Never mind recent history, Saban wary of Arkansas’ rush attack
Anybody remember the days when Alabama-Arkansas used to be a big deal? When it used to be a back-and-forth budding rivalry year-after-year in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s? When classic contests in the series were commonplace? When bragging rights were always on the line?
That time was pre-Nick Saban at Alabama.
Since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the Crimson Tide has reeled off six-straight wins in the series. And four of Alabama’s last five wins over Arkansas have been of the blowout variety with the most recent meeting in 2012 being the most lopsided of all — a 52-0 Tide rout in Fayetteville, Ark. Alabama won 38-14 in 2011, 24-20 in 2010, 35-7 in 2009 and 49-14 in 2008.
This season? The recipe is certainly there for another Bama domination in the series.
Alabama (6-0 overall, 3-0 in SEC) is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country, while Arkansas (3-4, 0-3) is riding a four-game losing streak and unranked and coming off a humiliating 52-7 loss to South Carolina last week. The Razorbacks’ other losses have come to Rutgers, Texas A&M and Florida.
Saban, however, doesn’t look at records or past scores in a game like this. And he doesn’t look at past history — or even recent history, as in what happened last week. He looks at personnel. He looks at coaches. And he looks at what a team is capable of. And when he looks at this particular Arkansas team he sees quality players, quality coaches and the capability of playing really good football on any given Saturday – including this Saturday.
“I think we have a lot of respect for Arkansas as a team,” Saban said Wednesday. “They’ve run the ball for 250 yards on everybody that they’ve played. They actually ran it really well against South Carolina. They just turned it over a couple of times. What happened in last year’s game is going to have nothing to do with the outcome of this game, and what happened last week is going to have nothing to do with the outcome of this game. Our focus as a team needs to be on what we need to do to play our best football, because I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet. If we’re really going to be a good team that’s what we need to be continuing to work on.”
Running backs Alex Collins (5-foot-11, 206 pounds) and Jonathan Williams (6-0, 222) spearhead Arkansas’ ground attack. Collins averages 102.9 yards per game, while Williams averages 80.6. They’ve each scored four touchdowns this season. Quarterback Brandon Allen has passed for 864 yards and eight touchdowns, but he’s coming off a poor outing against South Carolina where he completed just 4-of-12 passes for 30 yards and one interception.
Defensively, Arkansas is allowing 27.6 points per game. Saban described Arkansas’ D this week as ‘opportunistic.’
“They’ve got a very good running game, and they’re capable of playing well on defense,” Saban said of Arkansas. “So I think our players need to be ready. I know how physical and tough this game will be.”
Kickoff for the Alabama-Arkansas game at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday is set for 6 p.m. CDT. ESPN will televise the game.
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