SEC Game Of The Week: Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks

Brandon HamblenAnalyst ISeptember 21, 2010

Mallett loads up the gun
Mallett loads up the gunChris Graythen/Getty Images

SEC Game of the Week, Week 4: Alabama at Arkansas

Nick Saban leads the No. 1 Crimson Tide into Fayetteville, Arkansas for a key SEC West matchup against Coach Bobby Petrino’s No. 10 Razorbacks.

Both teams enter the game at 3-0, and Arkansas has already scored an early conference win against Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Alabama holds a 13-7 advantage in the series all-time, but the series is much closer in Fayetteville, with Alabama only holding a 5-4 edge. The line opens with Alabama minus-7.

There has been a lot of buzz about this game because it will feature Arkansas’s vaunted passing attack lead by quarterback Ryan Mallett and receivers Greg Childs and Joe Adams against Alabama’s largely untested, yet highly athletic secondary, lead by All-SEC safety Mark Barron.

When Arkansas Has the Ball

Ryan Mallett has thrown his name into the Heisman race with a huge day in Athens, throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 190.37.

This was also Mallett’s first SEC road win.

Personally, I was not a believer until I saw Mallett, who leads the No. 26 offense in the country, get the job done in the fourth quarter on the road. I certainly had to eat a little crow, but that never bothered me. On the other end of Mallett’s passes are a great group of receivers, lead by Juniors Greg Childs and Joe Adams.

Childs is tied with South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery for the most receptions in the SEC with 19, while Adams is first in the conference with 344 yards.

Senior tight end DJ Williams has also chipped in with 14 catches (No. 5 in the SEC) for 173 yards so far.

Unfortunately for Arkansas, they have not been able to get their running game on track just yet. The Hogs, once known for their powerful running game are averaging only 4.24 yards per carry and have only rushed for 384 yards in three games.

Georgia limited Arkansas to 53 yards on 23 attempts for an average of 2.3 per attempt.

If the Razorbacks hope to upset the No. 1 team in the country, that will not get the job done, especially against a Nick Saban coached defense. The Hogs need 6’2”, 248-pound bowling ball Broderick Green to step-up and take the heat off of Ryan Mallett.

Alabama’s defense comes into this game with the No. 2 scoring defense in the country, allowing just 6.3 points per game. Alabama’s run defense ranks No. 42 in the country, allowing 120.7 yards per game, while the pass defense ranks No. 11 allowing 132.7 yards per game, and Bama ranks No. 9 in total defense after three games.

Coach Nick Saban was not pleased with Alabama’s first half performance last Saturday at Duke.

He lashed out at his defense for not playing to “standard” after allowing over 200 total yards and 13 points, the starters all started the second half, before turning the game over to the second and third string players.

Duke gained less than 100 yards total offense in the second half and did not score again.

When Alabama Has the Ball

Alabama boasts the most diverse and balanced offense in the country. How many teams can go five-wide or line up with three tight ends and feel just as comfortable?

They are a defensive coordinators nightmare because they can punch a team in the mouth with the best running back combo in the country, or they can spread a defense out, leaving Julio Jones, Marquise Maze, or Darius Hanks in one-on-one situations.

All of those playmakers are useless without quarterback Greg McElroy, who has developed from a “just don’t lose the game, kid” QB into the undisputed leader of this offense, which averages 44.7 points per game (No. 9). Alabama is averaging 250.7 yards rushing per game (No. 13 in the country) and 291.3 passing yards per game (No. 17). The offense ranks No. 4 overall with 542 yards per game.

Reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram showed no ill effects from his arthroscopic surgery, rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries in his season debut at Duke.

Arkansas’s defense was thought to be a major stumbling block for the Razorbacks in 2010, but to the contrary, the defense has been solid so far. The Hogs are only surrendering 11.3 points per game so far, ranking them No. 5 in the country.

The rush defense has been stout, surrendering just 111.3 yards per game (No. 37) and only 2.8 yards per carry. The Razorbacks have been even better against the pass, ranking No. 19 with 144.3 yards per game. Overall, Arkansas is ranked No. 10 in total defense (255.7 ypg).

 How I See It 

Expect Arkansas to come out blazing in this game and jump out to an early lead.

After Alabama settles in, they will take over the game with their punishing running game to keep Ryan Mallett and the high-flying Razorback offense on the sidelines.

Do not be surprised to see both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson rush for 100-plus yards in Fayetteville. This will effectively take the crowd out of the game and allow Greg McElroy to open the game up with play-action passes to Julio Jones and company. Arkansas will not go down without a fight like last season’s 35-7 arse-whuppin’ in Tuscaloosa.

I expect Arkansas to come out of the halftime break, again feeding off of the Fayetteville crowd, but in the end, Alabama is Alabama. I do not know how else to put it.

The Tide Roll in this game, 35-17.

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