Stuart McNair

Saturday’s Alabama game at Arkansas matches two ranked teams

Notes on upcoming Alabama game at Arkansas

Several years ago when we were speaking to a group of Alabama supporters prior to a trip to Fayetteville, the question and answer period produced this general query: What do we need to know about Arkansas?

“That when an Arkansas wife divorces her Arkansas husband, they are still first cousins,” got a little chuckle.

But seriously, folks, here are some notes regarding this week’s Alabama game at Arkansas. The Crimson Tide is 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference games and ranked first in the nation. The Razorbacks are 4-1 overall, 0-1 in the SEC, with the lone loss to unbeaten and seventh-ranked Texas A&M and the Hogs are ranked 16th in the nation.

Kickoff Saturday is at 6 p.m. CDT with ESPN televising the game.

Saturday’s game at Razorback Stadium will be the first with two ranked teams since 2011.

Alabama has won 19 of 26 previous games against the Razorbacks, including nine in a row.  You will see where some change that 19-7 Bama advantage to 16-8 as a result of NCAA imposed penalties against the Crimson Tide that resulted in one forfeit and two Tide wins vacated. It would seem difficult for the Hogs to claim the 1993 forfeit win when Alabama was a 43-3 winner on the field.

Alabama has won its nine consecutive games against Arkansas by an average margin of 36.8 to 13.3 and the Tide has won four in a row in Fayetteville by an average margin of 34.8 to 11.8.

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Alabama has the nation’s longest winning streak in major college football, 17 consecutive victories (including last season’s national championship game win over Clemson) dating back to a Sept. 19, 2015, loss to Ole Miss. The streak includes a 10-0 record in games against SEC teams.

With its 52-10 triumph over Alcorn State last week, Arkansas has won 10 of its last 12 games.

When the Crimson Tide is the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, it has an all-time record of 56-10. Under Coach Nick Saban, Bama is 36-5 (87.8 per cent) when ranked first in the nation.

Three of Arkansas’s last five games against the nation’s No. 1 team have been against Alabama.

Bama’s first team under Saban in 2007 managed only a 7-6 record. The Tide really began rolling in 2008 with a 12-2 mark. Beginning with that 2008 team and through last week, Alabama has the most wins in major college football with 103. Boise State is second with 94 over that period. LSU is second among SEC teams with 81.

The Tide is 33-6 (84.6 per cent) in road games under Saban.

In games against SEC foes, Alabama under Saban has a record of 67-13 (83.7 per cent) and has outscored the league opposition by an average score of 40.2 to 15.7. All but two of the Tide’s 13 losses have been by seven points or fewer.

In Saban’s 123 games as Alabama’s head coach (record: 105-18), the Tide defense has held the opponent to 10 points or fewer 61 times, including four of five games this year.

Although most of the interest in Alabama’s defense this year has been on the Crimson Tide scoring five defensive touchdowns, Bama has also been very good at forcing the opponents to go three-and-out. Through five games, Alabama is tied with Houston for best in the nation with 35 three-and-outs. The Tide is second in percentage to Houston by a smidgen, Bama stopping opponents on 35 of 68 opportunities, Houston 35 of 67.

Conventional wisdom worries about a freshman quarterback going on the road in the SEC, but Jalen Hurts seems to be handling the job well for the Crimson Tide. He is 4-0 as a starter and was the impetus for Alabama’s win over Southern Cal in the opener, even though he did not start that game. Bama has good reason to not be concerned with using a first-year quarterback. Since 2009, Saban’s first season with a first-year quarterback, the rookies have a record of 58-4 and have won three national championships.

Those first year QBs and their records: 2009 Greg McElroy (14-0); 2011 AJ McCarron (12-1); 2014 Blake Sims (12-2); 2015 Jake Coker and Cooper Bateman 15-1); and 2016 Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts (5-0).

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