FAYETTEVILLE — No. 20 Arkansas is set to host No. 2 Alabama on Saturday in a game that has the Hogs the big underdog.
Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) is coming off a loss to Texas A&M while Alabama (4-0, 1-0) is rolling along. The Tide had one very close game a 20-19 win over unranked Texas. Hogs have defeated Cincinnati, South Carolina and Missouri State prior to the 23-21 loss to the Aggies.
While many feel the only way the Hogs could beat the Tide would be for the No. 2 team in nation not to show up. But stranger things have happened than Arkansas beating Alabama, which is something they haven’t done since 2006.
Here’s five keys for Arkansas to win the game.
Play Clean Game
Arkansas can’t continue to turn the football over and win. It caught up with them against Texas A&M. KJ Jefferson has got to protect the football better than he has so far. The South Carolina game he needlessly stuck the ball out when being tackled near the one. After a long review they gave the ball correctly to Arkansas, but it was a risk that wasn’t necessary. The fumble against Texas A&M when he jumped from the three or four was a head scratcher. This isn’t a shot at Jefferson. Without him they would have been blown out every game so far. He is that good. That is why the Hogs can’t afford for the fumbles because he is who carries this team. Jefferson is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and simply has to protect the football.
No Excessive List of Penalties
In some games Arkansas has been hit with a long list of penalties. They have negated some big plays due to penalties. The Hogs simply can’t commit several penalties and have any chance at beating Alabama. This goes in line with the clean game. Turnovers and penalties against Arkansas could allow this game to get out of hand.
Get Touchdowns in Red Zone
The Hogs have come up empty and fumbled the ball in the red zone. That can’t happen on Saturday. When they get in red zone they have to come away with seven points and not three or zero. To beat Alabama they are going to have to very likely score a lot of points and that is why getting seven in red zone is a must. Arkansas the offensive line led by Ricky Stromberg and skill-position players to put a lot of points on anyone.
Pressure Bryce Young
Arkansas leads the nation in sacks and they have to get to Bryce Young on Saturday. If Young is comfortable in the pocket it could be a very long day for the Hogs. They have to dictate to him when he runs or passes not let him just run free in the pocket or on rollouts. The Hogs have Drew Sanders, Bumper Pool, Jordan Domineck, Zach Williams and others who are capable of applying pressure on Young. It is a must they do.
The secondary hasn’t played well this season. Coverage is an issue, but also some of the longer plays against the Hogs have been from missed tackles after completions. The Hogs have worked on tackling and it hopefully results in a better situation this Saturday. Miss tackles against Alabama and it will go for a touchdown. They have very good skill-position players and the best quarterback in the nation who can get the ball to them.