Looking at the 2001 incarnation of the Hogs, this year would seem to fit the mold of a battle between two staunch defenses. In their first game of the year, Arkansas held UNLV to only 10 points, and they followed that up by holding Tennessee to just 13 points the next week. However, no matter how good their defense has looked, their offense has seemed that much worse.
After struggling to put 14 points on the board against UNLV, Arkansas managed only a single meager field goal against the Volunteers. Inconsistent quarterback play, below-average blocking, and a surprisingly average effort from tailback Cedric Cobbs have all been factors in the Hogs' sub par offensive performance so far.
"I think there a lot of offenses around the country that are struggling early," Razorback Coach Houston Nutt said. "The biggest thing is that we have a new quarterback, we have new people along the offensive line, and we are missing that one (former Arkansas receiver) Anthony Lucus-type threat. However, the biggest thing is just execution."
Of course, the Alabama defense led by coordinator Coach Carl Torbush has other thoughts in mind for the struggling Arkansas offense. This point is not lost on Coach Nutt, who said, "We have a lot of respect for the athleticism of the Alabama defense. The always look the same to me: big and fast. They've got Kenny King, (Saleem) Rasheed, (Reggie) Myles, and (Kindal) Moorehead, who have all been there for a long time. We know they're going to move on you and use their speed."
Another element of the Crimson Tide that concerns Coach Houston Nutt is the athleticism of Tyler Watts at the quarterback position. "The biggest thing he gives them on offense is stability," Nutt pointed out. "He's very, very tough, he's an excellent option quarterback, he's durable, and he can throw well enough to beat you through the air as well.
"He has no fear."
Coach Nutt does take relief in knowing that he will have a steady, speedy defense to combat the Alabama offensive attack with Saturday. Led by safety Ken Hamlin and linebacker Shane Collins, the Hogs will come to Tuscaloosa with what appears to be one of the SEC's stingiest defenses. Looking solely at the stats from the first two games, one might be alarmed at how many tackles have come from the Arkansas defensive backfield; however, Coach Nutt quickly pointed out that this stat is by design.
"We have some very athletic guys back there. A lot of times, they are defensive backs that are actually playing in linebacker positions. We do this to try to keep teams off balance. Everyone is so multiple now that you have to do a good job in mixing up your defensive calls."
Offense and defense make up the bulk of snaps in any college football game, but special teams is an area that worried Coach Nutt no less than any other. Alabama's rejuvenated special teams units have proved to be dangerous, and the Hogs head coach is aware of the threat. "The first thing that jumps out at you is their speed," he said. "We all know about Freddie Milons. He can turn a game around in a minute. But it's not just him. Be it punt return, punt block, or kick return, they have extremely fast athletes all around."
To notch a win Saturday, the Crimson Tide will have to use that speed to overcome the Razorbacks' tight defense, while at the same time trying to keep Arkansas's struggling offense doing just that: struggling. In a series that has shown to be a throw-out-the-records type of affair, another tough game should no doubt be expected.