Alabama vs Arkansas, Week Four: Don't Be Surprised If...
As the hype begins surrounding the Alabama-Arkansas showdown (See? Even the use of the word 'showdown' is hype!), let's take a look at some things that may surprise some viewers and even some 'Bama fans as the game unfolds this coming week in Fayetteville.
This week marks the beginning of a tough three week stretch of top-ranked opponents for the Crimson Tide. After Arkansas, 'Bama faces Florida at home and then South Carolina at the Ol' Ball Coach's place.
While the Penn State game showed what the team can do against better competition, that game was still bookended by relatively easy games.
For 'Bama, the season begins this week.
Meanwhile, Ryan Mallet and his Hogs are primed for a stellar year. They can begin to make their dream a reality with a win against 'Bama.
But don't be surprised Saturday if...
Alabama Records Several Sacks Against Mallett
Some in the Tide Nation have been wondering where the pass rush has been through the first three games.
It's been there. It accounted for most of the interceptions in the Penn State game and several hurries in the SJSU and Duke games.
But sacks have not been forthcoming thus far this season. Alabama ranks near the bottom of the FBS in sacks, having recorded only 3.
All that will change this coming Saturday.
Does anyone else suspect coaches Saban and Smart have been holding back and have been waiting for a time when they can Unleash the Hounds?
Expect it this week.
As we said last week with Duke regarding big plays, one cannot expect this much talent to be held in check this long. Look for Marcel Dareus, et al, to record multiple sacks and help push Mallett's Heisman hopes into the distance.
Petrino Pulls Out His Bag O' Tricks
This game represents the biggest opportunity for Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino to get that signature win.
Since this team may represent Petrino's best chance at knocking off the best team in the land, look for him to reach deep in his playbook to try to score against the Crimson Tide.
Arkansas fans might not think they need to do that since they feel they have the best quarterback since, well, ever. Why resort to tricks when Mallett himself can lead the Hogs to the Promised Land?
Because Petrino knows, as most serious students of the game know, that Alabama's defense, athletes, and its schemes will be too much for Arkansas to simply line up and try to beat 'Bama by running a regular offense.
So, look for flea-flickers, double passes, end arounds, and who knows what else.
And don't be surprised if they throw the kitchen sink at the Tide.
We'll See Plenty of Freshmen Kickers
Alabama's Cade Foster (see photo) has lived up to his high school hype; the freshman from Texas has hit four of five field goal attempts on the season (his only miss a 44 yarder against Penn State). Two of his successful field goals were from beyond forty yards.
On the Razorbacks side, freshman Zach Hocker has knocked through two field goals on the young season, including a 48 yarder against Georgia last week. Hocker won the starting job from senior Alex Tejada, who has moved his strong but sometimes inaccurate leg to kickoff duties.
'Bama's defense showed a bend-but-don't-break streak against Penn State that will be tested against Arkansas if the Hogs get inside the Red Zone; to date, Arkansas is a perfect 10-10 in scoring inside the red zone, with 9 of those 10 going for touchdowns.
We don't see Mallett being perfect against the toughest defense he's faced to date, so look for Hocker to be called upon to put points on the board when the Hogs' offense gets bogged down in 'Bama territory.
That said, we think Foster will get a chance to show off his field goal prowess as well in Fayetteville.
Pundits Talk More About McElroy (When All is Said and Done)
Most Heisman voters will probably tune in to Saturday's game, even for a bit, to get their impressions of Ryan Mallett's success (or lack thereof) against a great defense.
What they may see is another quarterback outshining Mallett and simply doing what he's done for a year and a half on the collegiate level.
Just win, baby.
Think of it this way: Greg McElroy comes up big in big games.
Remember his performances against the last two stellar quarterbacks he's faced? Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy certainly do. Against Tebow, he outright outplayed the Gator, right down to his eyeblack.
And against McCoy, all he did was win the national championship.
Let's not forget what he did against Auburn last year during The Drive.
Yep, we can't think of another quarterback we'd rather have under center in a big game.
By the way, can you name the team against which McElroy has had his biggest passing game as a collegian to date? Here's a hint: They boast a Heisman candidate at quarterback and wear red.
Greg threw for 291 against the Hogs last year; he went 9 for 9 for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the second half alone, completing his last ten in a row.
While he'll probably not repeat those kinds of numbers, McElroy will walk out of Fayetteville with a smile and a win.
The Game Gets Closer in the Fourth Quarter
Think about the Georgia game a couple of years ago--two years ago this week, to be exact.
Remember? The Blackout Game?
Georgia came into that game as the flavor of the moment, ranked #3 nationally, and walked out of the stadium a loser and, really, began the slide that seems to be continuing even now.
Alabama raced out to a commanding 31 point half time lead and won 41-30.
Georgia mounted a furious second half comeback, but it was too little, too late.
We feel the same type of game will be played in Fayetteville this coming Saturday.
Our argument for this begins with a similar scenario going in; Arkansas, like Georgia, feels that it will beat Alabama. For starters, that's a dangerous feeling. Ask last year's Florida team.
Secondly, like Georgia, Arkansas simply has yet this year to face a team as complete, as athletic, and as dominant as Alabama in all phases of the game. That fact will stun the Hogs into a stupor. And woe be the team that 'stupors' against the Tide.
Georgia's offense this year is woeful, and it still managed to put 14 points on the board in the fourth quarter against the Razorbacks' starters last week. Imagine what the Tide offense will do.
But Mallett has talent and has excellent, tall, fast receivers. The Razorbacks can score. But not until 'Bama posts a solid lead.
Oh, Mallet and company will recover from the shock of the Tide's power and speed and execution, but it will be, like the Blackout Game, too little, too late.