despite the Razorbacks going down to Louisiana-Monroe last week and losing their AP Top 25 billing, there was still plenty of hype heading into this Saturday's matchup. After all, these are two of the storied programs in the country, and they almost always give each other hard-fought games, regardless of record.
For the Razorbacks, however, 2012 was supposed to be the year to finally get over the hump against Alabama.
Heading on the road in a hostile environment, Wilson would have been the Crimson Tide's second matchup against an elite quarterback in three weeks. Alabama shut down Michigan Wolverines dual-threat Denard Robinson in Week 1 but would have a much more difficult time against the Razorbacks signal-caller.
Wilson is a traditional drop-back passer and theoretically could have done a better job than Robinson at picking apart Alabama's inexperienced secondary.
Unfortunately, Wilson's absence all but certainly means another blowout win for Alabama.
Likely Razorbacks starter Brandon Allen looked every bit the part of an overmatched freshman last week as Wilson's replacement, going 6-of-20 for 85 yards while tossing a critical interception.
With a full week to prepare, Allen will be more relaxed this week. Nonetheless, it's unlikely that he performs any better, as the Crimson Tide's defensive talent far outweighs Louisiana-Monroe's.
Saturday's trip to Fayetteville will represent a dodged bullet for the Crimson Tide's national championship campaign. A game that once represented an early-season test of fortitude will now simply be a blip on the radar. Look for quarterback A.J. McCarron to perform well and for the defense to once again stifle the opposition's attack.
On the other side of the field, Saturday's contest will represent an understandable loss in what's shaping up to be a disappointing season for Arkansas. Neither a heroic effort from running back Knile Davis nor a ferocious defensive effort will be enough to stop the Crimson Tide.
With Wilson, there was a distinct upset possibility. Without him, fans across the nation will likely be turning the channel by halftime.
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