Alabama enters another game as a nearly four touchdown favorite. And this week’s scheduled rout smells like barbecue. That must mean the opponent is Arkansas.
This year’s tilt with Arkansas has nowhere near the intensity of year’s past. I guess that’s what a predicted four touchdown rout will do to things. Arkansas cratered last year under temporary coach John L. Smith and new Hog coach Bret Bielema is attempting to build a new foundation for the program.
The game also has a slightly different flavor because it now sits at a different spot on the calendar. The previous 21 games in this series were played in mid to late September and was often the first conference game of the season for the Tide. That also meant for many of the last 21 seasons, Alabama usually found out what type of team they had for that year when they played the Hogs.
Not this year, though. The Tide has already played and beaten three teams that were ranked at the time of their match up and because the Hogs stink so bad, this year’s game should be nothing more than one more tune up for LSU.
Boy, that feels good to type. So much so, I think I’ll type it again. This years Arkansas team is just another warm up for LSU.
So, given another supposed tune up, what should we look for this week? Here are a couple of things:
1) I’d like to see the Tide’s front seven defenders shut down the Arkansas running game. If there’s a strength on this Hog team, it’s their running game led by true freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams. The Razorbacks are fifth in the SEC in rushing with Collins running for 102.86 yards per game (third in the league). If you’re using this game as a warm up for the Tigers, shutting down a potent running attack is a good place to start.
2) I’d like to see the offensive line continue to mesh and play well. If there’s one huge question mark on the Tide team – again, heading into LSU, it’s the offensive line. Chad Lindsey is filling-in well at center and right tackle continues to see a platoon of Austin Shepherd and Grant Hill. The OL has taken longer than I expected to settle down this year, so I’d like to see another good effort from this group.
3) I’d like to see T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake hold onto the football. Yeah, yeah. I know we shouldn’t talk about the fumbling too much so we don’t start messing with these guys’ minds, but the truth is, they are fumbling way to much for our liking. I’d like to see a turnover free game from these two.
4) I’d like to see more of Amari Cooper. ‘Bama has a deep stack of talented receivers. But Cooper is different talent-wise than most of the rest. Cooper won’t likely be needed to beat the Hogs by himself, but it would be good to see him have a big game and come out of it no worse injury-wise.
5) I’d like to see the young secondary play well. I’m not sure if reinstated safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will play much or not and, for the record, I’m not sure he’s even needed for the game. But the defensive backfield – though it’s very talented – is still somewhat of a work in process. I’d like to see them come out of this game with more experience and no more blemishes – like last week’s blown coverage that gave up a shut out.
That’s what I’d like to see. What about you?