Expect plenty of huddles, runs for Bama, Arkansas
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)
They huddle. They run between the tackles, and throw play-action passes.
The Razorbacks (3-4, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) and top-ranked Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0) should provide just the style of game Saturday night that coaches Nick Saban and Bret Bielema can love.
The Razorbacks' Bielema and Tide's Saban have been the league's most outspoken critics of the hurry-up, no-huddle offenses that have become so commonplace that facing more traditional styles actually requires an adjustment.
''It's something you've just got to get adjusted to playing the downhill football, smashmouth football,'' Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said. ''Back to old-school football with us. But that's nothing new at Alabama.''
Now, Bielema & Co. want to hurry up and win.
Arkansas has lost four straight games and faces a fourth consecutive ranked team. Bielema has never lost five in a row as a head coach though his 2008 Wisconsin team dropped five of six. That team still made a bowl game.
Saban's Tide, meanwhile, has rolled through its last four games and is a four-touchdown favorite for this one. Bielema said he has a formula for rebuilding the program, but admires Saban's perfectionist approach.
''Recruiting is a big part of it, but player development is the biggest,'' the Arkansas coach said. ''And player development isn't just, size and strength and squat. It's leadership. It's championing moments in adversity.
''I love reading Nick's quotes just because I see him go bonkers over, you know, two fumbles after the spring game. He went bananas because he knows what it takes to win.''
Saban doesn't want his team or fans overlooking this game against one of the SEC's top running offenses.
''I think it's important that everybody realizes this is a really important SEC West game for us,'' he said. ''This is a tough, physical team that we're playing that is certainly trying to establish their will on people. We need to have the right mindset to play in a game like this because it's going to be a very tough, physical football game.
''They've been able to run the ball against everybody. You've got to have the right mindset.''
Here are five things to watch as Alabama tries to keep rolling and Arkansas aims for a rebound:
TAILBACK TANDEMS: Both teams bring prolific running back duos into the game. Alabama has T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, who each had 100-yard rushing games against Kentucky. They have run for 867 yards and 11 touchdowns. Arkansas counters with freshman Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, who rank third and seventh, respectively, among SEC rushers. They've totaled 1,284 yards and eight TDs.
ALLEN'S CHALLENGE: Life doesn't get any easier for Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen. Allen has struggled in the recent games against ranked teams. He has completed 43 percent of his passes for just 476 yards with three touchdowns against five interceptions during that stretch. Now, he faces a young but talented secondary and one of the nation's best defenses.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Center Ryan Kelly is back practicing after a knee injury sidelined him the past two games, but that doesn't mean he'll replace Chad Lindsay as the starter against Arkansas. Saban said the competition at the position is good for both players. ''I think the chemistry and how we're playing the last couple of weeks has been really good,'' he said.
REDEMPTION: The Razorbacks can turn to two blowout losses as motivation. They're coming off a 52-7 defeat No. 11 South Carolina, but Arkansas also lost last year's meeting with Alabama 52-0. Not that Saban wants to hear about that. ''I've been asked too many times already about last year's game, last week's game,'' he said. ''Our game, their game, doesn't have anything to do with this game, does not have any effect on the outcome of this game.''
PHILON'S CHANCE: Defensive tackle Darius Philon is expected to start for Arkansas with Robert Thomas out with a broken leg. Philon was hoping to sign with Alabama but the Tide picked up a couple of out-of-state defensive linemen late in the recruiting process. ''We'd love to have him in our program here,'' Saban said. ''It didn't work out that way for us. As everybody that we recruit, we want to see him do well wherever they end up going.''