Alabama-Arkansas Preview

Alabama’s offensive star appears to be at full strength and

effectiveness. The same is definitely true for Arkansas, the first

opponent in a rough three-week stretch of schedule for the nation’s

top-ranked team.

The Crimson Tide travel to Fayetteville to open their SEC

schedule against unbeaten No. 10 Arkansas on Saturday.

Alabama (3-0) heads to Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a healthy

Mark Ingram, who returned from injury last week and turned in a

spectacular performance in a 62-13 victory over Duke last Saturday.

He took his first carry 48 yards and finished with 151 yards and

two touchdowns on just nine rushes, playing only the first

half.

”Felt better than I did before I had the injury,” Ingram

said.

Trent Richardson added 61 yards on seven carries, while star

defensive lineman Marcell Darius also returned and looked good in

limited action.

Coach Nick Saban, however, wasted little time in reminding his

team that the level of competition is about to get much better very

quickly.

”It’s what we make of it,” Saban said following Saturday’s

game. “It’s how we look at it. It’s how we take the things we need

to improve on and use them as stepping stones to improve, learn

more with some of our younger players, what it takes to compete for

60 minutes in a game.”

The Tide’s early conference slate doesn’t allow them to ease

into SEC play. After Arkansas, Alabama hosts No. 9 Florida and

travels to 12th-ranked South Carolina.

First up are the Razorbacks (3-0, 1-0), who are looking to build

on a thrilling 31-24 win at Georgia last week. Ryan Mallett threw

for 380 yards and three touchdowns, including a 40-yard scoring

pass to Greg Childs with 15 seconds remaining that gave Arkansas

the victory after it blew a two-touchdown lead in the fourth

quarter.

It was yet another outstanding performance for Mallett, who has

passed for 1,081 yards – most in the country – with nine

touchdowns, two interceptions and a 70.0 completion percentage. He

was named SEC player of the week.

Such a matchup is nothing new for Saban, who knows what his team

faces on a yearly basis in its loaded conference.

“This is sort of a new season, when you start playing in the

SEC,” Saban said. “This is a very good football team. Coach Bobby

Petrino has done a very good job there and their quarterback is

obviously one of the leaders in the nation in passing and their

defense is in the top 10 in a lot of different categories.”

Saban’s squad, though, had plenty of answers against Mallett and

Arkansas last Sept. 26. The then-No. 3 Tide frustrated Mallett into

a 12-for-35, 160-yard performance in a 35-7 rout at Tuscaloosa,

Alabama’s third straight win in the series and fourth in five

matchups.

The Tide, who won 49-14 in the last meeting at Fayetteville on

Sept. 20, 2008, are 10-8 all-time against Arkansas.

Petrino and the Razorbacks are excited for the chance to cut

into that slim deficit Saturday.

“We know it’s a big week this week, with Alabama coming in here.

I think our players are excited about it, I know our coaches are,”

Petrino said. “We’ve got to make sure that we understand that we

need to prepare like we did a week ago – with focus every day in

practice. … and really understand as a football team, I really

believe this, that we don’t need to go out and do anything

extraordinary to win the game. We need to go out and play Razorback

football, and we’ll have an opportunity to win the game.”

One thing the Razorbacks will almost certainly have to do to win

is slow down the powerful Alabama ground game – something they were

able to do last season, when they limited Ingram to 50 yards and a

2.9 per-carry average, and held the Tide to 134 rushing yards.

Alabama’s Greg McElroy, though, took advantage of Arkansas’

focus on stopping the run, throwing for 291 yards and three

touchdowns.

The Razorbacks have lost four of five against Top 25

opponents.