Tide Defense Has Hard Assignment

The calamity resulting from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, included a ripple that may have affected the path of college football. A young Vanderbilt assistant coach, Paul Bryant, was driving to Fayetteville with the expectation he would be named head coach of the Razorbacks, When he heard the news, he turned around, with his next stop the United States Navy.



It was after World War II when Paul Bryant finally got his first head coaching job (Maryland), and not until 1958 did he make his way to Alabama, where he solidified his position as the greatest college football coach of all time. Arkansas has not fared poorly, though, despite missing out on Bryant, a native of Moro Bottom and a prep star for the Fordyce Red Bugs before playing for the Crimson Tide.

This week Alabama hosts Arkansas in a battle of nationally-ranked Southeastern Conference Western Division contenders. Kickoff Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium is at 2:30 p.m. CDT. CBS will televise the game. Both teams are 3-0 in the SEC opener for both. The Crimson Tide is ranked second in the nation in the Coaches Poll and third in the Associated Press rankings. Arkansas is 12th in the Coaches poll, 14th according to the AP.

Since the 2008 season, Alabama has a 15-5 record against top 25 opponents, including last year's 24-20 win over the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. The Tide has won four straight over the Hogs. On the field, Alabama has an all-time record of 14-7 against Arkansas. A forfeit and a couple of vacated wins have the record at 11-8 as far as the NCAA is concerned, and Arkansas can proudly claim a 1993 victory in which the on-the-field score was Alabama 43, Arkansas 3. The Hogs last win in Tuscaloosa came in 2003 when 14th ranked Arkansas downed unranked Alabama, 34-31.

The series dates from a couple of Sugar Bowl games, following the 1961 and 1979 seasons, in which Bama won national championships. The teams have played on a yearly basis since Arkansas moved from the now defunct Southwest Conference to the SEC in 1992.

The Razorbacks' last win in the series came in 2006 in double overtime in Fayetteville, 24-23.

Bobby Petrino is in his fourth year as head coach at Arkansas. His teams have defeated every SEC West opponent except Alabama.

The match-up of Alabama Coach Nick Saban (4-0 vs. Arkansas in his Bama career) against Petrino pits two of the nation's most highly regarded college coaches. Both were also short time head coaches in the NFL. Saban is best known for his defense, Petrino for his offense.

This week's game will pit those strengths.

Arkansas is ranked eighth in the nation in scoring at 47 points per game, while Bama is second in scoring defense, allowing just 6 points per game. The Razorbacks are eighth in the nation in passing offense (346.7 yards per game) and the Tide gives up 114.67 yards per game (fifth in the nation). Arkansas is 15th in passing efficiency, the Tide second in pass efficiency defense. Arkansas is 11th in the nation in total offense (517.33 yards per game), while the Tide is allowing only 170 yards per game, third in the nation.

On the other side of the coin, Alabama is 15th in the nation in rushing offense (242 yards per game) and Arkansas 27th in rushing defense (allowing 87.67). Bama is 24th in scoring (38.67 points per game) and the Hogs are 18th in scoring defense (12.67).

The Razorbacks are led by quarterback Tyler Wilson, who ranks 20th in the nation and second in the SEC in passing efficiency. He has completed 59-86 (68.6 per cent) for 822 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. Like Wilson, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron is in his first year as a starter. He has completed 48-75 (64 per cent) for 579 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.

Alabama's offense is built around the running game with Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy sharing tailback duties and both averaging over 100 yards per game. Richardson has 50 carries for 315 yards and eight touchdowns, Lacy 28 rushes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson averages 6.3 yards per carry and Lacy 10.9. If the third tailback comes in it is Jalston Fowler, who has 7 carries for 89 yards, 12.7 per carry.

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