Arkansas football: Alabama game will be a barometer of how far Hogs have come
Few, if any, expect Arkansas to have any reasonable shot at upsetting Alabama on Saturday.
It has been a great season for Sam Pittman and the Razorbacks, but no one has been able to contain the Crimson Tide. Despite the drastic improvements for Arkansas this year, No. 1 Bama (9-0), who have won by an average margin of 30.9 points this season, come in as 32-point favorites.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hogs managed to stay within the spread at least.
Arkansas (3-6) has shown a fight that has helped them to stay in most of their games this season. Even when the Razorbacks are missing players, as they could be again Saturday, they keep it at least interesting.
Only twice have they lost by more than 3 touchdowns this season, to Georgia and Florida. They went into halftime with a lead against the Bulldogs.
Alabama has potential to be the 3rd team that hands Arkansas a 3-touchdown loss. I would actually be shocked if that weren’t the result. But I also expect the Hogs to have good moments, as they have in all their games this season.
Typically. this matchup is dreaded for Arkansas (they aren’t alone there). The Razorbacks haven’t won against Alabama since 2006, and it usually isn’t close. But this is a chance to turn a new leaf in the Pittman era.
If Arkansas can come out on Senior Day and stay close for a quarter or so, it will be a testament to both how far they have come and where they are going.
That won’t be simple, though.
The Razorbacks defense has been a pleasant surprise this season. It is forcing an SEC-leading 1.9 turnovers per game and has also seen its yards and points allowed per game improve.
It runs into a Heisman candidate in Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, however.
Jones could be the best quarterback the Razorbacks have faced all year. It’s between him and Florida’s Kyle Trask. Jones has already thrown for more than 3,000 yards as well as 27 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. He has topped 400 yards 3 times.
The Tide also have the SEC’s best running back in Najee Harris, who already has more than 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Hogs might have to try to contain those 2 without linebacker Grant Morgan, one of the SEC’s leading tacklers. He was injured against Missouri this past week, and Pittman had no update on his status as of Tuesday.
Pittman also had no update on whether Feleipe Franks would be available. KJ Jefferson started for Franks, who is dealing with a rib injury, against Missouri. Jefferson looked good in his place, throwing for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns while rushing for another. If he starts again, though, he will be facing much tougher competition.
Regardless of the result Saturday, this season has been a step in the right direction for Arkansas. They can only hope to build on that as Pittman recruits his own players and the talent builds over time.
The Razorbacks likely won’t win, but they won’t roll over as they have in past years. They’ll make a couple of plays as they have in all their games this year. That’s the difference between this year and last.
If Arkansas can come out and play a respectable game, it will be a barometer for how far they have come.