No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 3-0 ATS) at No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0, 1-1 ATS), Week 4 College Football, Saturday September 25th, 3:30PM Eastern Razorback Stadium Fayetteville, AR
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Bama -7/Ark +7
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide put the nation’s longest winning streak on the line this weekend when they travel to Fayetteville to battle with the highly ranked no. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks. Alabama just flat destroyed the Duke Blue Devils last week scoring at will in route to a 62-13 victory. The highlight from that massacre was the return of last year’s Heisman Trophy Winner in Mark Ingram. Ingram missed the first two games of the season while healing a knee that underwent arthroscopic surgery before the season began.
Don’t worry though, the injury has definitely nothing that would slow the former Heisman winner down. Ingram took the very first handoff for 48 yards and then broke open another 50 yard run later in the first quarter. Ingram went on to break the century mark in the first 7 minutes of the ball game. Ingram rushed for over 150 yards in just a few carries and Crimson Tide offense racked up a lucrative 626 yards of total offense. Alabama is not exactly known for putting up those huge numbers on offense, but normally rather sticking to power football and relying on their defense to keep them close to the end zone when drives stall. However, the Crimson Tide proved they can move the ball quickly as well which could be bad news for the rest of the nation considering the how good the defense is down in Tuscaloosa.
However even with Alabama’s impressive victory, they have yet to be tested this season. Sure the Crimson Tide thumped a highly ranked Penn State team just two weeks ago 24-3, but the Nittany Lions style of football played right into the hands of the Crimson Tide. This week though it could be much different when the Razorbacks showcase their flashy offense to the nation. The Razorbacks come in fresh off a big victory on the road over the Georgia Bulldogs last week 31-24. Georgia who was beat the week before by South Carolina put up a valiant effort against Arkansas in effort to keep them selves in the midst of the SEC East race. The Bulldogs rallied back from two touchdowns to tie the game. However, QB Ryan Mallett hooked up with WR Greg Childs for a 40 yard bomb to put the nail in the coffin with just 14 seconds to go in the game.
Mallett ended the day completing 21 of 33 passing for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mallett has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the first 3 games this season and the clutch touchdown pass against the Bulldogs just proved why he is a top many Heisman Trophy ballots thus far in the year. While Mallett is a fantastic quarterback, I really do not believe his wide receiving group gets enough credit. WR Greg Childs is a big play machine and leads the team with 19 receptions on the season for 3 touchdowns. Also, wide out Joe Adams has posted a lucrative 20 plus yards per reception in each of the first 3 games and also leads the team with 344 total receiving yards. As you can see from the stats, the Razorbacks can move the football against any defense through the air. Alabama has a good power defense, but the Razorbacks really spread the ball out and that could keep even Alabama’s defense on their heels if they can make some plays this Saturday.
Speaking of the Crimson Tide defense, they have been every bit as advertised so far this season. The defense was perhaps the strength of last year’s National Title campaign and the Crimson Tide defense has held opponents to just 253 yards per game thus far in the season. Actually Alabama’s defense did not give up their first touchdown on the season until the 3rd quarter, after holding prior opponents scoreless for 10 straight quarters. The main focus for the ferocious defense will of course be getting pressure on Mallett. Mallett is a quarterback that can tear apart the best of pass defenses and his talented targets at the wide receiver position just make Arkansas even more dangerous. However if Alabama can get in the backfield quickly, they should be able to prevent many big plays that the Razorbacks often produce.
The Alabama offense will of course probably see a full dose of Mark Ingram this week after letting him get his feet wet for the first time in the win against Duke. I really think Alabama will come out and try to just run over the Razorbacks defense. Not only does that help them keep the Arkansas offense off the field, but the Razorbacks have been a bit soft up the middle against the run. Therefore, I believe Alabama will run the ball early and often. QB Greg McElroy is a proven veteran that understands how to manage a game and can make the throws when his number is called. So far, McElroy has been very effective completing 70% of his passes for 705 yards, 6 touchdowns, and just 1 pick in his first 3 games. Also, keep an eye on WR Julio Jones. He is perhaps one of the most under rated wide receivers in the SEC but he is a big time playmaker to keep your eye on if Arkansas gets out front and the Crimson Tide have to play “catch up.”
While Alabama will try to run the football, Arkansas will stick to their game plan and try to spread the ball around. Now if you have watched Arkansas in recent weeks, the offensive line protects their star quarterback well. However, I just do not see Mallett having that much time to throw the ball in this game as he had the last few weeks. Now that is not saying the Razorbacks offense can not have success, but I think the passing game will have to make a lot of short passes to setup the big play. If the Razorbacks can just stay patient and eat up the corners underneath, I believe that frustration could lead to some big plays later in the game. It’s all about whether the Alabama defensive front sets the tone early, or if the Razorbacks offense can keep the Alabama secondary on their heels. I believe whom ever gets off to a good start should be able to keep it going throughout the ball game.
Jay’s pick to cover the point spread: I really think that Alabama’s defensive front will frustrate the Heisman hopeful here. I expect a back and forth game with the Crimson Tide pulling away in the second half when both offensive and defensive lines start controlling the game in the trenches. Smaller play here fearing a backdoor cover, but I’m still going with Alabama and the points. Good luck.
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