The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) are at home this Saturday as they face the 2-5 Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs are still struggling under second year coach Chad Morris and they were blown out 51-10 by Auburn last time out.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Coping without Tua
The big news coming into the matchup is that Alabama will be without their Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa had surgery on a high ankle sprain on his right ankle on Sunday, a procedure that ruled him out for this contest but that should allow Tua to be full go somewhere down the line instead of having to manage the issue for the rest of the season.
That means that this game will fall on the shoulders of backup signal caller Mac Jones. Jones had mixed results when coming off of the bench and now he will get his first start since his high school days against the Hogs. Jones just needs to play within the system here and he will be fine. Arkansas isn’t good enough on offense to do anything against the Bama D, so Jones just needs to concentrate on making smart decisions and letting the athletes around him win the game.
Be ready for some trickery
Morris may already be on the hot seat in Fayetteville. The coach is still winless in SEC play after one and a half years of trying and his team doesn’t really seem to be getting any better. This is a desperate school in a desperate situation, one that cannot go talent for talent with Alabama.
In the loss to Auburn, Arkansas ran one of the worst fake punt plays of all-time when down 17-0. The jumping chest pass from the punter kind of has to be seen to be believed, but the point is that Arkansas was willing to try such a play to change momentum. There is no reason not to expect something similar this weekend and Alabama needs to be ready for pretty much anything on special teams.
Get ahead early
Auburn laid out this blueprint last week. A strip sack led to a TD and an Arkansas three-and-out followed by a score saw the game sitting at 14-0 before some fans had even made it to their seats. Given the dreadful Arkansas offense, the game was effectively already over.
Bama has the bye after this game, but this is a chance to get even more rest for the starters. Going up a couple of touchdowns against a team lacking confidence will allow Nick Saban to do what he wants with his bench in the second half.