Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Complete Game Preview

Marc Torrence@marctorrenceAlabama Lead WriterOctober 6, 2014

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Complete Game Preview

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    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s attempt to get back on top of the college football world will begin in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

    The Crimson Tide are on the road for the second straight week to face the Arkansas Razorbacks a week after losing their first game of the season 23-17 to Ole Miss.

    This week is more of a return to old-school, smashmouth football, as Arkansas has bucked the trend of wide-open, hurry-up offense in the SEC and instead prefers a mauling, physical rushing attack to wear teams out.

    Arkansas is No. 1 in the SEC and the country in rushing touchdowns and first and sixth in rushing yards.

    The Razorbacks are looking for their first SEC win in two years, and Alabama wants to bounce back after slipping up last week.

    Here’s everything you need to know:

    Date: Saturday, October 11

    Time: 5:00 p.m. CT

    Place: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

    TV: ESPN

    Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, IMG Razorback Sports Network

    Spread: Alabama by 9.5 to 10, according to OddsShark.com.

Alabama Keys to Victory

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stop the Run

    This one seems obvious, but it’s what Arkansas does best on offense. And it’s something Alabama hasn’t had to do much of this season in the traditional sense. The Crimson Tide will be playing in a lot more base defense instead of nickel and dime to stop spread attacks. Getting back into that mindset is a critical point in this game.

    Get Sims Back in a Rhythm

    Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had his lowest passing efficiency (116.62) and completion percentage (61.3) of the season against Ole Miss. It wasn’t terrible, but it was a far cry from his explosive performances before that game. With running back Kenyan Drake out, more of the burden will fall on the passing game to move the ball.

Arkansas Keys to Victory

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Hit the Play Action

    The good news is that Arkansas’ run game is finally getting to where it wants to be under head coach Bret Bielema. The bad news is that stopping the run is something Alabama does best. Its weakness is in the secondary. So the Razorbacks will need to take advantage when they can through the air.

    Force Turnovers

    Florida hung around and Ole Miss beat Alabama because the Crimson Tide gave the ball away in critical moments. Last weekend it was a fumbled kick return and an interception on their last offensive drive that sealed the game for the Rebels. Arkansas needs to force more turnovers to have a chance to win.

Alabama Players to Watch

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Brandon Ivory

    Alabama’s 6’4”, 304-pound nose tackle doesn’t get consistent opportunities against spread and uptempo teams. But Brandon Ivory will be an anchor in the middle of the defensive line this week against a physical rushing attack.

    Derrick Henry

    Running back Derrick Henry should get a bigger cut of the carries with Drake gone. He’s had his ups and downs this year (Henry averaged 2.2 yards per carry against Ole Miss and 5.6 against Florida) but should have more opportunities going forward.

Arkansas Players to Watch

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams

    Arkansas’ running backs are second and fifth in the country in rushing yards per game (Collins with 124.2 and Williams at 97.2). The duo powers the Razorbacks' rushing attack and is the main reason for its success. The Razorbacks face a stiff test against Alabama’s front seven.

    Martrell Spaight

    Linebacker Martrell Spaight leads Arkansas in tackles this year with 43 and has added an interception so far. He’ll key a defense that is facing the SEC’s second-best offense in yards per game.

What They're Saying

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    Alabama

    Head coach Nick Sabanon Arkansas’ improvement:

    Arkansas is really probably the most improved team in the country in terms of if you want to compare from last year to this year. They've really played very, very well all season long, had a great chance to beat A&M, came up a little short in the end. Then dominating in terms of the way they've been able to run the football, and really pass it effectively when they've needed to. Their quarterback's playing really well for them. They have two really, really good running backs. Their offensive line is not only big they do a really, really good job of executing what they do. They've only given up one sack all year long.

    Linebacker Reggie Ragland on facing Arkansas:

    They run the ball, so we’ve got to strap it up and be ready to play physical football. That’s why we came here, to play physical football and Arkansas is that.

    Arkansas

    Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on facing Alabama, per Robbie Neiswanger of Arkansas News:

    Alabama is a really fine football team,” Chaney said. “Any time you prepare for those guys, they don’t have fleas. They really don’t have a lot of them. When you try to find weaknesses to attack it’s tough. It’s a challenge to go get those guys.

    Quarterback Brandon Allen talked about the value in watching Alabama’s game on Saturday in real time, per Neiswanger:

    Obviously you can rewind and see more things with watching game film,” Allen said. “But seeing the flow of a game and how they’re playing certain things, maybe you can notice if they’re getting tired more here. It’s hard to tell on game film. But you can see how they start a game and how they’re finishing a game.

Prediction

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama 35, Arkansas 7

    Alabama will come back hungry and motivated after its first loss of the season. It will limit the Razorbacks’ running game for the most part, but Arkansas will still hit a big play. On offense, the Crimson Tide will look more like the team they did the first four games of the season, moving the ball well and putting up more than one offensive touchdown. 

    Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

    Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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