Does Bad Weather Give Advantage?

The weather forecast is not a good one as Alabama prepares to host Arkansas in a Southeastern Conference football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The National Weather Service predicts "precipitation" chances of over 50 per cent, and up to 80 per cent, throughout the game, which begins at 2:30 p.m. CDT and will be televised by CBS. Alabama, 3-0, is ranked third in the nation. Arkansas is 1-1.

This has been an extraordinarily wet September in Tuscaloosa, almost 10 inches of rain, some seven inches above normal. Last week the prediction was for rain during the North Texas game, but it was dry throughout in Bama's 53-7 win.

The turf at Bryant-Denny Stadium got high marks from players last week. An underground pumping system removes water from the field. Players said there were no footing issues. Alabama Coach Nick Saban said he "raised hell" because Alabama didn't have a tarp, but was prepared to apologize afterwards because it "turned out we don't need a tarp."

An adage has it that a wet field favors the underdog. Alabama is the favorite over Arkansas.

Every coach dismisses the importance of weather affecting the outcome, pointing out that "both teams have to play in it."

Once upon a time it was believed that a wet field was a disadvantage to a passing team. Now the theory is that a wet field is an advantage to the offense in passing situations because the receiver knows where he is going and is less likely to have trouble with the wet turf. Arkansas is billed as one of the nation's top passing teams.

Alabama is expected to get one of its passing game weapons back this week. Julio Jones has been out of action since the first quarter of the second game against Florida International. He has not had a big game, although he had some key receptions in the opener against Virginia Tech. In his absence Tide quarterback Greg McElroy has distributed the ball to some 13 receivers.

One of the regular drills at Alabama (and probably most teams) is a wet ball drill. It's as simple as dunking the ball in a bucket of water before the center snaps. Over the years that has been part of the Friday walk-through regimen of many teams. Alabama practices are closed to media, so it can't be said when Bama does wet ball drills, but Crimson Tide players have discussed the drill. It is difficult to take a soaking wet ball and make the center-quarterback exchange. It is challenging to throw a wet football, and tough for receivers to catch it.

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