No. 14 Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) at No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS), Saturday September 24th, 2011. 3:30PM EST, College Football Week 4, Bryant Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, AL
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Ark +12.5/Bama -12.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
The no. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide will welcome the no. 14 Arkansas Razorbacks to Bryant Denny Stadium this Saturday in a colossal SEC West showdown. This will undoubtedly be the biggest SEC pairing of the season between two teams with SEC Championship hopes on the line. The majority of the nation appears to believe that both Alabama and LSU are in a two horse race for the SEC West crown. However, many people are looking past the Arkansas Razorbacks who have played as well as any team in the entire SEC through the first few weeks of the season and will be looking to make a huge statement on the road in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
In fact, on paper the Razorbacks have one of the best teams in the country on both sides of the football. Arkansas sports the 8th best scoring offense in America averaging 48 points per game and also houses the 18th best scoring defense in America holding opponents to 12.6 points per game. The Arkansas defensive front has been extremely solid holding opponents to just 86 yards per game rushing. The Razorbacks will need to have an outstanding effort from their front 7 this Saturday as they battle one of the best power rushing teams in the country by way of Alabama.
The Crimson Tide rushing offense currently ranks 15 in the NCAA averaging 242 yards per game. Coach Nick Saban has relied heavily on the rushing attack backed by a strong defense while young QB A.J. McCarron becomes more experienced behind center. Luckily for the Crimson Tide, their quarterbacks do not need to post daunting numbers but just rather manage the game and avoid mistakes for Alabama to strive. McCarron is developing into a guy that can do just that. McCarron threw two picks in the season opener, but has since completed over 65% passing for 353 yards with 1 touchdown and 0 picks in the last two games. If McCarron can just avoid the mistakes, the rest of the Alabama offense can get the job done.
Running back Trent Richardson currently leads the team with 50 carries for 315 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. Richardson was expected to be the focus of the ground attack this season and he has not disappointed averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Additionally, sophomore running back Eddie Lacy has been a bit of a surprise playmaker in the backfield as well. Lacy has rushed for 304 yards on nearly half the carries compared to Richardson and is currently averaging over 10 yards per carry. Lacy rushed for 161 yards in last week’s blowout win over North Texas and he has earned the right to get more touches going forward to possibly make some more big plays off the bench.
One of the big reasons that Alabama has been so strong running the football is because of a tremendous offensive line. Normally the offensive line does not get a lot of credit in the running game, but the Alabama offensive line deserves some credit. The Crimson Tide offensive front averages 312 pounds of muscle and as a unit they can completely dominate games. Therefore as stated before, the Arkansas front 7 will have to play very well to prevent Alabama from dominating the game upfront.
On the other side of the football, I have claimed since the start of the season that Alabama has the best defense in the entire country. Currently the Crimson Tide rank 4th against the run (55ypg), 3rd in total defense (170ypg), and 2nd in scoring defenses giving up a mere 6 points per game. Those numbers are near frightening for opposing offensive coordinators. However, do not expect this Arkansas offense to back down from the challenge. The Razorbacks have the firepower to not only post big numbers, but strike very quickly. QB Tyler Wilson has been solid completing 69% passing for 822 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 picks.
Wilson has lived up to the expectations thanks to one of the best receiving groups in the entire nation. Both Joe Adams and Jarius Wright are proven playmakers on the outside. Both Adams and Wright have more than 10 catches for just less than 200 yards on the season. Perhaps the bigger surprise has been the play of junior WR Cobi Hamilton. Hamilton currently leads the team with 252 receiving yards and is averaging right at 20 yards per catch. If the Arkansas offensive line can protect Wilson and provide time to throw, this Razorbacks receiving group has the talent to give the Alabama secondary a very difficult match-up.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread – Razorbacks +12.5.
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