Arkansas Football 3 Keys: Alabama


The Arkansas Razorbacks did it. They took the Golden Boot back from LSU.

By Matt Zemek

Don’t look now, but the Razorbacks have a three-game winning streak headed into a game they circled in red ink this year against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Razorbacks have to be motivated for this game. Alabama knows losing another game will likely derail its College Football Playoff hopes. While they could still make the playoff as a two-loss team given the way the year is unfolding, the Tide won’t want to test that theory out. For Arkansas, the game against the Tide is a chance for Sam Pittman to get that key win that will open the doors even more in recruiting. It’s going to be a tough contest, but the Razorbacks have shown a level of resilience in 2021 which indicates they are up for the challenge.

1 – Mistake-free football

There’s no singling anyone out this time. It’s less about one player and more about the collective. Arkansas, as a team, simply must play mistake-free football to have any chance of beating the Crimson Tide. The Tide have one of the best turnover margins in the nation, No. 14 to be exact. That is good enough to be tied with Oregon. The only SEC team ranked above Bama is Ole Miss. Arkansas cannot afford to give the Tide extra chances to score. This shouldn’t be too difficult for the Razorbacks, who are tied for No. 28th in the nation in turnover margin themselves. Take care of the football and don’t give anything away cheaply. Start there as a foundation for beating a very vulnerable Alabama team which has not played anywhere close to the standard of last year’s national champions.

2 – Bryce Young must feel the pressure

Bryce Young has wobbled in several games this season, but the overall body of work remains solid. Young is completing 70% of his passes with 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom will have to come up with a plan of attack to stop him. It’s easy to forget about Young with Georgia taking all the attention right now in the SEC, but he is a possible Heisman finalist who will have a central impact on this game. The question for Odom is how much of an impact Arkansas will allow him to have. The Razorbacks need to get after Young and force him to make mistakes. Look at LSU and Texas A&M. Find out what they did to create problems for Young and then use some of that to the Hogs’ advantage. It’s going to be really hard to come up with a plan to stop Young, but that’s why they pay these coaches the big bucks.

3 – K.J. Jefferson’s search for improvement

Jefferson is a frustrating player. He’s immensely talented and built like a brickhouse, but he lacks a killer instinct. It’s true that he is growing into the role, but it remains that this year, he has played in six different games in which he has failed to reach 200 passing yards. He has played in four games in which he has failed to reach 150 passing yards, and one game with fewer than 100 yards. This reduces a team’s margin for error in the 2021 version of SEC football. If he is only good for 150 yards or so, Arkansas stands zero chance of beating Alabama. It’s just not going to be good enough. Yes, it’s only his first full season as a starter and yes he’s operating under a new head coach, but he has to be better.

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