The fourth weekend of the NCAA football season always provides one of the best games of the year in Arkansas vs. Alabama. These two teams have routinely played some of the more memorable games of the past 10 years. Multiple overtimes, last-second touchdowns, and running through eight defenders on the way to the end zone have are some of the many things that have highlighted a series that both head coaches will tell you can make or break their team’s attitude very early in the season. Tyler Wilson will be at the helm of the Arkansas offense this year after putting up some good numbers last season in relief of the departed Ryan Mallett. Bobby Petrino hopes that Wilson will be able to lead this offense down the field numerous times this year on their way to another possible berth in the Sugar Bowl or beyond. However, on this day they will face an Alabama defense that returns just about every starter and key player from a squad that allowed only 13.5 points per game last season. Courtney Upshaw and Donta’ Hightower will once again lead a relentless pass-rush, while the Tide’s depth in the defensive backfield continues to grow with the incoming Hasean Clinton-Dix looking to contribute this season. Nick Saban also reeled in four 4-star defensive ends to provide a vast amount of depth across the defensive line. This game will also expose just how bad the Razorbacks will miss Knile Davis, who will miss a significant amount of time, if not the entire season, with a broken ankle. The SEC’s leading rusher at the running back position last year, Davis was going to be relied upon to provide balance to what has become a pass-heavy offense since the departure of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones from Fayetteville. His shoes must now be filled by a fairly inexperienced duo of Ronnie Wingo, Jr. and Dennis Johnson. With the absence of Davis, look for the Tide to bring the heat on Wilson all day long.
The Tide returns a veteran offensive line with a running back that’s already being mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race. The only question mark for Nick Saban’s team at the moment is the same question that many have had since the final seconds of the Capital One Bowl fell off the clock—which quarterback will be taking the majority of the snaps? The only test the Tide will have before this game is in Happy Valley in the second half of a home-and-home series with Penn State. The quarterback that emerges from that game as the clear-cut starter will likely be the one who leads the Tide through the rest of the season. However, with Trent Richardson accompanying the Tide’s QB in the backfield, it might not really matter who is handing him the ball. Richardson leads a fierce rushing attack, along with Eddie Lacy, who was rumored to be out for the season but has since shown he will be able to play through the injury. Jalston Fowler, a wrecking ball with legs, could also handle some important carries against the Hogs. Jake Bequette and company may try to disrupt the running game early and often in order to test the Tide’s passing game. However, Arkansas’s extremely inexperienced defensive backfield could ultimately cost them even greater than Richardson running for 200 yards. It will be interesting to see what kind of defensive game plan is put together to stop the Tide’s offense.
Some “experts” say this game could decide who wins the SEC West. With LSU’s quarterback currently suspended, that assumption may well be more fact than fiction. It should be a very interesting 60 minutes of football in Tuscaloosa when the Hogs come to town. History has taught us that the football gods wouldn’t have it any other way.