How Alabama's Close Game Against Arkansas Helps Them In Week 5

L.C. MayCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2010

FAYETTEVILLE - SEPTEMBER 25: Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide pushes away a tackle attempt by Tramain Thomas #5 of the Arkansas Razorbacks during a first half touchdown run at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Going into the fourth week, every player, coach, and fan knew that Ryan Mallet was one of the best quarterbacks in college football at the moment.

Every coach, player, and fan also knew that Nick Saban is one of the best defensive masterminds in the country. If you're an Alabama fan, the first half of Alabama vs Arkansas game last Saturday afternoon was a tough one. It was almost like Mallet was playing toss in the backyard with his receivers.

On the second play of the game Arkansas scored a touchdown. Alabama fan's worst thoughts had become reality.

"Good competitors respond," Nick Saban said following the game. Responding is exactly what the Alabama offense and defense did. Alabama's defense forced Mallet to throw three interceptions which helped Alabama recover from a 13-point deficit at halftime to win 24-20.

Now of course it was an exciting win, but an exciting win that had a lot of mistakes on both sides of the ball.

As hard as it is for me to say this, I am glad this game was close as it was. I am glad simply because it made Alabama realize that they can not go into every game thinking they are just going to dominate their opponent. That mindset is impossible to keep especially in the SEC.

Now first things first: Alabama needs to work on defense. They might have forced three interceptions, but they also gave up a whopping 357 passing yards. Coach Saban and Kirby Smart both know that giving up that many yards is just unacceptable.

Now this weeks game is going to have a lot of emotions behind it. Especially after Alabama beat Florida in the SEC championship to go on and win the national championship.

As of right now, people are underestimating Florida. Florida is missing Tim Tebow and they are making it obvious. In every game Florida has played they have struggled in the first half and had to make an impressive performance in the second to make it look like they completely dominated their opponent.

Going into Week 4, Florida was on upset alert against the speedy Wildcats. Getting upset was the last thing that would have happened against the Gators.

Alabama got lucky in Week 4 for many other reasons besides beating Arkansas.

They got lucky because Florida unveiled back up quarterback Trey Burton who broke the school record for most touchdowns scored in a game.

Yes it is true a backup quarterback broke a record that Tim Tebow does not already own. This is lucky for the Alabama coaching staff because that now gives them this week to come up with something creative for both John Brantley and Burton.

The spread offense is one of the toughest offenses to figure out to shut down especially if you are playing against the Florida Gators. Saban and Smart and the rest of the coaching staff are going to have to figure out how to shut down the Gator offense to prevent a close game.

On the offensive side of the ball, the game plan is simple. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson are going to have to have big games which should not be a problem. Greg McElroy can not throw any interceptions and also have a big game if they want to blow away the Gators.

As long as Alabama can get the run game going there will be plenty of points scored.

Now the question is how did having a close game with Arkansas help Alabama?

Before this game the players heard the same thing over and over. "You have the biggest target on your back", "You're the defending National Champions".

They players heard it, but with dominating performances against San Jose State, Penn State, and Duke the words started to wear off. Having this close of a game against the Razorbacks helped revive the words and show that Alabama is not unstoppable. Winning is everything, but as any fan or player will tell you it is a whole lot better than losing.

Since the era of Saban began at Alabama, the word lose is not in Alabama fan's vocabulary. If Alabama wants to be the first BCS team to win back-to-back BCS titles then they are going to have to play each and every game with every bit of heart they have in them.

It is easier said than done, but despite it being harder to perform, can they do it? That is something that only the players of the Crimson Tide can decide.