Arkansas vs. Alabama: 10 Things We Learned in Tide's Win
For the second consecutive week, Alabama put together a dominant performance against a conference opponent as the Tide blew out Arkansas 52-0 on Saturday.
Quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns, and Nick Saban's defense held an opponent without a touchdown for the fourth time this season.
Arkansas lost its fifth consecutive game and clearly looked like a team reeling from playing its fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent.
What are the main takeaways from the Tide’s victory over the Razorbacks?
10. Growing Pains for Alex Collins
There will be brighter days for Arkansas freshman running back Alex Collins, who entered Saturday night’s game as the SEC’s second-leading rusher and only 22 yards behind South Carolina’s Mike Davis for the top spot.
Alabama’s dominant front seven limited Collins to 77 yards on 18 carries.
The Razorbacks' inability to threaten the Tide’s defense vertically in the passing game severely hampered the Hogs' ground game.
However, Collins still impressed with his ability to take and deliver punishment and maintain his effectiveness despite defenses gearing up to stop him.
9. McCarron Finding His Groove
One week after throwing for a career-high 359 yards in the win over Kentucky, McCarron followed it up with another strong outing against the Razorbacks.
McCarron went 15-of-21 for 180 yards and three touchdowns. After some early season struggles, McCarron has feasted on the Tide’s favorable slate in October.
He’s averaging 235 yards per game and has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception through the Tide’s past three games—two of which he barely played in the second half.
With the showdown against LSU looming, it appears that McCarron is clicking at the perfect time for the Tide.
8. Time for a QB Change for Hogs?
With the Hogs reeling, Bret Bielema is searching for anything that could potentially spark his club out of a funk that has seen them drop five games in a row.
One position that Bielema has repeatedly refused to make a change is at quarterback, where he’s stuck with Brandon Allen despite the sophomore carrying the lowest passer rating in the SEC entering Saturday night’s contest, according to cfbstats.com.
In fairness to Allen, he’s been playing with an injured shoulder since the Southern Miss game, according to the Tulsa World.
However, after another poor outing against Alabama in which he completed only seven of his 25 passes for 91 yards with two interceptions, it may be time for Bielema to rethink his strategy.
Junior A.J. Derby was solid starting in place of Allen against Rutgers, going 14-of-26 for 137 yards and a touchdown.
With Allen still looking less than 100 percent, it may be time to give Derby a chance to breathe life into what’s been a mostly dormant passing attack this season.
7. Third-Down Offense Improving
One of the biggest struggles for Alabama’s offense early in the season was converting on third-down opportunities.
For the third consecutive outing, the Tide appear to be regaining their confidence in keeping drives alive.
Alabama converted on five of its nine third-down attempts, including four of the five tries when the first-teamers were in the game.
If Alabama can continue to operate with efficiency on third down, the offense will continue to put up big numbers over the second half of the season.
6. Bielema Still Rebuilding
The writing was on the wall for Arkansas entering Saturday night’s game against the nation’s top-ranked team. After being demolished by South Carolina at home last weekend, no one realistically expected the Razorbacks to put up much of a fight against the two-time defending champs on the road.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is clearly still in the rebuilding stages of a program left in shambles in the aftermath of the Bobby Petrino saga.
The main objectives for Bielema moving forward is to get his team to continue to play with effort and display resolve over the second half of this season. Also, he has to continue to recruit aggressively and land impact players such as Collins in order to increase the Hogs' talent base to compete with teams such as Alabama in the future.
5. Tide's Defensive Line Answers the Bell
Buoyed by the running back duo of Collins and Jonathan Williams, Arkansas entered Saturday night’s contest averaging 216 yards rushing per game.
While Arkansas is the first team to rush for more than 100 yards against the Tide since Texas A&M, the Razorbacks’ 162 rushing yards—most of which came with the game well out of reach—is well below their season average.
The Tide’s defensive line, which has been boosted by the emergence of freshman A’Shawn Robinson, won the battle up front against a veteran Razorbacks offensive line.
The scary thought for the Tide’s opponents is that Chris Rumph’s unit is getting stronger with each week that passes.
4. The Return of Amari Cooper
Amari Cooper has looked like a shell of the player who took the nation by storm as a true freshman last season. In fairness, he's been hampered by a toe injury since fall camp.
Entering this game, Cooper had only 12 receptions for 164 yards and no touchdowns.
Against the Razorbacks, Cooper broke loose with three receptions for 65 yards and his first touchdown reception of the season.
Cooper’s emergence can only strengthen what appears to be an offense that is finding its groove.
3. Drake Continues to Shine
After sitting out the season opener against Virginia Tech due to suspension, the season outlook for running back Kenyan Drake looked to be bleak at best.
All he’s done since that point is score a touchdown in each of the Tide’s subsequent six games. His eight total touchdowns leads the Tide's loaded collection of skill players.
Against the Razorbacks, Drake carried eight times for 104 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the first half.
He appears to be running with a purpose, and he’s settled into becoming a potent threat who can effectively spell T.J. Yeldon.
2. Clinton-Dix Returns in Nick of Time
Alabama’s secondary has been a bit of a revolving door thanks to injuries and suspensions—with the latest mishap costing safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to sit out of the Tide’s past two games.
After an injury knocked out fellow safety and running mate Vinnie Sunseri, Clinton-Dix made his presence felt against the Razorbacks, getting a critical first-quarter interception and stifling the Razorbacks' first and best chance to score in the opening quarter.
While Alabama was able to easily defeat Georgia State and Kentucky without him, getting its best player in the secondary back is huge for the Tide’s defense moving forward.
1. Defense Getting Stronger by the Week
Alabama’s defense delivered another strong effort in its demolition of Arkansas that looked similar to last season’s win over the Razorbacks, all the way down to the identical 52-0 score.
After finally catching a break by facing a team that actually huddles, the Tide looked like some of the vintage outfits Saban has fielded in recent years.
Although the injury to Vinnie Sunseri may be of concern moving forward, Alabama is one of a few teams who can absorb a blow like that and still field an effective replacement.
On a day when the rest of the SEC fell victim to chaos, the Tide’s performance against the Razorbacks signaled that Saban’s club is still the clear-cut alpha male in the nation’s toughest conference.