While most fans in Alabama have completely disregarded the challenge the Razorbacks pose to the Crimson Tide, it will be much more of a chess match than they anticipate.
While most fans in Arkansas are still sweating bullets over a too-close-for-comfort win over Troy, the Razorbacks will be much more prepared to face Alabama than they could possibly hope for.
Neither coach wants to make this matchup about them over the teams, but that’s what it will come down to. Since being at Arkansas Bobby Petrino has yet to out-coach Nick Saban. But if there’s one guy who could do it, it’s Petrino. The offensive mastermind has been drawing up game plans and running through doomsday scenarios for almost a year to the day since losing a lead late last season in this same matchup. Saban and the Crimson Tide will be ready.
No one is better at reacting to in-game wrinkles than the Crimson Tide. What is most interesting is the Alabama offense’s slightly altered approach to the passing attack. Play action is what the Crimson Tide like to do most, but unlike in seasons past, AJ McCarron likes to spread the ball around to multiple receivers. Something that might actually be to their disadvantage. Alabama had nine separate receivers catch passes against North Texas. Lots of balance in the passing game is good. But it’s also something the Razorbacks are prepared for.
Alabama’s offense is a more run-heavy version of what Arkansas does offensively. The Razorback defense sees this offense everyday in practice for 4 straight years, and are ready to stop it. I can’t help but believe this was all by design.
Petrino’s approach to defensive recruiting and defensive coordinator Willy Robinson’s approach to scheming has been to stop run-heavy play action teams… or in layman’s terms: Alabama and LSU. Particularly Alabama.
As bland as Alabama is offensively and as many questions there are for Arkansas’ defensive secondary, I think both units will play very well. The key matchup in this game is Arkansas’ offense against Alabama’s defense. Both highly touted both considered elite with skill position players and linebackers respectively who are considered the best in the nation. Alabama will give up more yards on the ground than anyone is expecting. The lack of a large imposing figure in the middle of the line like Marcel Darius or Terrance Cody is going to play a huge part in that. The game will be won or lost on who wins the battle in the middle of the line, not who wins it outside the numbers. This is where the chess match will be won or lost between Petrino and Saban.
This is a clash of SEC titans. I’ll hedge here, because I absolutely love both teams and what they do. This game will come down to the wire. That’s what makes this matchup so great. If you’re expecting a blowout, don’t. This is as good as college football gets.