Arkansas-Alabama Preview

Alabama coach Nick Saban regularly tells his team not to worry
about the score, but to simply focus on getting better.

He especially doesn’t want his players paying any attention to
two notable Arkansas scores – the Razorbacks’ 45-point loss last
week and their 52-point defeat to the Crimson Tide last season.

Saban again hopes to see further improvement from top-ranked
Alabama on Saturday night, when it’s expected to have safety Ha Ha
Clinton-Dix back as it tries to hand Arkansas a fifth straight
loss.

Although the Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 SEC) outgained Kentucky
668-170 in a 48-7 win last Saturday, Saban still found some room to
nitpick. Alabama lost two early fumbles and also had several
dropped passes.

“I don’t think that we’ve played our best game by any stretch of
the imagination,” Saban said. “I think there’s a lot of things
that we can improve on.”

He was, however, encouraged by the way his team finished,
scoring on its last eight possessions and making program history by
having a 300-yard passer and two 100-yard rushers in the same game.
AJ McCarron finished with a career-high 359 passing yards and the
fumble culprits – T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake – each topped 100
rushing yards.

“I was really pleased with the way our guys responded and
competed. I think they really answered the bell,” Saban said. “Even
though we have some things to clean up … I think the lesson to be
learned there is if you compete well and play the next play that
sometimes you can miss the four-foot putt and still win.”

The Tide, who are beginning a three-game homestand, are in the
midst of a six-game stretch in which they don’t face a team
currently with a winning record. Alabama has won the first four by
an average of 33.3 points and outgained those opponents by 272.0
yards per game.

“Coach is always telling us, don’t look at the scoreboard,”
receiver Kevin Norwood said. “Worry about playing our best game.
And that’s what we want to do – play our best game. It just so
happened that we always have something to work on. It’s always a
work in progress.”

Saban also warned his players of looking too closely at
Arkansas’ score from last Saturday, a 52-7 loss to No. 11 South
Carolina.

“This is certainly going to be our biggest test in terms of the
some of the challenges they present to us,” Saban said of facing
the Razorbacks.

Saban is impressed with running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan
Williams and how the offensive line has only surrendered five sacks
– second-fewest in the SEC.

Collins averages 102.9 yards per game while Williams is at 80.6.
and each has four touchdowns. The duo, however, could find less
room to run against an Alabama defense that has allowed a total of
206 rushing yards and an average of 1.9 yards per carry over its
last four games.

The Tide’s defense also figures to be playing with a bit of an
edge after Kentucky scored a touchdown, ending a streak of 14
quarters without allowing an opponent to reach the end zone.

“At the end of the day, we want to make all our goals and really
wanted to shut out this game,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “The
reason we didn’t was because we didn’t execute the right way, so
some of those plays we’ve got to make sure we work on.”

That defense should get a boost with the expected return of
Clinton-Dix, who on Friday was cleared by the NCAA to return after
serving a two-game suspension for accepting a short-term loan of
less than $500 from assistant strength and conditioning coach Corey
Harris.

Clinton-Dix remains second on the team with 24 tackles and is a
possible first-round NFL draft pick.

Arkansas has work to do on both sides of the ball after being
outgained 537-248 by South Carolina. Brandon Allen had a
particularly bad game, completing 4-of-12 passes for 30 yards with
an interception.

It was the fourth straight loss for the Razorbacks (3-4, 0-3),
matching the longest losing streak of coach Bret Bielema’s
career.

“When adversity strikes, you don’t try and fight it alone,”
Bielema said. “You fight it together, and I think that’s the part
that we’ve got to rally around. Everybody’s got to step up a little
bit better, starting with me as a head coach and all our
assistants. That’s the No. 1 thing plaguing our program right
now.”

Another potential problem is traveling to Tuscaloosa, where
Alabama has won 27 straight over unranked teams.

The Tide also have won six in a row over the Razorbacks,
including last season’s 52-0 rout in Fayetteville.