Position-by-position edge: Arkansas at Alabama
Taking a position-by-position look at Arkansas vs. Alabama, here’s what to watch for in Saturday’s showdown between the Razorbacks and the Crimson Tide:
QUARTERBACK — Arkansas: Brandon Allen is well on his way toward having the best season of his career. Second in the SEC in passing yards (1,360) and third in completion percentage (66), the senior is also no worse than 5th in the conference in eight other passing-related categories. Meanwhile, fellow senior Jacob Coker, who nearly led Alabama to a comeback victory over Ole Miss, has shown steady improvement over the last three weeks, but Allen’s experience and consistency — at least over the last two seasons — give him the edge.
RUNNING BACKS — Alabama: The Hogs suffered a major setback when they lost Jonathan Williams for the season to a foot injury in the preseason, but Alex Collins has definitely picked up the slack. Collins, who along with Williams made up the only pair of FBS running backs to run for more than 1,000 yards last season, leads Arkansas with 656 rushing yards and 6 TDs through five games in 2015. Rawleigh Williams had 100 yards on just 14 carries last week against Tennessee. Meanwhile, Collins’ Alabama counterpart, Derrick Henry, has been even better, rushing for 9 TDs and 6.1 yards per attempt. Plus, the Tide’s Kenyan Drake has caught 8 passes out of the backfield for 141 yards and a touchdown.
WIDE RECEIVERS, TIGHT END — Alabama: Drew Morgan has been outstanding for Arkansas, leading the Razorbacks with 23 catches for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he is third in the SEC in receiving yards per game 82.6. Meanwhile, the Hogs’ Hunter Henry leads all SEC tight ends in receptions (20), receiving yards (268) and yards per game (53.6). For Alabama, Calvin Ridley won SEC Freshman of the Week following his 5 catches, 120 yards and a touchdown last week against Georgia, and he’s been coming on strong. Sophomore Ardarius Stewart has contributed 23 catches for 201 yards and 2 TDs, while junior TE O.J. Howard has chipped in with 13 receptions for 183 yards. Senior Richard Mullaney has caught 15 passes for 160 yards and is tied with Stewart, Ridley and injured receiver Robert Foster for the team lead with 2 receiving TDs.
OFFENSIVE LINE — Arkansas: The Razorbacks have allowed just 2 sacks over their five games to lead the SEC. After yielding 5 sacks, Alabama is tied for second in the conference with Georgia. The linemen have also helped the Hogs running backs average 5.1 yards per attempt, which is 4th in the league and just of ahead of 5th-place Alabama (5.0).
DEFENSIVE LINE — Alabama: The Crimson Tide is first in the SEC and is now 10th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (84). Bama has also allowed 3 rushing TDs this season, which is tied for 2nd in the conference behind Missouri (2). Alabama is tied for 3rd in the SEC with 13 sacks, led by junior Jonathan Allen, who has 3.0 to go along with 3 pass breakups, and sophomore Da’Shawn Hand has 2.5 sacks. Despite yielding 7 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for 9th in the league, the Hogs are allowing a respectable 101.6 rushing yards per game, good enough for third in the SEC. Beanum and Roesler have combined for 2.5 of the Razorbacks’ 4.0 sacks, which is last in the conference.
LINEBACKERS — Alabama: Reggie Ragland leads the Tide with 42 total tackles (including 1.5 for loss) while adding 2 pass breakups, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. On the other side, junior Brooks Ellis (2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hurries) has made a team-leading 34 stops for the Razorbacks, while freshman Dre Greenlaw (2 tackles for loss and a QB hurry) has made 29.
SECONDARY — Alabama: The Crimson Tide is tied for 1st in the SEC with 7 interceptions and also has the SEC’s 4th-best passing defense, allowing 189.4 yards per game. Eddie Jackson, who has a pick-six, and Ronnie Harrison lead Bama with 2 INTs apiece, while Geno Matias-Smith, Marlon Humphrey and Cyrus Jones each have one. Meanwhile, freshman defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick had a breakout game against Georgia last week. In addition to a blocked punt and a recovery for a TD, Fitzpatrick recorded 4 tackles, a sack and a pass breakup. Arkansas is allowing an SEC-worst 257.6 passing yards a game. The Razorbacks are also tied for 11th in the conference with just 3 interceptions.