The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide travel to Fayetteville this Saturday to face off against coach Bret Bielema and the No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks. The Tide have won 16 straight games dating back to last year, the longest streak in the nation.
An analysis by the numbers shows that Arkansas does not stand much of a chance. Not only have they lost the last nine games against Alabama, they are also 14-point underdogs this Saturday.
“Their (Alabama) coaches, their players, everybody is really good,” said Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, “Everybody that flies over here is one of the best in the business, but that presents a tremendous opportunity for us.”
If the Hogs are to have any success against Alabama, they must have balance on the offensive side of the football. That includes a heavy dose of sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams III. Williams is second in the conference in rushing yards and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
The match-up of Williams III against Alabama’s front seven could be the most important match-up of the game. The defensive line for the Tide is potentially the best in Nick Saban’s time in Tuscaloosa, with NFL prospects Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen and Da’Shawn Hand.
Unfortunately for Arkansas, they could be missing one of their key pieces on the offensive line. Junior guard/center Frank Ragnow has been away from the team for the week following the loss of his father to a heart attack last Saturday. Ragnow started all 13 games at right guard last season and was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list this preseason.
Bielema announced in his press conference that Ragnow expressed a desire to return to Fayetteville in time to play, but added that all plans are tentative.
The loss of Ragnow puts more pressure on junior quarterback Austin Allen to play the best game of his career. Allen has shown a lot of grit so far this season, accounting for 13 total touchdowns − including the game winner versus TCU in week two.
His opposition, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, will challenge Arkansas’ defensive line that has struggled covering dual-threat quarterbacks. Arkansas’ secondary is also their weakest unit. So look for Hurts to not only challenge the Razorbacks with his legs, but for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to dial up several deep play calls to superstar pass catchers Calvin Ridley and OJ Howard.
This game has been close the past two years. Although the Crimson Tide won last year by 13, the score did not accurately reflect how much of a dog fight the game was. Expect Arkansas to bounce back from their second half struggles last week against Texas A&M. That, coupled with the emotion of playing for Frank Ragnow and his family, leads me to believe Arkansas will come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. However, Alabama is just too talented and too deep on both sides of the ball. Arkansas will cover the spread, but fall just short 31-23.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Great Degree