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at Alabama 38 … Arkansas 14

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 24, 2011


Week 4 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Arkansas at Alabama


2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 4 - Arkansas at Alabama

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Sept. 24 at Alabama 38 … Arkansas 14
CFN Analysis: Alabama pitched the nearly perfect game. It was a fight for a quarter, and then everything started to work with the defense stuffing the Arkansas running game, DeQuan Menzie and the return game coming up with a score, and the offense starting to click just enough to force the Hogs to press. AJ McCarren did his part, helped by a nice performance from the offensive line keeping him clean, completing 15-of-20 passes for 200 yards and two scores. Trent Richardson got going with 126 yards on 17 carries, gouging the Hog defensive front time and again. On the other side, Bama held the Hogs to 17 rushing yards, while Dre Kirkpatrick had a whale of a game with six tackles, a tackle for loss, and three broken up passes. This was just the next step, though, with a trip to Florida up next.

The Hogs just didn’t have the offense. Tyler Wilson had to keep throwing after the running game was getting stuffed and Bama had a lead, and then everything fell apart. The Tide will kill one dimensional teams, and this week, that was Arkansas. The defensive line didn’t get too much pressure into the backfield, but it did enough to bother the tempo and the rhythm of a Hog offense that managed to convert just 4-of-15 third down chances and had no groove in the second half. Next week, will be more to Arkansas’ liking, getting to bomb away against Texas A&M.

(AP) TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 3 Alabama turned the showdown with the Southeastern Conference's No. 1 offense into a showcase for the top defense. And the Crimson Tide's special teams.

Trent Richardson, too, of course.

Richardson rushed for 120 yards and caught a 61-yard touchdown pass and the Tide defense pretty much unplugged No. 14 Arkansas' normally high-powered passing game in a 38-14 win on Saturday.

The Tide (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) scored on special teams, defense and using the old-fashioned power run to emphatically win a game that the Razorbacks (3-1, 0-1) hoped would stamp them as legitimate contenders in the SEC.

Instead, the league's top defense thoroughly overpowered Tyler Wilson and the No. 1 offense.

"Well, we set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC," Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "So we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning."

The result looked a lot like the Tide's 2009 national championship defense. Alabama had 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions, six pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. The downside: Linebacker C.J. Mosley sustained an elbow injury, and Saban said he is questionable for next weekend's game at No. 15 Florida.

Tide quarterback AJ McCarron also came up big in his first SEC start. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

Marquis Maze scored on an 83-yard punt return and DeQuan Menzie returned an interception 25 yards for another score. McCarron, also the holder, hooked up with tight end Michael Williams for a 37-yard touchdown on a fake field goal.

There was also a clear winner in the showdown between Bobby Petrino's passing game and Saban's defense.

The Razorbacks came in averaging 47 points and 517 yards a game against questionable competition, but didn't muster many threats this time.

They managed just 17 yards on 19 rushes and were outgained 397-226.

Wilson sat out most of the fourth quarter after completing 22 of 35 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns under near-constant pressure. Alabama defenders seemed to sniff out every screen and swing pass to his dangerous receivers for little or no gain. Ronnie Wingo, who rushed for 109 yards against Troy, gained 14 yards on nine carries.

"They beat us in all three phases of the game," Petrino said. "In the first half, I thought our defense did a great job of keeping us in the game with the goal-line stand. That gave us a chance to come out in the second half and do something offensively but we just couldn't do it. They made big plays and we didn't."

Richardson had his third straight 100-yard game and also caught three passes for 85 yards, including the screen that went the distance. Backfield mate Eddie Lacy ran for 61 yards and punctuated the win with a 4-yard touchdown late in the third for the final points. It was the first rushing score allowed by Arkansas this season.

The Tide found plenty of flashier paths to the end zone, though. The result was a 17-7 halftime lead that was never threatened by the Razorbacks.

First, Alabama lined up for a 54-yard field goal on fourth-and-4 before McCarron shifted back and took the snap. He rolled left and lofted the ball to a wide-open Williams on the Tide's opening drive. It set the tone nicely for a game when just about everything seemed to go right for Alabama even though Arkansas tied it by the end of the first quarter.

Williams said the Tide had been practicing the play for about two years.

"We've been practicing it for a long time but I just finally said today the first time we got in field goal range, whether we were ahead 21 or behind 21, we were going to run it," Saban said.

The Arkansas defense salvaged some momentum in the second at the end of a 15-play drive, stuffing three straight runs from the goal line to force a field goal.

"We pinned our ears back and got after them," Arkansas linebacker Alonzo Highsmith said. "For a defense, that's the best thing in the world. At that point, we had the momentum and were feeling good about ourselves."

It proved a small and temporary victory.

Three plays later, Wilson's errant pass hit Menzie on his right forearm and bounced right back into the cornerback's arms for a 25-yard interception return to push the lead to double digits.

"We knew they were going to try to take a chance to get momentum back," Menzie said. "I just got in my zone and I saw the ball. They'd been on me all day because I dropped (an earlier chance) so I had to go make the play on the second one."

Maze squirted out of a couple of tackles on a punt return en route to an 83-yard punt return in the third.

McCarron then barely cleared a defensive lineman on a swing pass to Richardson, who sprinted to the end zone to make it 31-7.

Despite heavy pressure, Wilson responded quickly with a 39-yarder down the left sideline to Wingo and a 19-yarder to Cobi Hamilton in the back of the end zone. He was pounded an instant after making both throws.

"We've got to run the ball better and to throw it around better," Wilson said. "They brought a lot of pressure, and we've got to handle it better.

"They're a great football team."

