This week, Alabama will host Arkansas in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide is 4-1 overall and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference games and ranked in the nation’s top 10. The Razorbacks also are 1-1 in SEC play, though 2-3 overall. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. CDT with television coverage by ESPN.
One unreliable clue in deciphering the relative merits of two teams is how they have fared against a common opponent. We do not have to go there, because Bama and the Hogs have no common opponents this year.
To at least some extent, the lack of common opponents also could affect our examination of the statistical comparison. Still, five games into a 12-game regular season, the statistics should mean something. The most meaningful clue to this week’s game, however, probably came in the second week, when Arkansas lost a home game to Toledo.
To that -- Holy Toledo! -- Alabama has nothing to compare.
The game is ultimately decided by scoring. Alabama ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring at 36.2 points per game, while Arkansas is 10th at 25.8. On defense, Bama is second in the league, giving up 16 ppg, the Razorbacks 10th, allowing 22.4.
Both teams are very good on the ground and very good against tunning teams. Arkansas is fourth (204 yards per game) in rushing offense, Alabama just behind in fifth at 199.8 yards per game. The Tide leads the league in rushing defense, allowing 84 yards per game, while the Razorbacks are third, giving up 101.6.
Arkansas is fourth in the SEC in passing offense, 272 yards per game, with Bama seventh at 244 yards per game. In passing defense, the Tide is fourth, giving up 189.4 yards per game, and Arkansas is last in the league, surrendering 257.6 yards per game.
The Razorbacks are third in the conference in total offense, 476 yards per game, Bama fifth, 443.8 yards per game. In total defense, Alabama is second, allowing 273.4 yards per game, and the Hogs are eighth, giving up 359.2.
In a “Things We’ll Never Understand” category, Arkansas is second in passing efficiency, Alabama ninth, and in passing defense efficiency, Bama is first in the league and the Razorbacks are last. Alabama leads the league in interceptions with 7 returned 148 yards with one touchdown. Arkansas is 12th with 3 interceptions returned 12 yards.
Alabama is third in the league in sacks with 13 for 73 yards, and Arkansas is last with 4 for 27 yards. The Razorbacks have been sacked least, only 2 for 13 yards, while the Tide is second in avoiding sacks, 5-44.
As has often been pointed out, coaches consider a handful of statistics to be more important than others. They are turnover margin, third down efficiency, and Red Zone (inside the 20-yard line) performance.
The teams are even on turnover margin with both plus 1 for the year, but in different manner. Alabama has 11 takeaways (4 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions) and 10 turnovers (4 lost fumbles, 6 passes intercepted). Arkansas has six takeaways (3 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions) and five turnovers (2 lost fumbles, 3 passes intercepted).
Alabama is terrible on third down conversions, ranking 13th in the league with 22-69, only 31.9 per cent, and Arkansas is first in the SEC on third down, making 28-50 for 46.7 per cent. On third down defense, though, Bama is tops in the conference, allowing just 22-84 for 26.2 per cent. The Hogs are next-to-last in third down defense, giving up 30-66 for 45.5 per cent.
In the Red Zone, Alabama has been better on offense, Arkansas better on defense. Bama, ranked fourth in offense, has scored on 19-21 trips inside the 20 with 16 touchdowns and 3-4 on field goals. The Razorbacks rank 13th with 15-24 success, 10 TDs and 5-=8 field goals. Defensively, the Hogs are sixth, giving up 14 scores (9 TDs, 5-8 field goals) and Bama 11th, giving up 10 scores (5 touchdowns and 5-6 field goals) on 12 trips.
Both teams have seen a lot of laundry on the field. Both teams have drawn 34 penalty flags, Bama for 61.4 yards per game and the Razorbacks for 61.8 yards per game, to rank 12th and 13th in the conference.
In a statistic that can mean a lot or nothing, Arkansas is leading the league in time of possession at 35:44 per game and Alabama is third at 32:11.