No Lack Of Hype

The attention of the college football world is on the Saturday afternoon match-up between top-ranked Alabama (3-0, 0-0) and No. 10 Arkansas (3-0, 1-0) and the participants are clearly looking forward to the contest.

There doesn't seem to be any lack of words from participants hyping the SEC showdown Saturday in Fayetteville between a pair of top 10 nationally ranked squads.

Players and coaches from top-ranked Alabama (3-0, 0-0) and 10th-ranked Arkansas (3-0, 1-0) are clued into what a big game it is in both the league and national picture.

"We understand the importance of this game," Petrino said on Wednesday morning's SEC teleconference. "We are looking forward to playing a great Alabama football team."

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, whose team is the defending national champion and has won 27 straight regular season games, lauded the Razorbacks and quarterback Ryan Mallett.

"This is a very good football team," Saban said earlier this week. "(Coach) Bobby Petrino has done a very good job there, and their quarterback is obviously one of the leaders in the nation in passing, and their defense is in the top 10 in a lot of different categories.

"They have a really good punt returner (Joe Adams)," Saban added. "They also have a really good punter (Dylan Breeding), and there are a lot of players on this team that are extremely effective. I think they have three receivers in the top 10 in the conference in terms of receiving yards per game and that type of thing, so they have some players that can make plays."

On the Wednesday teleconference, Saban reiterated his points.

"Arkansas has an outstanding team," Saban said. "Ryan Mallett is – if not the best – one of the best quarterbacks in the country."

It does seem that some Alabama defensive players are relishing the fact they get a chance at what MrSEC.com labeled a "celebrity quarterback" who stays in the pocket.

"As a pass rusher, you do get excited when you know you are going to get to play against guy who is going to sit in the pocket and try to execute the offense to the best of his abilities," Alabama defensive lineman Damion Square said. "Yeah, it does excite me as a pass rusher."

There was an even better quote coming from linebacker Jerrell Harris.

"Right now we are licking our chops," Harris said.

Both teams will be taking steps up from the level of competition they have been playing.

"I think everyone has got to fight a better fight against better competition," Saban said.

Arkansas has drubbed Tennessee Tech (44-3) and Louisiana-Monroe (31-7) and then won its SEC and road opener at Georgia 31-24 with a last-minute touchdown drive.

Alabama – in a three-week stretch where it plays Arkansas, No. 9 Florida (3-0) and No. 12 South Carolina (3-0) – has also pushed around its overmatched foes.

The Crimson Tide ripped San Jose State 48-3 to open the season, downed visiting and then-No. 18 Penn State 24-3 and then easily won at Duke 62-13.

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy didn't try to hide the next three schools are better than the first three his team has played.

"I hate to say this, with all due respect to our other opponents, it's a whole different ballgame now," McElroy told the Bama media earlier this week. "We're playing SEC opponents now. We're playing great defenses with great secondaries and great defensive fronts week in and week out. "Seven straight SEC opponents now for us, I believe," McElroy added about the Bama slate that does not include an off week. It's going to be very, very difficult for us."

McElroy assessed why Arkansas would be a tougher match-up for his team than Penn State.

"Penn State is a great team, they really are," McElroy said. "Extremely well coached. But they're not really built to face a team and have a lot of success against a team like us. They are built to expose a power running game, and they did that. We didn't run the power real well, didn't run inside real well, but we were able to beat them around the edge, beat them with speed. We were able to break some tackles which led to explosive plays.

"This team (Arkansas) is built to face teams like us."

Alabama has traditionally been a standout defensive team, but this season the Arkansas defense - which has been much-maligned the last few seasons – has stepped up its level of play.

The Razorbacks battered Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray last Saturday with six sacks and several other knockdowns.

"We're doing the right things on defense," Petrino said. "Our guys are understanding the schematics, which allows us to play aggressive."

O o o

Tidbits:

…The Arkansas-Alabama game is a complete sellout per the home team.

…ESPN sports personality Erin Andrews was in Fayetteville on Tuesday to interview Mallett.

That interview will be shown during College GameDay on Saturday.

…Former Arkansas player and head coach Ken Hatfield has been named the Razorbacks' honorary captain for Saturday's game.

It was his punt return for a touchdown against Texas in 1964 that gave the school it's first win over a top-ranked team.

…Razorback players Damario Ambrose and Greg Childs will join their head coach for Bobby Petrino Live tonight at 7 p.m. at the Catfish Hole in Fayetteville.

…If you have seen Saban's ESPN commercial where he drops a Little Debbie on the floor while talking to ESPN' GameDay crew, it wasn't a one-take deal.

"We did 33 takes," Saban said. "After 17, I couldn't eat any more Little Debbies."

…Petrino was asked if it was hard to lure Mallett to Fayetteville when he decided to transfer from Michigan.

" I wish they all were that easy," Petrino said.


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