Last week, Alabama opened SEC play with an impressive 55-3 win over Vanderbilt, dominating on both sides of the ball. After coming off their best performance of the year, the Crimson Tide will look to continue the momentum as they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks.
Here are five things to watch for as the two teams battle it out in a top 20 matchup:
Probably the biggest key to Arkansas’ success Saturday will be their 6’3” 242 pound quarterback, KJ Jefferson. Jefferson has been a huge weapon for this Arkansas offense this season not only in the passing game but also in the run game. Jefferson is a strong guy and hard to bring down in the running game. Last year Alabama kept him in check in the running game but struggled to defend him in the passing game. Saturday if the Tide is to be successful, the defense will need to pressure Jefferson and limit missed tackles to prevent big, explosive plays.
So far this season the Alabama rush defense is the best in the SEC only allowing 62.5 yards a game, and this will be their biggest test this year. As mentioned, KJ Jefferson is a big part of the rushing attack for Arkansas this season, but the Tide will also have their hands full with SEC rushing leader Raheim Sanders. Sanders, like Jefferson, is a big, strong body that will not be brought down by arm tackles. Containing this Razorback run game will be crucial for the Crimson Tide to be successful Saturday.
Kool-Aid McKinstry enters this weekend as the SEC’s leading punt returner after a huge week against Vanderbilt last week, accumulating 136 return yards on five returns. Going into the season, the punt returning duties were expected to be handled by JoJo Earle, but an injury has opened the door for McKinstry and he has taken advantage of the opportunity. McKinstry has been electric in the return game, flipping the field for the Tide, with just a missed tackle away on multiple occasions from taking one back for a touchdown.
Last week against Vanderbilt, Ja’Corey Brooks took a big leap in the passing game and appears to be Bryce Young’s go-to receiver when he needs a big play. The Alabama receiving corps will be in line to have another big week as they go against a very mediocre Arkansas secondary. The Razorback secondary is giving up 284 yards per game through the air making them one of the worst pass defenses in the country. Crimson Tide receivers should have a big day as long as the offensive line can keep a clean pocket for Bryce Young.
Alabama’s offensive line played its best game of the season last week allowing zero sacks despite still not having a starting front five written in stone. The tackle positions, as well as center, seem to be locked up, but the guard positions have been a rotation. This could be the week that someone will step up to secure those starting guard spots as Alabama will face a fierce pass rush from Arkansas led by a former Crimson Tide player, Drew Sanders. Sanders transferred to Arkansas from Alabama this season and is currently leading the country in sacks with six. Sanders, along with teammate Jordan Domineck with five sacks, lead the Razorbacks to an SEC best 20 sacks as a team with the next closest team seven sacks behind. This offensive line will be given a hefty task to give Alabama quarterback Bryce Young enough time to get the ball out to exploit the Arkansas secondary.
Saturday the Crimson Tide will look to make the Razorback fans exit the stadium early and hope to become the “hateful competitors,” that Coach Saban spoke of in his press conference last week as they enter the meat of their schedule with a tough three game stretch against ranked opponents Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Tennessee.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning