Arkansas-Alabama Preview


Alabama coach Nick Saban regularly tells his team not to worry about the score, but to simply focus on getting better.

He especially doesn't want his players paying any attention to two notable Arkansas scores - the Razorbacks' 45-point loss last week and their 52-point defeat to the Crimson Tide last season.

Saban again hopes to see further improvement from top-ranked Alabama on Saturday night, when it's expected to have safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix back as it tries to hand Arkansas a fifth straight loss.

Although the Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 SEC) outgained Kentucky 668-170 in a 48-7 win last Saturday, Saban still found some room to nitpick. Alabama lost two early fumbles and also had several dropped passes.

"I don't think that we've played our best game by any stretch of the imagination,'' Saban said. "I think there's a lot of things that we can improve on."

He was, however, encouraged by the way his team finished, scoring on its last eight possessions and making program history by having a 300-yard passer and two 100-yard rushers in the same game. AJ McCarron finished with a career-high 359 passing yards and the fumble culprits - T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake - each topped 100 rushing yards.

"I was really pleased with the way our guys responded and competed. I think they really answered the bell," Saban said. "Even though we have some things to clean up ... I think the lesson to be learned there is if you compete well and play the next play that sometimes you can miss the four-foot putt and still win.''

The Tide, who are beginning a three-game homestand, are in the midst of a six-game stretch in which they don't face a team currently with a winning record. Alabama has won the first four by an average of 33.3 points and outgained those opponents by 272.0 yards per game.

"Coach is always telling us, don't look at the scoreboard,'' receiver Kevin Norwood said. "Worry about playing our best game. And that's what we want to do - play our best game. It just so happened that we always have something to work on. It's always a work in progress.''

Saban also warned his players of looking too closely at Arkansas' score from last Saturday, a 52-7 loss to No. 11 South Carolina.

"This is certainly going to be our biggest test in terms of the some of the challenges they present to us," Saban said of facing the Razorbacks.

Saban is impressed with running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams and how the offensive line has only surrendered five sacks - second-fewest in the SEC.

Collins averages 102.9 yards per game while Williams is at 80.6. and each has four touchdowns. The duo, however, could find less room to run against an Alabama defense that has allowed a total of 206 rushing yards and an average of 1.9 yards per carry over its last four games.

The Tide's defense also figures to be playing with a bit of an edge after Kentucky scored a touchdown, ending a streak of 14 quarters without allowing an opponent to reach the end zone.

"At the end of the day, we want to make all our goals and really wanted to shut out this game,'' linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "The reason we didn't was because we didn't execute the right way, so some of those plays we've got to make sure we work on.''

That defense should get a boost with the expected return of Clinton-Dix, who on Friday was cleared by the NCAA to return after serving a two-game suspension for accepting a short-term loan of less than $500 from assistant strength and conditioning coach Corey Harris.

Clinton-Dix remains second on the team with 24 tackles and is a possible first-round NFL draft pick.

Arkansas has work to do on both sides of the ball after being outgained 537-248 by South Carolina. Brandon Allen had a particularly bad game, completing 4-of-12 passes for 30 yards with an interception.

It was the fourth straight loss for the Razorbacks (3-4, 0-3), matching the longest losing streak of coach Bret Bielema's career.

"When adversity strikes, you don't try and fight it alone,'' Bielema said. "You fight it together, and I think that's the part that we've got to rally around. Everybody's got to step up a little bit better, starting with me as a head coach and all our assistants. That's the No. 1 thing plaguing our program right now.''

Another potential problem is traveling to Tuscaloosa, where Alabama has won 27 straight over unranked teams.

The Tide also have won six in a row over the Razorbacks, including last season's 52-0 rout in Fayetteville.