Saturday Suggests Offense vs. Defense

With the recent emphasis on sports reporters having respect for college football teams not generally considered among the elite, it should be noted that all should have respect for every player at every level, because football is a tough, demanding game.



That said, having respect for the players doesn't necessarily mean there is admiration for the team.

This week, Alabama goes to Arkansas for what was expected to be a battle of top ten teams, a key contest for Southeastern Conference supremacy. The Razorbacks, however, did not hold up their end of the bargain.

As everyone knows, Arkansas had a 28-7 lead over Louisiana Monroe in the second half of a game at Little Rock last week and the Razorbacks ended up losing their fine quarterback, Tyler Wilson, to a head injury and losing to the Warhawks of the Sun Belt Conference, 34-31, in overtime.

Arkansas is now 1-1, with the victory coming over Jacksonville State.

In those two games, the Razorbacks have given up 872 yards (550 to Monroe) and 58 points. Monroe went for first downs on seven occasions against the Hogs and were successful on six of them, including the game-winning run.

Alabama is among teams that believe in winning with defense. The best example came last season when Bama famously led the nation in all major defensive categories and won the national championship with a dominating shutout victory over previously undefeated LSU.

Arkansas has not been a team that expected to win with defense.

Alabama is 2-0 and ranked first in the nation. The Razorbacks fell completely out of this week's Associated Press poll after last week's performance. Arkansas dropped only from 10 to 21 in the Coaches Poll.

Bama will take on the Hogs in Fayetteville at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in a game that will be televised by CBS.

Although it is early in the season and comparative statistics mean even less than normal after only two games, Arkansas is scoring 40 points per game and is sixth in the SEC, while Bama is scoring 38 points per game and is eighth in the league. On the defensive end, Alabama is in a familiar spot, first in the league and fifth in the nation, allowing 7 points per game. The Razorbacks are 14th in the 14-team SEC in scoring defense, giving up 29 points per game.

Alabama is not so hot offensively in SEC statistics, ranking only 10th at 379.5 yards per game. That includes being ninth in both rushing (167.5 yards per game) and passing (212). Arkansas, on the other hand, is fourth in total offense (470.5 yards per game), second in passing (340.5), and 13th in rushing (130).

The Razorbacks might have a tough time improving that lowly rushing rank as Bama is second in the league in rushing defense, allowing only 57.5 yards per game. The Tide gives up 189 yards per game passing, which is fifth in the conference. Alabama is third in total defense, allowing 246.5 yards per game.

That is nearly 200 yards per game better than what Arkansas is allowing. The Razorbacks are 12th in overall defense, giving up 436 yards per game, 116.5 rushing (eighth in the SEC) and 319.5 passing (last in the league).

Most of the quarterback conversation this week is naturally on Arkansas's Tyler Wilson, who may or may not play against the Tide. He is outstanding. But considering the pass defense thus far by the Razorbacks, it is noteworthy that Bama's A.J. McCarron ranks first in the SEC and third in the nation in passing efficiency.

McCarron has completed 25-40 passes for 418 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.

There are certain statistics that even coaches put much credence. One of them is turnover margin. Alabama is second in the conference (and the nation) at plus three per game. Arkansas is 13th in the league at minus one-and-a-half per game.

Another key is how teams do in the Red Zone, inside the 20 yard line. Alabama and Arkansas are tied for first in the SEC in both offense and defense Red Zone efficiency, although the case can be made that the Razorbacks have been better on offense and Bama better on defense. On offense, Arkansas has scored on eight of eight trips, all of them touchdowns. Bama has scored on six of six opportunities, but one of them has been a field goal. On defense, Bama has given opponents only two Red Zone chances and given up a touchdown. Arkansas opponents have been inside the Red Zone 12 times and scored on six of them, all touchdowns.

In third down conversions, Alabama has been good on 7-20, Arkansas 8-20. On defense, Bama has allowed 8-25, Arkansas 16-42.

Bama coaches put a lot of stock in being disciplined, not having many penalties, and this year the Tide is third in the league, having been penalized only eight times for 65 yards. Arkansas has been penalized 15 times for 108 yards.

Alabama is middle of the pack in the SEC in time of possession, ranked sixth at 29:20. Arkansas is last in the league at 23:11.