Alabama cruised past a Vanderbilt team that is better than you think 55-3 last time out while Arkansas will think they should have won against Texas A&M as they sank to their first defeat of the year.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys for the Crimson Tide to stay perfect:
Stop KJ Jefferson
Arkansas lost 42-35 in this game a year ago in Tuscaloosa. KJ Jefferson to Treylon Burks was the difference, with Burks catching eight balls for 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Burks is now in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, but Jefferson still has several targets he can hit. Jefferson has eight touchdowns and a pick on the season while passing for 941 yards. He is hitting 69% with his passes and is still running the ball well. Alabama will need to stop Jefferson. They will need to spy on him when he runs, but it is with his arm that he can keep Arkansas in this one.
Protect Bryce Young
The Alabama passing attack hasn’t hit its stride in 2022, yet. It will happen – Ja’Corey Brooks was great against Vanderbilt, and there are other players at wide receiver that are good enough to be difference makers – but all the receiving play in the world won’t make a difference if Young isn’t protected. Arkansas boasts the best pass rush in the entire nation. Linebacker Drew Sanders has 5.5 sacks on the season, and defensive linemen Jordan Domineck has 4.0. They are just two players that will have to be blocked on Saturday.
Fayetteville Will Be Noisy
Arkansas will believe they can win this. They should have beaten Texas A&M last time out, and Fayetteville is always wild. Alabama needs to be ready for the noise and the running game will be massive in keeping the clock and tempo under the control of the Crimson Tide. The defense will need to make enough stops to take the crowd out of the game, and Alabama really, really needs to get this game put out of reach of the Hogs by the middle of the second half to avoid any late drama.