Arkansas (3-0) at Alabama (3-0) Sept. 24, 3:30, CBS

Here’s The Deal … Last year, down 20-7 late in the third, Alabama scored 17 unanswered points in the final 15:44 with Mark Ingram turning in one of his best performances of the year before defense shut the door in the final moments. It was the big chance for Arkansas to announce it had arrived, and it didn’t take it.

The Hogs have been close, but they haven’t been quite able to get over the hump against the Tide losing five of the last six in the series. This year, without QB Ryan Mallett and RB Knile Davis, they have to show that the production can keep on rolling, and it’s time to show that they have the staying power to be every bit the SEC West player that LSU, Bama, and Auburn are.

Of course, Arkansas proved last year that it has the talent and ability to become a powerhouse, going to the Sugar Bowl while Alabama ended up in the Capital One, but a win over a top three team on the road would turn a corner for Bobby Petrino’s program. Beating LSU last year was big, but the losses to Alabama and Auburn in the first half of the season took the national title dream out of the equation. Beating the Tide this year will kickstart the season into something special while proving the Hogs have reloading power.

Alabama is also trying to retool and reload, and while the defense is already there, not having Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Greg McElroy, and James Carpenter has been a problem for an offense that’s been fine, but nothing special. The Tide might be 21st in the nation in total yards and 24th in scoring, but playing Kent State and North Texas has had a lot to do with that and the production has been inconsistent. Beating Penn State on the road was nice, but it wasn’t exactly an awe-inspiring performance and the offense didn’t have to stretch its legs. This week against the Hogs and next week on the road against Florida will show just how national title-worthy the Tide really is, and while no one doubts that this is a great team, now it gets to show whether or not it’s special.

After this, Arkansas plays Texas A&M in Dallas, but until the regular season finale at LSU, the only two road games are at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. This is it. A win would almost certainly put Arkansas in the top three and deep in the discussion for the BCS Championship, while an impressive performance by the Tide could bring more No. 1 votes.

Why Arkansas Might Win: The Alabama running game hasn’t really been working so far. The offensive line has been decent, but not great allowing six sacks while being merely decent for the ground game. Cranking out 347 yards and five touchdowns against North Texas skewed the overall stats a bit; the line isn’t getting enough of a push and the offense is relying too much on the home run hitting ability of Eddie Lacy. Arkansas hasn’t played anyone who can run the ball, but it has yet to allow a rushing score while giving up just 263 yards so far. The defensive front, even with a banged up Jake Bequette having problems with a hamstring injury, is one of the team’s major positives and it should hold up against a Tide ground game that has to establish itself early.

Alabama’s passing attack still hasn’t clicked, and if this gets into any sort of a shootout, the offense might not be equipped to bomb away. Tide quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims have thrown just two touchdown passes so far, and while they connected on their short-to-midrange throws against North Texas, that was North Texas. The Hogs will sell out to stop the run and dare McCarron to make something happen deep, which might not work because … Why Arkansas Might Win: … the Hog corners are a bit shaky. Even in garbage time blowout mode, if New Mexico is throwing for 202 yards, there’s a problem. Troy’s Corey Robinson is a good Sun Belt passer, and Arkansas let down a bit last week as the Trojans put it up 63 times in a comeback attempt, but allowing 373 yards and three scores isn’t a positive considering the secondary, while experienced, might be the weak link in the chain.

The bigger question is whether or not the Hogs can find an offensive balance against the dominant Tide defensive front. Alabama’s ground game might not be consistent so far, but Arkansas really hasn’t found a steady groove averaging 4.5 yards per carry against three awful defenses. Everything worked fine against New Mexico, but it was tough sledding against Troy and the 102 yards against Missouri State were a bit underwhelming. Alabama isn’t allowing a lick on the ground, stuffing North Texas star Lance Dunbar for 16 yards on 17 carries and keeping Penn State to a meaningless 107 yards. Arkansas will have to throw to win, and that’s going to be a problem going into the teeth of, arguably, the best secondary in America and with …

What To Watch Out For: … the Hog receiving corps hasn’t quite been able to play up to its potential. Jarius Wright caught 11 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games this season, and caught six passes for 131 yards in last year’s loss to the Tide, but he suffered a knee injury against New Mexico and missed the Troy game. Still questionable, there’s a chance he could return and be less than 100%, but the coaching staff isn’t relying on him. However, the passing game gets back Greg Childs, who hasn’t been looking like the same devastating playmaker he was last year before his knee injury, and he missed last week’s game with a death in the family. He only has two catches on the year, but if he can be close to form, he should pick up the slack for an ailing Wright.

Alabama’s Trent Richardson went off on North Texas for 167 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries – ripping off scoring dashes from four, 58, and 71 yards away – but for the most part he’s been having a hard time finding room to run. The home run hitter and top playmaker has been Eddie Lacy, a strong 6-0, 220-pound sophomore with tremendous speed. On just 28 carries he has 304 yards and three scores, averaging 10.8 yards per run, while catching four passes for 82 yards. This is Richardson’s running game and he’ll be fed the ball over and over again to take the pressure off McCarron, but Lacy will get the ball in his hands at least ten times.

What Will Happen: The Alabama defense will be too strong. Arkansas will try to get things going on the ground just to see if it can, but the pass protection has been too spotty and the receiving corps just isn’t as good as the Tide defensive backs. However, the Hogs will keep this close by forcing McCarron and Sims into lousy days. The Tide quarterbacks will be mediocre, and Richardson will average under four yards per carry, but the D will force a few key turnovers and Lacy will take off on one big play that’ll turn the game around in the second half.

CFN Prediction: Alabama 27 … Arkansas 17
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