No. 8 Alabama, Arkansas trying to follow up big wins
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Nick Saban wants his Alabama team still happy when the season’s over, not just all aglow after one big win.
Another loss, after all, spoils the good mood.
The eighth-ranked Crimson Tide, coming off a redemptive rout of No. 19 Georgia, tries to keep it going Saturday night when Arkansas visits Bryant-Denny Stadium after a big win of its own.
”We are what we are as an identity only if it happens on a continuum,” Saban said. ”You always have the next challenge. You always have the next game. You can look at teams all over the country who have big wins and then two weeks later they’re not so happy again.”
Now, the question is which team will feel like celebrating Saturday night. The Tide (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) had an emphatic answer to doubters after a blunder-filled loss to Mississippi, matching the program’s largest road win over a Top 10 team with the 38-10 victory.
Sure, it had people buzzing about the Tide again but Saban vehemently proclaims that he doesn’t want his team to care about what outsiders think anyway.
The Razorbacks (2-3, 1-1) took No. 9 Texas A&M to overtime before a 24-20 road win over Tennessee. They’ve dropped eight straight games to Alabama but fell just 14-13 last season after a pair of 52-0 thumpings.
”We’re going to go down there with the attitude that we can win the game, and that’s what we’re going to try and do,” said Razorbacks tailback Alex Collins, who has rushed for 150-plus yards in three straight games. ”That’s what we’re preparing for, and that’s the attitude we’ll have. We want to go down there and beat those guys in their house on their homecoming.”
Here are some things to watch in the game:
ALLEN’S CHALLENGE: Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen is making his fourth start against the Tide so he has a general idea of what to expect. He struggled to a combined 151 yards with four interceptions in the first two meetings but was much better last season, throwing for 246 yards. ”It doesn’t matter who comes and goes,” Allen said of Alabama defenses. ”They’re going to be very disciplined on defense, they’re not going to make a lot of eye violations or mistakes on `D’. We have to execute on offense. We have to do things we do well.”
HENRY VS. COLLINS: Collins and Alabama’s Derrick Henry are having terrific seasons overshadowed by Georgia’s Nick Chubb and LSU’s Leonard Fournette. They’re the other guys among the SEC’s top four rushers. Collins has 656 yards and six touchdowns. Henry has run for 570 yards and nine touchdowns and reached the end zone in a school-record tying 10 consecutive games.
ALABAMA’S STREAK: Saban hasn’t lost in eight meetings with the Razorbacks while at Alabama, winning by an average of 28 points before last season’s close call. ”I don’t think anything that has happened in the past is going to affect the outcome of this game and I think our players have to get ready to play one of their best games of the year to have success against a good team,” Saban said.
RUN DEFENSES: Both running games face stiff tests. The Tide leads the SEC in run defense while Arkansas is third. The Razorbacks allowed only 90 second-half yards against Tennessee.
BREAKOUT RECEIVERS: Both teams have had a receiver step up after injury troubles. The Razorbacks’ top three receivers have been injured, but Drew Morgan has 265 yards in the past two games to pick up the slack. Alabama freshman Calvin Ridley had 120 yards against Georgia with Robert Foster out after shoulder surgery. Ridley has the two longest catches of the season by a Tide wideout.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt contributed to this report.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org