Alabama vs. Arkansas: Keys to Victory


Sep 15, 2012; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) runs after a catch for a touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.   Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (6-0) returns home for a showdown with SEC West rival Arkansas Razorbacks (3-4) and new head coach Bret Bielema. The Crimson Tide have defeated Arkansas six consecutive times including last year’s 52-0 blowout. Arkansas brings in its ground and pound offensive attack into Tuscaloosa against one of the top rush defenses in the country. So how will Alabama get past the Razorbacks?

Stop The Run

The biggest goal for the Alabama defense coming into this game will be to stop one of the top rushing attacks in the country. Arkansas has piled up the rushing yardage and their two-headed monster at running back – Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams – have combined for 1,284 yards and eight scores on the ground so far this season. After facing off against a slew of wide open spread, no huddle teams (Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Kentucky, etc.) Alabama will now have to defend a completely different offensive attack.

Arkansas doesn’t try to conceal what they do; they are going to run right at you and try to set up a big play in the passing game with physical play at the line of scrimmage. Alabama’s defense has allowed just 206 total rushing yards over the last four games but a lot of those teams have been spread offenses. For the season Alabama has allowed 87 yards a game rushing and just two rushing TDs.

The closest thing to a traditional rushing attack Alabama has faced this season was Virginia Tech. The Hokies ran for 153 yards against the Alabama defense with 77 of that coming on one play. The rest of the game Virginia Tech averaged just 2.3 yards per carry on 32 runs. Texas A&M managed 164 yards rushing, 98 coming from Johnny Manziel, but no other team has cracked the 100 yard mark running the ball.

Alabama will need to hold the running game in check to try and force Razorback quarterback Brandon Allen to put the ball in the air to try and make him make mistakes. Allen has completed less than 50 percent of his passes and has thrown five interceptions this season, so keeping him in long third down distances will go a long way in forcing some bad throws. Getting to the quarterback may prove difficult, however, as Arkansas has allowed just five sacks so far this season. Physical, run stopping linemen like Ed Stinson, Brandon Ivory, Jeoffrey Pagan, A’Shawn Robinson and even Adrian Hubbard will need to push the pocket to try and affect Allen even if it means not getting the sack.

Stay Focused

This is a reccurring theme for this Alabama team but it’s one that is a must. Arkansas was blown out by South Carolina and fell to Rutgers, Texas A&M and Florida the three weeks before. Focusing on those scores and results can lead to a letdown, and coming off three consecutive dominating performances the Alabama team does not need any letdowns. Virginia Tech is the only team that could be compared to Arkansas in terms of physicality, though Arkansas’ defense is nowhere near the quality of VT, and a smash mouth team can make things very difficult for an unfocused football team. Nick Saban has been preaching about getting better each and every week. The key to that is staying focused and worrying about what this team needs to do to win each game, not what the opponent has done to lose its previous games.