Alabama vs. Arkansas Odds & Picks: Can Razorbacks Win in Tuscaloosa?
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Trey Knox (7) of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
- The Arkansas Razorbacks travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday.
- Collin Wilson shares his top two bets for the SEC game below.
Alabama vs. Arkansas Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Saturday brings with it an SEC showdown between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Arkansas Razorbacks.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban challenged the Crimson Tide roster before the New Mexico State game, and his squad responded with a 59-3 victory over the cellar team in the FBS in New Mexico State.
The game did come at a cost with an injury to running back Roydell Williams, who will miss the remainder of the season.
Saban cited that mental errors were the cause of penalties and opponent explosive plays. The Crimson Tide were flagged just four times in Week 11 but continue to rank outside the top 100 in penalty yards.
Alabama will look to clean up the inconsistencies against a red-hot Arkansas team entering Tuscaloosa with the program’s highest College Football Playoff ranking in program history.
Saban praised Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman for leading the most improved team in the country — appropriate praise after Chad Morris failed to win a single Power Five game in two years with the Razorbacks.
Despite being much improved, the 2020 Crimson Tide went nuclear on the Hogs, winning with a final score of 52-3.
With a point spread under three touchdowns, Arkansas will look to build respect in its quest to return to bowl season. Pittman knows the circumstances and did everything possible to keep any bulletin board material out of this game.
Sam Pittman was asked if Alabama football is vulnerable this season
Pittman previews Alabama in-depth ⤵️https://t.co/ULDZihHL7tpic.twitter.com/0vfkOR41Jq
— Kyle Henderson (@Rivals_Kyle) November 16, 2021
The 2020 Crimson Tide may have set the bar in excellence from every aspect of college football.
The follow-up performance has been a struggle, with Bryce Young limited in downfield passing and an offensive line that is outside the top 50 in pass blocking.
The Tide are top-10 in the nation in Passing Success Rate, but 56% of attempts have come within nine yards or behind the line of scrimmage. A rank of fourth in generating the big play illustrates that the work is being done on the ground or after the reception.
We’re Officially Brian Robinson Days Until Alabama Football
#RollTide 🔥😎🐘 pic.twitter.com/JSsCcQsXI2
— Alabama Rydeouts (@MarvinBama16) November 16, 2021
The biggest question for Alabama heading into its three-game stretch to potentially win the SEC is the play of the offensive line. LSU’s heavy-blitz package generated four sacks and eight tackles for loss.
Chris Owens has moved back to center from right tackle but continues to post the worst pass and run-blocking grades in the two-deep. Darrian Dalcourt has played most of the season at center but has allowed 13 pressures.
Arkansas’ John Ridgeway will have his way at nose tackle in Week 12, but Alabama must get A-gap protection figured out before a showdown with Georgia.
The Crimson Tide defense has put up solid numbers from the line through the secondary. Alabama is top-20 in Defensive Havoc, Line Yards, coverage and tackling.
If there’s an Achilles’ heel for the Crimson Tide defense, it’s opponent scoring opportunities. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding has one of his worst Finishing Drives ranks of his Tuscaloosa tenure with a rank of 92nd. Twenty-three opponent red-zone drives have been converted into points 20 times this season.
Pittman questioned the mindset of the Arkansas players after two physical games against Mississippi State and LSU. The head coach had drilled into his team that it can beat Alabama if the roster believes it’s possible.
The campaign through the SEC schedule is beginning to take a toll, as running back Raheim Sanders will not be 100% healthy for this game on top of an already injured Trelon Smith.
Dominique Johnson has carried the load at running back the last two weeks, but the offense begins and ends with the play of KJ Jefferson.
KJ Jefferson is a magician finding Dominique Johnson for 6@RazorbackFB | #WPS 🐗🐗🐗pic.twitter.com/4QbvCzw4uX
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) November 14, 2021
Jefferson has been a fantastic playmaker in scrambles outside of the pocket, forcing defenses to drop extra players in the box and opening up one-on-one coverage. The sophomore averaged 4.8 yards after contact while throwing for 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Pittman mentioned the offensive gameplay will be much different against Alabama, as the Crimson Tide do not blitz near the rate of LSU. The Razorbacks would like to free up tight ends for passing routes instead of chip blocking, but with Crimson Tide edge rusher Will Anderson in the game, the Hogs may elect to stay in max protect.
Jefferson had two fumbles against LSU, an issue that has seen plenty of bounce luck go the Razorbacks way. Arkansas has fumbled 17 times this season on offense and lost just four through 10 games.
While turnover luck is due for regression, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has struggled in scoring position. The Hogs are 104th in Offensive Finishing Drives, generating just 3.7 points per possession that crosses the opponent’s 40-yard line.
Defensive coordinator Barry Odom runs a three-man front scheme to limit explosive plays, but the transfer portal gifts of Tre Williams and John Ridgeway have wreaked Havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
The Razorbacks defense has held up well in light of losing the best player in the secondary in Jalen Catalon. Myles Slusher has filled in nicely and was part of the coverage that allowed just two LSU passing plays to exceed 20 yards.
Out of NOWHERE pic.twitter.com/tioOnfyASk
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) November 14, 2021
The key to stopping Alabama is containing the explosive play when targets are hit before the line of scrimmage.
The Razorbacks have not played in opponents’ backfields enough to take advantage of a struggling Alabama offensive line. The Hogs are 48th in pass rush and 47th in tackles for loss.
After playing two physical SEC games in a row, the Razorbacks are tasked with outperforming their tackling rank of 62nd in FBS.
Arkansas vs. Alabama Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Arkansas and Alabama match up statistically:
Arkansas Offense vs. Alabama Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Alabama Offense vs. Arkansas Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||57||30|
|Plays per Minute||36||87|
|Rush Rate||65.2% (7)||51.7% (85)|
Arkansas vs. Alabama Betting Pick
The Razorbacks are coming to Tuscaloosa off two big SEC West victories over Mississippi State and LSU, a game that went to overtime on the road.
Pittman was guaranteed a $250,000 bonus for his seventh and eighth victories of the season.
While playing Alabama is the showcase game of the season, Pittman mentioned in his press conference that this is a short week and plans for the Missouri game on Black Friday are in place. Alabama may not be the focus of the Hogs, as winning eight games for a prime bowl bid is on the table when the Razorbacks host the Tigers in Fayetteville.
The biggest issue for the Hogs and an injured backfield is getting into passing downs. Jefferson continues to be predictable in the passing game, as Treylon Burks has 72 targets on the season. The next three targets — Warren Thompson, Tyson Morris and De’Vion Warren — have combined for 77 targets.
The Alabama defense excels in passing downs, ranking fifth in Sack Rate and 16th in Success Rate when offenses get behind schedule.
The Arkansas defense will do everything it can to prevent the explosive play, but the Crimson Tide rank second in Offensive Finishing Drives. Methodical drives by Alabama result in touchdowns, as 37-of-48 red-zone scores have gone for six points.
The Razorbacks have put together an impressive campaign and will be a major player in bowl season, but their identity is playing physical against opponents. That’s a bad combination coming off an overtime game back on the road against the most physical team in college football that played New Mexico State the week before.
Pick: Alabama -20 or Better | Under 59 at -120 or Better
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